Wednesday, May 9, 2007

You Ate What?

It always amazes me what some people eat.

Growing up in South Texas, we ate what I considered regular American food. Of course, we had an abundance of Mexican restaurants, B-B-Q joints, and plenty of places to buy seafood, almost always fried. It wasn’t until my Junior High years that I realized not everybody ate the same as us. I now know that our local cuisine was perhaps one of the more blended regions in the country. The Gulf Coast of South Texas is the meeting point for Southern, Mexican, German, Cajun, and Southwestern cuisine. (But that’s another post.) Now before you scoff at my ignorance, remember I grew up in a small town in the pre-cable TV era. If you are old enough to remember that time, regional differences were much more pronounced back then. We had no MTV to tell us what was cool to wear or listen to, nor any Food Network to tell us what to eat. Of course, we traveled some and experienced new things, but other than ethnic food, the only real regional cuisine I was aware of other than my own was Cajun.

I remember the day I had my epiphany. It was in the summer of 1975. I was 13 and we had a boy from Kansas staying with us as part of an exchange program. My Dad always had a vegetable garden and one of my favorite things from his garden was okra. During the summer we ate okra almost every day. That night my mom made fried okra. Our exchange student had never eaten okra. He had never even heard of okra. That was the beginning of my fascination with other cultures and cuisines. That night at our table, I realized I was probably just as unaware of what other people were eating as he was of what was a staple food of my childhood.

Since then, I have become obsessed with food and what different cultures eat. If I had it to do all over again I would probably become a nutritional anthropologist. Of course back then, I didn’t even know what that was. Whenever I travel, one of the first things I want to do is go to the grocery store. You can learn a lot about the community, (or even the neighborhood for that matter), you are in by looking around the grocery store.

So what is the point of this rambling post?

This article in the New York Times about Kool-Aid Pickles just started me thinking about it. Now the Deep South eats some funky stuff, I can tell you – but damn! Kool-Aid pickles? Apparently these started showing up around the mid 90’s. I’ve never heard of them. And yes, I’m going to try them!! I’ll keep you posted on what they taste like. I’m betting my kids love them.

So what freaky thing do you eat?

My Dad used to have a favorite late night snack which consisted of a glass of milk with leftover cornbread crumpled up in it, and in my house cornbread was never sweet. I don't know what I eat that some may find strange. Whenever I go to New England I always stock up on Moxie. My kids hate it, but I think it is the nectar of the Gods.

Meanwhile – enjoy this site. It is along the same line of thought- but hilarious.
Steve – Don’t Eat It!


Anne said...

I eat Clif shots and various other sports nutrition things. Some people consider those pretty freaky. I grew up in California, which seems to me to have a pretty unremarkable (at least in terms of the "you eat what?!? factor) diet. I do remember being asked, when I was in first grade, what my favorite food was--I said "couscous," and no one believed that such a thing existed. I also remember picking periwinkle (vinca) flowers as a kid and sucking the tiny little droplet of nectar out of the base.

Okay, now I'm sitting here at work desperately trying to keep my giggling and snickering under wraps so as not a) to irritate my officemate, and b) give away the fact that I'm not working, I'm reading about strange things some guy named Steve has eaten/drank/whatever.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Isn't that webite a riot?

I remember sucking on those flowers too!

Our little town was so backwards, I had to read about couscous in a Julia Child cookbook. (But that's another post).

I guess good, fresh produce is so abundant in California that people didn't have to resort to "you eat what?" stuff to survive.

Batocchio said...

I'm a fan as okra as well. It goes great in some soups and stews.

Anne said...

But at least your town wasn't so backward that you couldn't find a Julia Child cookbook!

Brave Sir Robin said...

I have my mother to thank for that (and that's another post)

She was cookbook fanatic! (Not really a great cook so much, but collected all kinds of cookbooks,)

I'm pretty sure she never used them.

Jennifer said...

We had relatively standard fare as a kid.

Until I went away to college (to Kenya, but that's another post), I thought I hated fish. Turns out I just hated that really fishy fish that comes frozen and you peel the box off of the brick of fish, then broil it as-is, maybe squeeze some lemon on top, look out for the bones? Yeah, that.

But you get out by the Indian ocean and buy up whatever they caught that morning, and I'll eat anything you can come up with. Octopus? Bring it on. One of the fish even had a beak, one time.

But even the relatively tame cuisine of my youth was a step forward from what my Dad grew up on. His family were so "meat & potatoes" that his mother looked down on my Mom's "foreign food" when she made spaghetti. Yup.

I get the "you eat what?" moment when Costa Ricans are exposed to the whole phenomenon of Jello with non-fruit enclosures such as cabbage or carrots. They really freak out when the mayonnaise comes out.

Myself, I can't bring myself to try the local dish called morcilla, given that it's basically fried cow's blood. Maybe some seasoning.

Right. I'm going to stop monopolizing your comments now. See you back in the pub.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Nice. :)

Our community has a large number of exchange students, mostly European, and they all put Mayonnaise on their french fry's.

When I ws in high school I was dating a girl who had just moved here from Ohio. I took her to a pretty fancy seafood place. She didn't know what to order. She had never eaten seafood before. (This is 1980, she was 16.) I thought the broiled flounder would be safe. It came with head and tail attached. I had to buy her a hamburger on the way home.