Peanut Butter Knife

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My History With Food

I'm not sure if I've become a full fledged foodie yet, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to get there sooner rather than later. But if you ask anyone whose known me awhile and this development might come as some surprise.

For instance. I eat sushi any chance I can get now, but just 5 years ago, I wouldn't touch seafood raw or cooked with a 10 foot pole. I claimed I was "allergic" to it. Granted, this fear of seafood had some basis in reality. When I was just a wee lad of the age of about 8 or 9 whenever my mom would serve fish, I'd throw up. For the longest time, the smell of fish would make nauseous and any suggestion that I even try something from the sea was quickly rebuked.

So what changed? How did I go from the classic picky eater raised on fast food and potato chips -- the kid whose aunt threatened to call a social worker on my mom due to my "lean" physique -- to the burgeoning 30-something gourmet who will try anything once and who might accurately have the term "stocky" applied to him? Who lives to discover new restaurants and flavors heretofore unknown?

Some possible answers:

1. The Indie Factor. Yeah, I'm a bit of a recovering music snob. Somewhere along the way though, it mattered less to me to always be the first to discover a band or a genre. I still love music and collect vinyl, but my identity is not defined solely by what I listen to. But where is that seeking spirit supposed to land? Maybe instead of always having to find something new to listen to (and I went through it all: an electronic phase, an experimental phase, a jazz phase, a country phase, a world music phase -- sometimes concurrently) I've transferred that desire within me to food. Having been so isolated, culinarily speaking, all my life each new national cuisine I discover feels more new, the tastes so vibrant. Another indie band? Heard it all before, it can be good, it can be comforting to listen to, but can it really expand my ways of thinking at this point? Taste is also, I think, a more immediate thrill than sound.

2. The Vicarious World Traveller. If there's one thing I've always wanted to do and never have, its to make travel a priority in my life. For whatever reason: money, job, illness, etc I never seem to make it anywhere. OK, I did go to England on a semi-business trip in 2001, but that turned out to be a disasterous experience that I'd rather not relive in this public forum. Yet I'm always glued to travel shows like Globe Trekker and No Reservations. Always longing to be the kind of person who can pack up and wander around SE Asia by myself for a few weeks. At this point, probably not going to happen. But when I eat Vietnamese food, or (good) Mexican food, or sushi... I can have some of that cultural experience, at least in a second hand sort of way.

3. The Incrementalist. Perhaps I've been more adventurous than I give myself credit for. I can only respond to what I get exposed to and given my semi-sheltered, suburban existence to age 22, that exposure was quite limited. But there were signs. I discovered Pad Thai in college, but at the time Cleveland only had 3 or 4 Thai restaurants. Shortly after moving to Chicago, I even contemplated writing a zine with my friend (hi Katie!) that did nothing but review the Pad Thai in Chicago's literally hundreds of Thai places. Of course now, Pad Thai is usually the last thing I'll order in a Thai restaurant. It wasn't long before I was exploring the Indian restaurants along Devon Avenue, the Mexican places of Pilsen, or a great Middle Eastern restaurant in Evanston called Olive Mountain. I even accompanied friends out for sushi. I was too chickenshit to order any fish, but man did it look good, it was only a matter of time. When I moved back to Ohio, I had loads of time on my hands and access to the Food Network, so soon not only was I trying things in restaurants, but I was learning what went in to making things what ingredients were responsible for what flavors, etc (This was before all the semi-homemade 15 minute garbage infiltrated the network). Then came reading books on chefs and cooking, particularly the work of Michael Ruhlman. Now I'm discovering, not just food as world travel, but the pleasures of more high end cuisine.

I suppose there is probably truth in all 3 reasons, and probably other reasons as well. But I'm hoping the next stage in my food evolution will take place in part on this blog. Hopefully I can keep up with writing this time, because I've missed doing it.


  • At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Katie said…

    We should still write that zine!

  • At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    i think you have evolved from a zine dude to a blog/podcast dude.

  • At 4:49 PM, Blogger 54cermak said…

    Anon, Do I know you?


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