Saturday, March 07, 2009

Weekend Food Appreciation

A bit of gastro blogging for once.. is that a term? Whatever, I just made if up if it isn't. My brother recently emailed me this list after observing that I am partial to, or at least not entirely against partaking in the consumption of stinky cheese.

The Top Foods People Love or Hate

Certain foods are as polarizing as hometown sports teams and politics. Here at Serious Eats, we've put together a list of eleven love-or-hate foods. If you love them, be proud. We've included a recipe highlighting each controversial flavor.

1. White Chocolate: The "chocolate" part trips people up. It's really just a sweet confection (no cocoa involved). Moving on from terminology, when good, it's creamy and vanilla-y, but like "normal" chocolate, when bad, it's just waxy calories.
Recipe for white chocolate bark with fresh mint, almonds, and dried berries
2. Cilantro: Soapy, rotten, or just plain vile are popular complaints from cilantro haters. Did you know Julia Child hated the leafy herb? But behavioral neuroscientists would argue that America's food darling had no control. It's all about genetics. Studies have linked liking cilantro to being able to detect the "pleasing" chemicals in the leaf.
Recipe for white beans and cilantro
3. Eggplant: For some, it's an old purple sponge and others, the soft-firm texture is what makes a veggie sandwich or an Italian pasta dish. Raw is never good, but fried, grilled, or roasted (always doused with gobs of olive oil), eggplant deserves another chance. Or, the vegetarian sponge will always make you nauseous -- and the roof of your mouth mysteriously itch.
Recipe for eggplant lamb lavash wrap
4. Coconut: The smell in shampoo and sunblock is one thing. But the sawdust-like shreds of real coconut can mean chewing and chewing forever until you eventually swallow the darn lump. Sprinkled on pies, cakes, and chicken, coconut either adds a mild tropical zing or a vile, never-ending chewing party. That's when it comes out that a lot of coconut haters don't even know about young fresh coconut which is as soft as a Hawaiian baby's bottom.
Recipe for coconut domes
5. Tomato: This one really comes down to texture. Slimy and gritty is never good for the tomato world. The cooked, soft version brings in a few fans. Others are only in it for the vine-picked version during their peak season in August (cut to romantic images of Italian countrysides). Others can only bear them on pizza or completely masked inside ketchup.
Recipe for marinated tomatoes with linguine
6. Anchovies: Cat food or human food? A small whiff can make you seasick or have you loading them on pizza and Caesar salads. Whether fresh or in flat metal cans, the salty little fish has some so obsessed, they'll eat the bones.
Recipe for roasted sardines with bread crumbs, garlic, and mint
7. Black licorice: Even the red licorice-tolerant may draw the line here. Black licorice gum, jelly beans, tea, Good n' Plentys, and J├Ągermeister—get it out. Along with any herb, like anise or fennel, that resembles the flavor. Out. Lovers say it's an acquired taste, but I think the little kids have it straight here. Not a real candy.
Recipe for baked fennel with prosciutto
8. Stinky cheeses: If this smell came from something else (a shoe or dog), I might take issue, but knowing it's from a dairy gob, growing moldy in a controlled environment, I'm fine with the pungent aroma. When others sniff Gorgonzola or Roquefort, they're convinced that feet or laundry were actually involved.
Recipe for tortellini with Gorgonzola cream sauce
9. Mayo: Whether Hellmann's or even Miracle Whip, does the creamy off-white slime strip the taste off food or magically make anything better? Haters have been told to try it homemade, but for many, this won't make a tuna or egg salad look any less scary.
Recipe for avocado mayonnaise
10. Bell Pepper: To some, all those colorful strips are a mouthful of crisp freshness. To others, they're the backseat driver of vegetables. On a pizza or in pasta, they're supposed to be one of many veggie passengers, but no. The bell pepper's always got to be the loud guy telling your taste buds where to go -- and green, he's the loudest. Green is actually unripened, picked from the vine before its more sweet (and edible) brethren.
Recipe for angel hair pasta with red pepper pesto and basil
11. Beets: Despite all my white T-shirts you have stained purple, I still love you, beets. People fear you from an early age, but roasted or pickled, you take on a whole new form. The other camp thinks that the beet smell is such a toss-up between ick and gross and that the beet taste is so much like a metallic vitamin that it's just not meant to be.
Recipe for roasted beet salad
Obviously it's personalized to the tastes of whoever wrote it. I agree about the strong cheese strangely enough, and am quite partial to eggplant, peppers and mayo, but the others I don't really feel one way or the other about.. except for anchovies, but I'm not a fish person in general so it's moot. It's funny that even one's idea of things people either love it or hate isn't exactly universal, but differs according to the person. The last time my mother was here in Prague we were in a pub/restaurant, and my then boyfriend had something with the herb dill in it, and she had this huge reaction of disgust from smelling it, and then claimed it's one of those things everyone feels strongly about, when neither of us had noticed a thing.

If I was to do the list, it would definitely have broccoli on it. I personally love broccoli, and know a lot of people who really like it, but those who don't really don't. Everyone who I've heard have an opinion on broccoli had had a strong one, including the 41st President of the United States, one on the "no" list, who could have just used his considerable power to silently opt out of eating it, but instead chose to make a big bratty song and dance about it.

I don't really get it, it seems like a pretty innocuous vegetable, and if people don't like it, I'd expect more of a meh.. not my thing. Then again perhaps it's just one of the vegetable group for those people who don't like veggies at all, something I understand even less.

Another interesting example is cauliflower. You'd think it's neither here nor there, but our cat hates it. You put it anywhere near her and as soon as she smells it she literally flinches, but if you put really strong stuff like chillies, garlic or onions near her, she sniffs it and then moves on disinterestedly. I know we're mainly talking about humans her, but still.. it's weird.


Dennis the Vizsla said...

I can't stand cilantro or green bell peppers, and black licorice (including fennel, anise, etc.) just makes me want to throw up. Although I did choke down sum Ouzo once with coffee beans in the bottom.

Michelle said...

Hmm.. I'm actually kind of fond of aniseed stuff, not crazy about it but I don't dislike it. I used to quite like Sambucca back a long time ago, but haven't drank much of anything but beer for a long time :)