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August 31, 2008

the omnivore's hundred

last night, over a lovely meal that Ms. Jen made (involving an heirloom tomato, dates and manchego, and an '06 Zinfandel), we discussed Michael Pollan's excellent book The Omnivore's Dilemma. this morning, i saw this meme on Maki's excellent blog, Just Hungry. here's the idea:

-take this list of one hundred edibles and boldface the ones you've eaten.
-cross off the ones you'd never consider eating for whatever reason.
-Maki put the ones she loves in red. i think this is an excellent idea. i'm going to put the ones i love in a slightly larger font.
-you can then link to your list at Very Good Taste, where this meme originated, check out the initial follow-up of results, and have all questions related to it answered. yes, it's kind of Anglo-centric; it was meant to be. no, i did not know what all these foods were, and that's part of the fun! so here goes:

1. Venison. i lived in Oregon for a few years, during my miserable junior high days. sometimes, during hunting season, neighbours would give us meat. my mother, very wisely, did not refuse and then did not inform us we were eating Bambi's mom. yes, Bambi's mom is pretty tasty.
2. Nettle tea.
3. Huevos rancheros. i live in L.A. this is ubiquitous on even the most non-Mexican breakfast menus.
4. Steak tartare. i guess it's essentially cow sushi. i considered crossing this out, but i'm undecided.
5. Crocodile. the first show i worked on in Australia had a segment shot on a crocodile ranch. of course they had croc burgers. people, crocodile is delicious, if (important) cooked correctly. it does not taste like chicken. it does not taste like fish. it's sort of halfway in between the two for texture.
6. Black pudding. the first time i had this was on an Aer Lingus flight, travelling to Amsterdam to visit Ms. Jen herself. i liked it. when i found out what it was, i still liked it.
7. Cheese fondue. i would give this the Larger Font Tasty Award simply for being melty cheese, except in the melty cheese category i love raclette so much more. raclette ROCKS.
8. Carp. if you've ever had a Chinese seafood dish that uses the word "bream," you've had carp.
9. Borscht. my Aunt Ginger made me borscht with fresh beets in her NYC apartment and the flavours were so clear and strong.
10. Baba ghanoush. due to an eggplant allergy i was afraid of this dish for a long time. but i recently had it in Turkey (i was in Turkey! i had to have some! damn the potential stomach cramps!) and all was well. recently, i had roasted organic farmer's market eggplants in an emboldened moment. all was well. hmmmm.
11. Calamari.
12. Pho. if this said "bun" i would totally give it the Larger Font Tasty Award (LFTA). pho is good. bun is awesome.
13. PB&J sandwich. i'm obviously a grown-up now because the last one i had was almond butter and Mediterranean fig jam on Ezekiel bread. geez, i'm so fancy pants.
14. Aloo gobi. if this was aloo paneer, it would be the LFTA!
15. Hot dog from a street cart. the best i ever had was a Thüringer wurst from a guy at a train station in Berlin. the "cart" was actually attached to his body as a wrap-around portable grill/sausage stand. amazing.
16. Epoisses. a stinky cheese. i shall try it someday.
17. Black truffle. working on Hell's Kitchen has its perks.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes. my German in-laws have neighbours that are essentially local farmers. they brew some amazing concoctions from some amazing things. although the fruit wines are okay, it's the walnut liquour that is unbelievable. Nusslikor would totally get a LFTA.
19. Steamed pork buns. the first LFTA! this is my ultimate comfort food, perhaps. my Chinese grandmother would make a huge batch whenever the grandkids were around. in her dialect, it's called "mudoi." i've since learned to make it myself, based on her recipe with my modifications, and do so often. yesterday, my mother made a big batch of mudoi, from my recipe, for my grandmother's 99th birthday. three generations of Chan women, bound together by mudoi. yay mudoi. i love you.
20. Pistachio ice cream. you have not tasted pistachio ice cream until you have had it in Turkey. ice cream, called "mado," is made with goat's milk and holy non-cow, it's good.
21. Heirloom tomatoes. that was a great pasta sauce, Ms. Jen.
22. Fresh wild berries. as mentioned, i lived for a time in Oregon, where blackberries are not even sold because they're so plentiful in everyone's yards and bike paths. i was blessed enough to live at a house that had not just blackberries, but blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries, and loganberries. it is a small bit of paradise to put a sun-warmed, just-picked berry in your mouth and feel it explode.
23. Foie gras. not interested. especially knowing how those livers got so fatty. no thanks.
24. Rice and beans. almost every culture has some version of this. i probably like them all. Jamaica does a good one, but Puerto Rico's yellow rice & beans is the most memorable.
25. Brawn, or head cheese. the great thing about being an omnivore is that one has a lot of choice. and i do not choose this.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper. although i have made great strides in upping my spicy tolerance, i doubt i will ever eat one of these freakishly hot morsels. however, we did get these for my mother-in-law, who adores spicyness. she now grows these in her garden.
27. Dulce de leche. i remember a rainy night in San Jose, Puerto Rico, having a cup of coffee and some baked item that involved a dulce de leche sauce. the sheer caramelly kick of that sauce was enough to make me forget i was damp and cold.
28. Oysters.
29. Baklava. after eating quite a bit in Turkey, i am convinced that baklava is actually better-looking than tasting. it's quite yummy, but ogling trays of it in shop windows is somehow more enjoyable.
30. Bagna cauda. i would like to try this IN Piedmont, Italy. although i'm willing to find a good Italian restaurant for a sample.
31. Wasabi peas. such a good little snacky treat.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. although i think there will be violent disagreement from many, i believe this is one of the most overrated dishes ever.
33. Salted lassi. but i like mango lassi better. because mango is totally a LFTA item in any form.
34. Sauerkraut. there is a giant container of this in the fridge right now. my husband is German. i have no choice.
35. Root beer float. one of my first real jobs was working at an A&W in Japan -- they needed a fluent English speaker to deal with all the homesick American customers and didn't care that my Japanese wasn't great. i served up a lot of root beer floats, and i have to say - -the Frosty Mug is pretty much the finest.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar.
37. Clotted cream tea this gets a LFTA because of all that is associated with actually having a high tea in which clotted cream plays a part: the friends, the atmosphere, the tiny sandwiches, the scones upon which said delicious yellow creaminess is... but then again, one of the best clotted cream teas i ever had was a tiny shop in Dublin called Queen of Tarts and i was by myself in full adventure mode.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O. is it so wrong of me to be proud of both non-bolding and striking this out? although i do admit to not only having, but making a lot of Gene George's Mystery Punch, which could potentially involve Jell-O (albeit in powder form). i preferred blue Kool-Aid.
39. Gumbo. preferably in a small Lousiana town in an even smaller restaurant.
40. Oxtail. in soup. not memorable.
41. Curried goat. i've had goat in a lot more forms than i ever thought i would. the best curried goat was Skippy IV, in Ethiopia, eaten around the very fire that roasted him whole.
42. Whole insects. have i? have i not? i've certainly had plenty of opportunity, and you'd think i'd remember, but i don't. for the sake of veracity, i will leave this un-bolded.
43. Phaal. see Scotch Bonnet entry. i don't do hurt-yourself spicy.
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more. i have, amazingly, had the opportunity more than once (thanks to my days of working in hip-hop music videos), but due to professional/personal dignity reasons, i declined.
46. Fugu. maybe. someday. not a big deal for me. i guess if one day Keizo-san at Sushi Zo serves it as part of his omakase.
47. Chicken tikka masala.
48. Eel.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut. yes, it's worth the hype. but it MUST be super-duper fresh. as in just off the doughnut conveyor belt.
50. Sea urchin.
51. Prickly pear. again, living in L.A., nopales is a pretty common item on a Mexican, especially Oaxacan menu.
52. Umeboshi. sadly, i never learned to really like this. every other Asian person i know does, though. i do, however, like it when it's in the center of an onigiri (rice ball).
53. Abalone.
54. Paneer. ooh ooh ooh! and here it is! i love paneer in almost any dish it's put into.
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal. luckily, this says "Meal." i've had the Big Mac, long ago as a child in Japan when McDonald's was a huge treat because that Big Mac cost something like $10 at the current yen rate. i can't remember the last time i ate McDonald's food, and i would like to keep it that way.
56. Spaetzle. i plead German husband again. you know, i got a spätzle maker as a wedding gift. i think it's still in my in-laws' basement.
57. Dirty gin martini. martini, yes. dirty gin, no.
58. Beer above 8% ABV. here's the deal. i have never liked beer. i have tried to, especially because if you live in England and you don't like beer, you are seriously socially hampered. luckily, i do like dry cider, so i survived. but even now, when people talk about a cold beer, i think "yuk!"
59. Poutine. i am sure the minute i go to Quebec or any bordering area thereof, i will immediately order this.
60. Carob chips. thanks to my mother, i was brought up believing that carob chips were actually a very superior type of chocolate chip. she was, in some ways, correct.
61. S'mores. i have to give this a LFTA simply for all that a s'more implies: campfire, friends/family, roasting marshies, the sticky finger leftovers. i am proud to have been the one to introduce T.T. (the husband) to s'mores. now he is the championest champion marshie roaster of all time.
62. Sweetbreads. here's the deal. i've had stuffing in the U.K. numerous times. chances are, i've had this. but i'll leave it unbolded anyway.
63. Kaolin. i'd try this, but i'm glad i don't HAVE to eat it.
64. Currywurst. i blame the German husband again, but holy moley, it's so addictive and deliciously bad for you and an awesome street food that i can never stop eating. i have a gigantor bottle of Curry Gewürz Ketchup in the fridge that i now put on any sausage to recreate the yumness. there's a currywurst stand next to my father-in-law's office called the Currysau ("the Curry Pig") and let's just say it gets a lot of business.
65. Durian. had it in Thailand. smelly, yes. surprisingly tasty, yes. i thought it was better than papaya.
66. Frogs' legs.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake. all of the above. but i do not think you can lump all these together. each has its own delicious merits.
68. Haggis. i wanted to try it in Scotland, but never got a chance. this will be remedied if i ever return.
69. Fried plantain. this deserves a LFTA as it is so often the accompaniment to a full LFTA-worthy meal. with Cuban slow-roasted pork. with Brazilian lamb chops. with the aforementioned Puerto Rican yellow rice & beans. etc.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette. not a big soul food fan, especially when it comes to pig intestines.
71. Gazpacho.
72. Caviar and blini. but not at the same time. does it still count?
73. Louche absinthe. i don't know if it was "louche," but it was a bottle smuggled in from Morocco by my friend Gretchen. i was not at all excited about it.
74. Gjetost, or brunost. it's a cheese, so i would try it.
75. Roadkill. in my life of travels, it's possible i have. but don't tell me.
76. Baijiu. had a small sip in China, and i thought my lips were going to fall off.
77. Hostess Fruit Pie. i liked the lemon one. this was a HUGE treat in my childhood, and it still smacks of pure Americana to me.
78. Snail.
79. Lapsang souchong. the smoky warm goodness is not for everyone, but i love this tea. if looseleaf, mix 2 parts lapsang souchong with 1 part high-quality earl grey for an amazing cup of goodness. this was, thanks to a tea-loving craft service guy, how i got through as many seasons of Hell's Kitchen as i did.
80. Bellini. although i do not regularly have these (perhaps i should change that), the LFTA is awarded thanks to the one i had in Milan that made my eyeballs roll back in my head it was so earthshakingly good.
81. Tom yum. an LFTA if this was Tom Kah Kai.
82. Eggs Benedict. but not a fan, really.
83. Pocky. the LFTA must be awarded simply for the warm fuzzy childhood nostalgia of it all. nowadays there are so many varieties, it's almost impossible to choose one, so i seem to always just go for the original red box.
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. if Gordon Ramsay makes food for you to taste, does that count? he has 12 Michelin stars... i will leave this unbolded anyway, and hope that one day someone will pay for me to do this.
85. Kobe beef. and then i found out how it gets to be Kobe beef. it sort of lessens the enjoyment.
86. Hare.
87. Goulash.
88. Flowers.
89. Horse. i'm pretty sure i've had opportunity. i'd try it.
90. Criollo chocolate.
91. Spam. an LFTA if this said "Spam musubi." i can't help it; i grew up on an island that consumes huge amounts of meat-in-a-can.
92. Soft shell crab.
93. Rose harissa. i know i had this in Ethiopia, but i don't know if it was rose.
94. Catfish. but not Southern-style -- steamed, Chinese-style.
95. Mole poblano. thankfully, the first time i had mole was in a small town outside of Chihuahua, Mexico. so it was authentic and unlike anything i'd ever tasted. in a good way.
96. Bagel and lox.
97. Lobster Thermidor. the Chan family, of which i am a part, loves lobster. we grill or steam it and eat it whole and then fall over in a food coma. Thermidor-style, while all fancy and stuff, seems to be a tragic waste of a lobster.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. so there i was, working for a little more than a month in Jamaica, with a camera crew originally from Seattle. do you really think i could have escaped having Blue Mountain coffee?
100. Snake. one of those things, like crocodile, that was better than i thought it would be...probably because i was in Australia again.

so there it is. i think i scored pretty high for someone who does not at all consider herself a "foodie." i've realised from doing this that i have a huge advantage from 1) having a German husband, 2) having an Asian mother/growing up in Asia, and 3) extensively travelling. (oh yeah, and 4) working on a show with Gordon Ramsay.) it makes me grateful for the opportunities i've had to put potentially bizarre and wholly delicious things in my mouth and eat my way into some fantastic memories.
however, the biggest lesson in this is that the ultimate LFTA would have to be:

101. any meal of any food shared with people you love.

Posted by hadashi at August 31, 2008 3:45 PM


doodles, this is CRAZY. like, i don't even know what half of this stuffs iz! (#56 was on the menu tonight and i not knew what it wuz.) you must realize that you're probably in the top 0.05% of Amreeka there? and this is such a random listie-wistie! But yah, does this not prove that food=memories and peeps?

1. I must mention that I don't think she actually cooked us the venison the one time we were given it--she gave it away. We did have it once at someone's house, though. Elk was what those peeps gave us & what she cooked. She actually has this thing about venison, doesn't like the idea of eating a deer. Very funky.

22. you forgot gooseberries. remember blueberry fights w/ the neighbor boyz when Vera was trying to employ child labor for our own good?

Whoa, 48! No comment??? About our first eel mishap? When the 4 of us mistakenly mistranslated the menu in the rural north and got the wrong domburi, which turned out to be nothing but mega-unagi and rice??? And the mommerz had to (distastefully) eat all of ours?

52. I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU DON'T CARE FOR UME!!!! I am so horrified that I didn't know this about you!! I feel so alienated! What about wo-me?

77. yah, remember, from the Scratch, Dent, Partially-Smashed & Expired Store? Super treat!

60. I have vague memories of carob-chip power. But somehow I think that ended around the end of the 80s, for some reason. Maybe b/c she got less herushii-tyrant on us, what with the snack allowance and uninhibited ice cream snarfage. I used to think they were cheating, something you could put in herushii snax that was like chocolate. Now I have to admit that it was to our benefit to consume so little sugar until our teens. We probably were more herushii and did better in school b/c of it, if we're honest!

79. will have to try this combo...would never have thought of it! never dawned on me that kraftsrvz on heck's kitchen would be out-of-the-ordinary mega-awesomeness. raddo-daddo!

Posted by: ernli Author Profile Page at September 19, 2009 12:38 AM

66. I could be making this up, but for some reason I think we had it at that fancy-schmantzy hotel in Tokyo we stayed at when we got stuck on the way home (the time we flew through Alaska and had to refuel there)...I think I must be making it up b/c I would never have tried it if I knew what it was, but I want to say that it was served as part of a French menu and supposedly tasted like chicken. Or maybe I'm mixing this up with bad dreams about The Muppet Movie.

Btw, I counted and weirdly I scored around 45 if I cheated (i.e. harissa but not rose harissa). But the difference is that I don't know what the other 55 or so even are. I sadly plead foodie ignorance!

Posted by: ernli Author Profile Page at September 19, 2009 12:51 AM

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