What Grinds My Gears: You ate what?!

I have been lucky enough to have lived in five countries in three continents (North America, Europe, and Asia) and have parents that stress the importance of being a global citizen and appreciate every culture. From a young age, my parents would take my brother and me to places that would encourage us to be passionate about that location’s culture and history, and a large part of a country’s culture is their food.

At 6, my favorite dish was mussels in a white wine and garlic reduction. At 8, it was an Indonesian dish called Sop Buntut (translated to oxtail soup, which literally used the meat from the tail of the ox), with Otak Otak (translated to brain brain but was composed of ground fish, coconut milk, and seasonings, wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked over an open fire), at 10 it was fondue with Raclette, Gruyère and white wine and has continued to change.

I have tried haggis, giblet, frog legs, snake, alligator, ostrich, quail, durian (an Indonesian fruit; try going on YouTube and searching Anthony Bourdain eating it), and countless other dishes that most everyone I have met in the United States has had a look of utter horror and disgust when I tell them I’ve eaten it. But why? Why are people so disgusted with eating something that isn’t your “normal”, run of the mill, every day dish?

I cannot tell you how bored I am of cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, burritos that aren’t even real burritos, pizza with only pepperoni or just cheese on it, steak with potatoes and salt, and the overall blandness that seems to come with the majority of meals that are dubbed “American” food. I’m not saying that a medium rare burger, with a thick slice of Cheddar Jack melting on top, and caramelized onions is not a tasty meal and that I would not enjoy digging into one of those, but it is so ordinary. For the love of every great chef that has been born, be courageous with your meals! I

know people on this campus who have not even eaten a piece of sushi before. Not even the most Americanized version of sushi. They say it is because of the “texture” or the fact that it is raw fish “grosses them out” or they simply have convinced themselves they won’t enjoy it. I am shocked and somewhat disappointed that students who go to this university to become players in the global world are not willing to even try a salmon roll, let alone the other amazing, creative dishes other countries have to offer because they are so accustomed to ordinary, boring, “safe” food.

We eat at least two times a day, every day, for around 80 years. That is 58,240 meals in your lifetime, minimum.

Why eat 30,000 steak and potato dishes in your life? Why not have duck instead? Or frogs legs? They are rather small, and similar to a chicken wing when eaten, but about a thousand times tastier than a chicken wing.

Being afraid to try a new kind of food is depriving yourself and your taste palate of some of the most amazing things this world has to offer. Did you know that an average Indonesian dish has around 30 spices in it? Or that in Switzerland, a Madras Curry dish is made with yogurt? People have created absolutely wondrous dishes that represent their country, and it is a shame someone would reject the opportunity to taste hundreds of years of culture and history because what is inside the dish “grosses them out”.

I will admit that I have tried dishes that I have not enjoyed, such as raw sea urchin, but I can say that I have experienced it. You may be reading this and are ready to throw up at the thought of what I have eaten in my life, or it may have sparked your interest to try something new. In the end, it is still your choice to order that goat kebab, plate of oysters, or duck neck or go with the “safe” choice you are accustomed to, but I strongly encourage you to not stick to the same foods you have been eating. You might find your new favorite dish is something you thought you would hate. It also adds a sense of adventure to your life, and adds a little excitement; maybe even find some joie de vivre in the art of food.

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