Monday, March 21, 2016

Five Foods to Give a Second Chance

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a food snob. I like cheap pizza, Snickers bars, and Aldi-brand macaroni and cheese with hot dog slices in it. But my inspiration for this list came from memories of my childhood, in which I “didn’t care for” (we weren’t allowed to “hate” anything) a lot of different foods which I have since learned are awesome and delicious. 

As I got older, I realized that the reason I disliked most of these foods was for two reasons: 1) I hadn’t developed a varied palate, just salt and sugar, and 2) I’d mostly had crummy store-bought versions of these foods, and when I tried a better product, or the real deal, I realized the error of my ways. In fact, eating better versions of these foods helped me to come around to liking the cheap versions, too.

So if you already like these foods, awesome, don’t change a thing. But if you’ve only eaten a cheap version of these foods and decided you don’t like them, you need to give them another chance.

1. Blueberries. I’ve never minded the taste, but the squishy, leathery-skinned grape-sized monsters at the grocery store always grossed me out. So for most of my life, I took it for granted that I just didn’t like blueberries. And then, when I was 21, I went to work on a blueberry farm in Washington. The farmer, Lorna, said I could eat as many berries as I wanted while I harvested. And so I did. And I learned that these bright little bites of crisp tart-sweetness are one of the most delicious things that have even grown from God’s green earth. (Incidentally, I grew to like raspberries more on that farm, too. It wasn’t that I disliked them before— they’re just expensive so I hadn’t eaten them much before.)

2. Tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes are, as a rule, gross. They’re fine for throwing into a spaghetti sauce or on a burger, but that’s it. And the tomatoes you buy out of season, those orbs of anemic mush, are enough to make anyone think they hate tomatoes. And so I thought I did. My sister grew some cherry tomatoes when I was a kid that I thought were pretty good, but it wasn’t until I started eating homegrown tomatoes on a regular basis (again, when I was working on a farm) that I realized, holy cow, these are amazing. A vine-ripened tomato is firm but juicy, with bright red flesh, a smooth texture, and a satisfying taste that a store-bought tomato can’t touch.

3. Mustard. I’ve finally come around to yellow mustard, but I still don’t like it very much. Yellow mustard manages to be bland and overpowering at the same time. If you’ve never tried any other kind of mustard, try giving brown mustard or dijon a chance— their flavors are much more interesting. You may find a new companion for the ketchup on your burger.

4. Pickles. Okay, so this isn’t entirely true— I’m still not a huge fan, unlike Zach, who will eat them plain. But even I can tell that real fermented pickles are worlds above the vinegar-and-dye-soaked cucumbers you buy at most stores. Fermented pickles are crunchy and slightly effervescent, with a much more complex flavor. I’m going to grow some cucumbers in my garden this year so Zach and I can add pickles to our list of fermented food “pets.”

5. Vegetables (that you’ve only eaten from a can). For years I thought I didn’t like corn, peas, cooked carrots, and a host of other veggies. But really, I just didn’t like the mushy versions that drop out of a tin. (Except green beans. For whatever reason, I still like mushy canned green beans better than fresh!) Sweet corn slathered in butter and eaten straight off the cob, peas lightly steamed in a stir-fry, carrots sprinkled with olive oil and rosemary and roasted in the oven till they caramelize— these experiences are worlds different from the poor overly-salted veggies in a can. If you’ve ever said, “I don’t like this vegetable,” be sure that you’ve eaten a good, fresh version of it. If you still don’t like it, that’s fine. But it’s only fair to give every food a fighting chance to win you over. 


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