Before leaving for France, I swore that I was going to be openminded and try all sorts of new things. While I haven’t gone back on my word, I’m realizing that openmindedness comes at a price: the awful aftertaste of something that just wasn’t that good.
Living with a French person who likes to cook has provided plenty of opportunities to discover new foods. I hover around the kitchen while she cooks, asking questions in broken French about what exactly she’s eating. Whenever I express my complete ignorance as to what a fruit or vegetable is, I’m pretty sure she gets a little more convinced that I was raised in McDonald’s. I’m sorry, but I swear I have never seen quince or morels in an American grocery store or farmers market.
I do the same thing at work, casually mentioning to the chef that I’ve never tried rabbit, dates, herring. He usually sighs, asks what exactly I eat in America, and slips me a piece of the day’s special.
I usually feel an awkward sense of guilt when I admit I’ve never tried a particular food–it’s like my spoiled, picky eater, only child-ness that I try so hard to hide are shining through. For a while, however, I was feeling an even weirder sense of guilt when I didn’t like something. I’d try to sugarcoat my distaste to my host mom or the chef–in essence, lie and say that I really did like it, even when I was fighting to get it down.
However, in the past few days, I’ve tried endives, smoked herring and mushroom. I realized that endives are gross, herring tastes like the smell of the fish market and despite my many attempts at liking mushrooms, the texture is just too slimy.
While choking down the endives that I lovingly prepared and the mushroom sauce on my staff meal, a lightbulb went off: I don’t have to like everything I try. Sure, it would be great if I did. But it’s normal to have preferences, dislikes, tastes we love and those we don’t.
Trying something new is the important thing. Liking it isn’t. I’ll keep trying new things–the date banana cake with brandy sauce wasn’t half bad–but I’m not going to beat myself up if its culinary reputation surpasses that my humble opinion. Sometimes it’s an bitter aftertaste, but sometimes it’s something you just can’t get enough of.
What foods have you tried while traveling that you loved? What foods do you wish you could go back and NOT try?