Five Things I Learned from Food TV: Day 3 - Try Something New
Wednesday, December 13, 2006 | posted by Mike
When it comes to food, I'm constantly surprised by the fact that I like a lot more than I think I do. I know that tastes change over the years. And it wasn't surprising for me to find that the broccoli I wouldn't go near as a child is now one of my favorite vegetable accompaniments. And yet the mental block is still there for some things.
Once upon a time, things like sushi and carpaccio were well beyond where I would be willing to go. I had no rational reason not to eat raw fish, and I knew that, logically, it can't be bad for you since plenty of healthy men and women in Japan and around the world were eating it daily. And yet, I never worked up the nerve to try it. And the, one day, I did. And I loved it.
Not surprisingly, this was right about the same time I became a self-confessed foodie and started working food TV into my diet. Seeing the variety of strange and intimidating ingredients that these chefs were using was a bit of a revelation for me. Not only do people eat all of this, but they're willing to pay big bucks if it is done well. So I realized that there had to be something beyond the meat and potatoes that I was so used to eating.
Nobody in the world of food entertainment has been a bigger influence on my culinary adventures than Anthony Bourdain. This is a man who, I am convinced, would eat his own foot if he knew it was good enough. And, although I seriously doubt I will ever go anywhere near a cobra heart, Bourdain has, in some small way, made me a more adventurous eater.
Watching his show, Anthony Bourdain No Reservations, you quickly understand that, as much as it is about the food, it's just as much about using the food as way to get into another culture, another mindset. This is reinforced if you read any of his writing, and I strenuously recommend that you seek out Kitchen Confidential. When he's given the room to stretch his legs and really get into how it feels to eat, what it is like to experience a dish, you get an even greater understanding of why he loves food so much. To him, food is life, and enjoying one goes hand-in-hand with enjoying the other.
As I said, I'm not going to Bangkok for fried rat or anything like that, so I'm content to make incremental changes in my culinary lifestyle. For instance, I grew up never having something as simple as duck, and now I can't get enough of it. (N.B. There is nothing better than good duck, and nothing worse than bad duck.)
If I weren't lazy, I'd look up Bourdain's quote about chicken. Basically, he says that chicken is on the menu for people who can't decide what they want. Not to denigrate the fair bird that suffers and dies for you McNuggets, but there is a reason that they say that everything tastes like chicken. It's because chicken (particularly in these days of corporate farms) don't really taste like anything.
So, what Anthony Bourdain is saying, and which I have learned to appreciate, is to not be afraid of flavor. Yes, it might come in the form of tripe or chicken liver in his dishes, but to have shut myself out of the experience because I wasn't willing to try something different was silly. Again, I might not be ready for calf brains, but I can say that, without a doubt, I have learned to be a more adventurous eater.
And I learned it by watching food TV.
Labels: Anthony Bourdain