I’ve been single for about 6 months now, and in preparation to even start thinking about dating again, I’ve hauled out my copy of He’s Just Not That Into You. One might say this is a pretty pessimistic play before getting back in the game, but don’t let the hot pink and green chick-lit cover deceive you—there’s some pretty decent advice in there. Even if it is written in a self-consciously “edgy” style studded with words like foxy and fierce and with the occasional four letter word tossed into the mix, just so that we single girls know that the writers are equally as angry about the state of the dating world as we are. But the bottom line is, it’s about knowing when to stick around and when to run like hell in the other direction. The take home point is: You deserve better.
There’s something about that phrase “just not that into” that I straight up LOVE. I like to apply it to as many non-dating situations as I can—food obviously being one of them. In that past two years, I’ve ditched most of my annoying adolescent food phobias. (To say that my Mom is over the moon would be an understatement, we’d need to pick something further out in the solar system.) At my college graduation, my list of gastro-no-nos would have looked something like this:
1. Olives. Now, I like them best when they’ve gone for a swim in a martini glass full of Bombay Sapphire, but I’ll take them on my pizza and in my salads.
2. Mushrooms. If it grew on a wet log, a pile of manure, or an old, water-logged welcome mat, I was definitely not into it. These days, I dare you to try and haul me off a grilled Portobello.
3. Angel hair pasta. Silly, I know. But to a 15 year-old me the pasta shapes tasted different. I was a big fan of linguine, fusilli, and shells.
4. Rare meat. Pretty much all meat, but surely not if it was chilly and red inside. But oh, Lord, have I seen the error of my ways.
5. All manner of stinky cheeses. Not surprising for a kid, but at this point cheeses need to smell like a New Jersey landfill to get me to pass them up.
6. Fennel. Seeds, bulbs, fronds. Anise flavor was a definite no-go.
7. Soft scrambled eggs. I still hold that the texture is nothing short of boogery, but I can handle it now.
8. I could go on, but you’re getting the idea. Tripe, innards of any kind, sweetbreads, bull testicles, tongues…but I feel that people who like, much less love, these things are more the exception than the rule.
Though I am a much more enlightened diner, there are still a few stragglers—things I am really just not that into. Not because I won’t eat them (at this point I’ll pretty much eat anything), but because I think I deserve better. I do…don’t I?
1. Mayonnaise. Hands down my biggest shiver-inspiring food. The gentle slurping-sucking noise it makes as it pulls away from the side of the jar is all I’d have to think about if I ever decide to be bulemic (not likely). They way it oozes out of other people’s sandwiches and winds up winking at you from the corners of their mouths. The way it ALWAYS gets on your hands when you stick a knife in the jar to fish it out. I have to stop—I am legitimately making myself queasy. I will, however, suck it up and use it for things like tuna, chicken, and egg salad in moderation. But I much prefer other people to prepare those things for me.
2. Cold leftover poultry (sandwiches). For me, the worst way to experience this clammy, refrigerator-cold meat is in a sandwich Mom has made us for some car trip. It doesn’t matter if she has remembered I hate mayo or not (you’re getting better, Mom!). Either way it’s a textural nightmare: frigid chunks of meat with errant bits of fatty skin, some kind of condiment, maybe some equally chilly hunks of cheese or a few stray pieces of lettuce, all on squishy bread. The whole thing looks kind of lumpy. Need I go on?
3. And finally, Monterey Jack Cheese. Blah, totally bland. I can’t think of any cheese I’d rather eat less. It’s not worth the calories, it’s not worth the time it takes to cut it! I’m gonna throw it out there: I’d rather eat Kraft Singles. And sure, you could argue that Polly-O has about the same texture and flavor, but Monterey Jack has the nerve to have a cool name and be from California and still suck. That’s like a hot guy being boring and lame. And in my book, that’s reason enough to run in other direction. With cheese, unlike men, I know I can do better.
Working at a food magazine as you have these past few years is the quickest way I know to lose that “I’m just not that into you” attitude about food. Which is why at this point in life, my list is rather short.
It shrank dramatically in the late 80’s when I was the test cook at Cooks Magazine. Back then I would have rather chanced vomiting than take a squeamish pass on foie gras or raw seafood.
The list got even shorter on the press trips I used to take in the early 90’s. A culinary hierarchy emerged quickly amongst the foodies on those long bus trips across Italy and Spain. Some of it was based on your publication (the food editor of Cook’s Illustrated back then, for example, didn’t rate as high as say, the food writer at the Atlantic Monthly). But if you were a daring eater or drinker it was possible to improve your status. Quantity or content—it didn’t really matter. Track down a little restaurant known for its roasted pork testicles, gather a select few for the experience, and the next day you could be sitting with the cool kids at the back of the bus.
My list has dwindled to near nothing with our French friends, Serge and Betty, who love to expose their sheltered American friends to all the French delicacies. Horse tartar, grilled lamb kidneys, gigantic raw mussels and clams (even though you sneaked to the bathroom to spit it out, you made me proud that day, Sharon), bouillabaisse so fish bony I thought we’d end up in emergency with one impaled in our throats.
Those experiences have helped me acquire a taste for just about everything, which is why I insisted you keep trying all those things you said you didn’t like. So here’s my list of challenges. I’ll admit a lack of interest in offal (especially tripe) and I prefer my yolks hard. And although I didn’t like them at the time, I think I should try raw sea urchins again. My first time was on one of those press trips in Italy, and it was one of those cool kid tests I did not pass.
Sharon, I was thinking about your post this morning when, at Andy’s request, I picked the nuts out of his granola before putting it on his yogurt. Food issues—we’ve all got ’em, eh? And while Andy’s few culinary quirks bug me, it dawned on me that I’m focused on the sawdust fleck in his eye without recognizing the plank in my own.
Fourteen years ago in a fit of early teenage angst I decided I wanted to become a vegetarian. I remember the year (1995) because I stared intently at Jerry Garcia on the cover of TIME magazine trying to avoid your death stare, mom, as I shared the news on one of our vacations in Maine.
You lectured me about the inconvenience of cooking vegetarian for one in a family of four. Then Sharon piped up and said she was done with meat too (a serious case of Little Sister wanting to be like Big Sister). I think this was a low point for you, as a mother and a food professional. Two daughters defecting from an entire food group? Hadn’t you raised us better than that? Hadn’t you raised us to respect food? After a hostile battle, we begrudgingly agreed to eat chicken, turkey and fish, and that is how we carried on for the next 10 years.
A few years ago, Sharon came back to the other side. Dare I say she’s a meat lover? A defender of the meat-eating cause? But you can’t live in Britain, married to an Englishman without eating bacon, sausages and lamb, so I’ve had to acquiesce a bit as well. That or risk starvation or divorce.
But I’ve held out on beef. It’s my last bastion. Why? The reasons have evolved over the years—animal rights, health issues, the environment. While important, however, they mask the true reason: “Beef, I’m just not that into you.” The way it looks, the way it tastes (particularly the ground stuff), the way it smells when cooking.
Most everyone knows I don’t eat beef, but that doesn’t stop them from saying, “This is the best steak I’ve ever had, try some!” naively thinking this will be the mouthful that will win me over. Sometimes I do try it, and I’m generally nonplussed (excluding the flank steak with my marinade in Miami, Sharon). Still, at 26 years old, I’m having those awkward moments when I have to push beef around on my plate or hide it underneath a pile of mashed potatoes to avoid looking rude. At fourteen, that was marginally acceptable, not anymore. I seriously need to get over this. The time has come for me to be more open to beef, because I think, as with most food issues, it’s mostly in my head.
Andy Corson says
Mayo? Cold poultry? Monterrey Jack? The three in combination make a pretty tasty sandwich. Out of these, mayo is my absolute favorite! I always asked for Hellman’s on my sandwiches as a kid, but while studying abroad in Germany I discovered the mayo/french fry combo…heavenly! Mayo actually goes really well with all fried foods. There are a lot of choices out there, too – many of them a lot creamier than the afore mentioned brand. Take Cain’s for example. By far the best. Sharon – we need to do something about your dislike of mayo. How about a mayonnaise tasting party? We could even make our own…
Sharon, I’m with you on so much of this. Growing up, there were a lot of foods I wouldn’t do: onions (blasphemy, I know), green peppers, lamb, and fish to name a few.
There are some I stick to. My parents insist on eating stewed spinach with vinegar. Why? I couldn’t tell you. But if they’d just offered me a fresh spinach salad, they would have known a different child. And green peppers, I just can’t eat raw. Not a huge fan of them cooked either, but I can handle it better.
I’ll share with you my secret for making well done, and yet still soft scrambled eggs: cream cheese.
Cook on very low heat, and add a few pieces of cream cheese. Mix through and allow to melt. Delish!
Robin Kline says
Pam, I am chuckling over your picture of Culinary World Hierarchy on those press trips! And the fact that you could earn some stripes (even if you weren’t with an illustrious publication) by eating tripe-like food. Aren’t we human beings funny animals! For the record, I grew up loving tongue, adore sweetbreads and foie gras, but no matter how often I try tripe (in menudo, tripe a la mode) it’s really not that much into me (like your raw sea urchin…)
Amber, the reason your parents probably eat spinach with vinegar is because our bodies can’t absord the iron in the spinach without acid in the mix, too. I always squeeze some lemon juice or drizzle balsamic on spinach to make sure I am getting all the healthy benefits.
Sharon, you’re a nut. How can you not like mayo?! Then again, I know you’re wondering how I don’t like eggs. To each her own… : ) I am also not a big fan of pumpkin-flavored things (including pie – yuck!), green peppers, and cottage cheese.
Pioneer Woman needs a shout out for putting you on her blog. these posts are so much better than just “here’s how to make vinaigrette”. real chefs crave real writing about food.
Linked here from Pioneer Woman. Staying because I love the writing almost as much as I love mayo with french fries.