Friday, April 06, 2007

Foods I Hate

I probably eat things no one else you know eats. I like thousand year old eggs. (I was the only foreigner in China I ever met who actually wanted to eat thousand year old eggs, or, as they are more commonly called, preserved eggs.) What I don't like is Red Bean Paste. Red Bean Paste is the dessert filling of China. Red Bean Paste is in Moon Cakes. In glutinous rice balls. Red Bean Paste kept turning up in all sorts of places. In China, not liking Red Bean Paste was a sort of like not liking...say, caramel. Imagine you didn't speak or read English and you craved chocolate but didn't like caramel. Life would be a crap shoot. I craved dessert in China, but lots of times, I got dealt red bean paste. I can't tell you why I don't like it. For one thing, I haven't eaten it in fourteen years (because I don't have to.)

I like goat, I like lamb, I like sweetbreads. Okay, I like sweetbreads a lot. Not liver. Liver makes me gag. I justify it now by explaining that the liver's job is to filter out toxins so it's full of all sorts of unhealthy stuff, but the truth is, you can deep fry liver and I'll know. It's still liver. And it still has that...taste.

I used to hate lima beans. I used to not much like beans at all. But now, I like garbanzos, great northern, kidney beans. Black beans. Pinto beans. I figure if I tasted lima beans now, I'd eat them. Oddly enough, what I really don't like now are hot dogs. I was never a hot dog fanatic, but hey, they were fine, but now I'll go to some lengths to avoid hot dogs, or their sliced cousin, bologna. I never cared a lot for bologna. There were so many perfectly fine things you could eat instead. Ham. Turkey. Meatloaf sandwiches. Bologna, like spam, always struck me as having been synthesized out of the food category and into some other category, the food-like substance category. There are other foods in the food-like category, many of which I do eat, like Velveeta processed cheese (good in grilled cheese sandwiches and good for that dip where you microwave it and stir in salsa) and popcorn (which is really a packing material that we eat, but still tasty with butter) and cotton candy (more an experience than a food, like freeze dried ice cream for astronauts). Somehow hotdogs and bologna have crossed a line for me.

Well done beef. Not my thing. I can eat it in pot roast and braised stuff, but really, it can border on inedible to me.

I always wondered what chefs do about foods they don't like. I've only had foie gras once, but if you were a really good chef, would you have to serve fois gras? Would you have to like it? What if you like your meat well done? It's pretty much de rigueur that meat today is not cooked much. I figure we're pretty susceptible to training and peer pressure (I read once that a baby will be attracted to meat with maggots, until learn not to.) But I don't think there's much hope of me ever loving beef liver.


Blogger tinatsu said...

Apparently, if you're a really good chef (or at least a celebrity chef), you don't have to serve foie gras--Wolfgang Puck has now banned it from his restaurants, although not because he doesn't like the taste.

I don't like liver either. My mom once tried to get us to eat it by grinding it up with hamburger for a spaghetti sauce, but we all knew. Worst spaghetti ever.

April 06, 2007 4:02 PM  
Blogger dubjay said...

It's only =beef= liver I don't like, apparently. Goose, duck, or chicken liver, particularly if it's foie gras or pate', I enjoy.

I found myself liking red bean paste when I was in China. When I was in Hong Kong, I'd go to a pastry shop for breakfast--- the pastry was supposed to be Western, but it was Chinese as hell--- and I'd get a red bean bun. The cream-filled buns turned out to be filled with what I'd guess was a petroleum-based food product, and I never dared try the tuna buns, though the locals loved them.

"Fish maw" was also something I avoided. I might have liked it if I'd ever tasted it, I just avoided it because of the name.

I also like tongue and menudo, and tendon if it's in something flavorful enough.

I don't believe I've ever actually had sweetbreads.

April 06, 2007 4:52 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Tinatsu! Good to see you! There's a who controversy about foie gras because it may or may not be inhumane.

Walter, I don't like chicken liver, either. Even deep-fried. Gizzards are okay, if you like your meat on the chewing gum side.

April 06, 2007 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the Chinese desserts with red bean paste in them.
And I love liver--chicken liver with fried onions, an egg, and grebinitch (sp)--schmalz. Yum.
I even like beef liver with fried onions. Yum again. Sweetbreads I can do without.
Ellen Datlow

April 07, 2007 12:03 AM  
Blogger Beth Adele Long said...

Beef liver - ew. My host family served it to me once in Peru, but done up really well with lots of vegetables and seasonings, and I got halfway through before the liver-y taste revealed itself. I actually finished, not wanting to be rude, and also because it was the only time I've had nearly palatable beef liver.

Heart, on the other hand -- yummilicious. Anticuchos de corazon.

I'm always on the fence about things like veal and foie gras. I mean, pretty much ALL the animal meat we consume in the US involves pretty damn inhumane treatment of animals, so it seems weirdly picky to refuse foie gras but eat Purdue chicken. Veal is convenient because I don't like the flavor very much, so I get to avoid actually having to, you know, make a moral decision.

April 07, 2007 11:44 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

I don't eat veal, either, because my sister told me I couldn't. (I always do what she tells me.) But then again, almost any recipe that calls for veal can be made with chicken. And I can't say I hate veal, because taste wise, there isn't enough there to really hate.

But you're right about humane treatment of animals. Yeah, don't eat veal because they abuse calves, but it's okay that they cut off the beaks of chickens?

April 07, 2007 12:55 PM  
Blogger David Moles said...

Ugh, red bean paste! It's all over Japan, too. Dry and mealy and not very sweet. It's very disappointing to find out that the absolutely delicious-looking mini-pancakes being cooked right before your eyes outside every train station are full of the stuff.

(On the bright side, Japan is also the country that brought us Sausage Donut, Curry Donut, and Ethnic Donut, so I can't complain too loudly.) (Ethnic Donut is sorta Cajun. Vaguely.)

April 08, 2007 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blchhh to all those disgusting sounding donuts.

April 09, 2007 12:20 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

I, too, like thousand-year-old eggs, but hate red bean paste. Never tried sweetbreads. As for liver, I like liverwurst, which I gather is only about 20% liver. Actual liver is a bit too intense for me.

April 11, 2007 1:59 PM  
Blogger gordsellar said...

My mother used to engage in punitive cooking, meaning, when we were bad, she cooked food we hated. But since I liked liver and my sisters hated it, I was glad to see my sisters misbehave. And the fried onions are a must.

As for the red bean paste, yeah, I'm not crazy about it either. Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for Korean public health) they've started to sweeten it a little, or so it seems. But when they want something sweeter, they often use sweet potato as a filling. The white sweet potatoes over here, not orange yams. I used to hate it but now I'm okay with it.

Me, I can't do mashed potato. It's a texture thing. UGH! That and and silkworm chrysalides and spam... those are about the only foods I see regularly here to which I have violent objections. Though of course my girlfriend occasionally pops open some bag of things which make me go, "Eh?" Weird snack foods with concepts like, "We like squid, we like peanut butter... why not have the best of both worlds?"

April 12, 2007 11:07 PM  
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