Food and Flexibility I
I've once had a sign on my office wall:

"Why Should I Make an Effort to Try Something New When I Already Like the Food I Eat?

"Part of the answer lies in the East Indian belief that eating more complex and subtly flavored foods exercises the brain, making it better at understanding, appreciating and surviving the subtle complexities of life."
--From Penzey's Spices (Minneapolis) catalog

I like nearly everything I eat, let it only be well prepared. Pop Tarts? Used to have one a day. Quaker Oats? Best ever with brown sugar and raisins. Ramen noodles? Let's do, I've got a quarter. You think that's exotic, how about these: haggis (tripe in intestines, highly spiced); (steak and kidney pie (not spiced enough to disguise the faint urine smell); oysters (raw, one gulp with lemon juice); "Pieds et paquets de Marseille" (hooves and intestines in gravy); calves brains (looks like what you'd expect); and a hearty soup from north Portugal made entirely of melted animal fat with a few carrots for color (a real heartburner). Okay, so I'll admit I didn't like all these so much. In fact, I didn't like any of them, except the oysters, but then I always worried about getting some sort of dread illness you're supposed to get eating raw oysters. But I tried them. And I continue to try varied foods, most of which I either like right away, or grow to.

I understand childhood food fussiness. Children are narrow-minded, inevitably, because they haven't been around much. But as you grow, you broaden your interests, learn about other people, places, ideas and, I hope, foods.Liking or not liking unfamiliar foods isn't a question of tastebuds, I don't think, but one of philosophical approach. To experience something new demands curiosity, to begin with, then openness to new things, then just a little determination: a willingness to give something new a chance, even if you aren't so sure at first. How many of us liked our first coffee? How many non-coffee drinkers really have tried a well-prepared cup of fresh-ground? We instinctively like sweet things, but it takes a more experienced taste to develop a liking for the slight bitterness of coffee or beer, or the puckishness of East Indian food. Perhaps our approach to new foods mirrors our approach to new ideas. It seems the most educated and intellectually sophisticated people are not finicky.

Maybe we should invent a new college course: Food and Flexibility I.

Copyright 2004 by Ross F. Collins <>