Getting out of your culinary comfort zone

I must admit, both on the road and in my personal life, I have no tolerance for picky eaters. I have nothing but sympathy for people with food allergies, as I regard the condition as the most cruelly unfair punishment on this Earth, and I respect the lifestyle decisions made by vegetarians and vegans. However, I am instantly infuriated by people who turn up their noses and cringe at the mention of eating goat meat or horse meat or even wild dog, simply because it is not something found within the culinary practices of their own culture. “How on Earth could somebody eat horse meat, “ they shudder. Horse meat happens to be hugely popular throughout South America, many parts of Asia, and even in some European countries.

I feel like this kind of shock and knee-jerk revulsion is a product of narrow mindedness. Simply because it is not a familiar tradition in your own culture, does not make it off putting or wrong. You also run the risk of seriously insulting the culture in question by denouncing their long held traditions. Even if it’s not the most frequently consumed meat product, it is nevertheless part of the culture’s culinary history.

And like I tell my kindergarten students, “How do you know you don’t like it if you don’t try it?” Where did we learn that eating certain meats/plants/etc is more bizarre than eating other types of things? When traveling to new areas, our bellies should be as open to new experiences as our minds. Our approach to life and the world around us will be shaped and refined by our travels, and our plates should be too. So try the live squid in Korea, the horse meat in Argentina, the goat meat in India! Your palate may just surprise you.

Posted by | Comments (8)  | August 30, 2010
Category: Food and Drink

8 Responses to “Getting out of your culinary comfort zone”

  1. Nicolaï Says:

    Open-mindedness works both ways. If someone doesn’t want to eat dog, why should that lead to instant fury?

  2. Lise Says:

    Pumpkin pie is bizarre to my Russian Studies teacher because she didn’t grow up with it. Pumpkin was a poor persons food in the USSR and she doesn’t get why we Americans love it at Thanksgiving. If something like pumpkin pie is strange to others and normal to us then you can understand horse meat a little better.

  3. Colleen Wilde Says:

    Interesting approach, everyone. 🙂

    @Backpack Foodie & Kim: That’s something to consider! For me, even if the animal in question were one that I adore (cats, for example), I would still be overwhelmingly curious and have to try it. Most of the areas that habitually consume wild dog meat and horse meat also keep horses and domestic dogs as pets and aren’t confounded by it. Though again, lifestyle choices and personal principles I respect. This is merely a bid to encourage people to experience things the way it is done within the area they are traveling and not to cling to their culture-specific practices.

  4. Rebecca Says:

    Different cultures have different foods, you don’t have to eat them. When I told people I tried Haggis when I was in Scotland they thought I was nuts. I didn’t eat an entire plate full, it was just enough for me to get a taste of it. Would I eat it again? No, I would not because I made the decision to go vegetarian. To each their own.

  5. Dena Says:

    Lovely post, Colleen. You are right. It is so important to be open-minded, and especially to be considerate of other cultures. When I was in Kenya I tried everything from camel to ostrich to crocodile to zebra! As an animal lover and a quasi-vegetarian of 11 years, it was a challenge, but I was up for it. I do not think we can truly appreciate a culture if we do not immerse ourselves in it fully. …And full immersion means food.

    As you know I am off to Paris shortly & I will make sure to try cuisses de grenouille & escargots while I’m there. 😉


  6. CaribRon Says:

    Wow food allergies as the most cruel unfair punishment on this earth….that’s a huge stretch considering all the major ailments that plague the modern world. Let me know when you’ve sampled the flesh and blood of your fellow human in tribal Africa, hey according to you would be insulting to your hosts; and you don’t want to upset them. I’ll warn the animal shelters to be on guard; that there is another dog and cat foodie among us.