Fear is a funny thing. As clever little bi-peds, we usually manage to override the uber- anxious mother that is our instincts, but from time to time something just scares the be-jesus out of us for no tangible reason. Sometimes it’s forgivable; inexplicable bumps in the night may indeed be [as your midnight imagination suggests] coming from some knife wielding wack-job dragging your flat screen through the lounge window. Fair enough to get a bit worked up about that. What isn’t so logical is our quaking terror of certain foods. We all have them; foods that give us the willies [so to speak] or the ones we just plain don’t like. When I started writing this article, I had every intention of making it about foods that have an undeserved bad reputation, but after talking to a few people I realised that foods that are widely hated and feared with good reason are far more interesting subjects. So don’t expect positivity and inspiration here. These are foods that I really can’t abide; the worst of the worst. Loathsome, nasty things…
Might as well start with the most obvious one I guess. These things are probably the most hated vegetable in the world, and frankly with good reason. They’re bitter little bastards that taste like somebody already ate them. I suspect growers have learnt to hide PR reps among polite society because whenever BS are publicly slammed, some reedy voice from the back pipes up about how they’re ‘ok if they’re really fresh and not overcooked.’ So basically that leaves you with about a 30 second window of opportunity. All I can imagine is that it must have been a hard winter in Brussels when these cabbagy turds where christened. Worth feeding to children for the sheer entertainment value.
How could anyone eat something that smells so utterly offensive? I have upset countless friends and strangers by comparing the stench of this so called food to a variety of nasty things that I dare not mention here. Suffice to say it’s never flattering. Add to that stench the tuna industries track record for slaughtering flipper and his kin, the fact that most tuna species are rapidly creeping up the no-no list of dwindling critters, and the migration of weird breast-sprouting synthetic hormones from the can liner to the fish therein and you have pretty good cause to avoid it like herpes. Fresh tuna, on the other hand is Luke Skywalker to tinned tunas Darth Vader; very good, meltingly soft and suspiciously pretty.
I will eat most things at a push [present company excluded] but I have to draw the line at brains. If I wasn’t such a cynical old atheistic I’d say it was akin to eating an animal’s soul. [I’m assured by a friend of a Godly persuasion that animals don’t have souls, which hardly seems fair. Nicky Watson gets a soul but my more likeable and more articulate cat gets nada?] Anyway, back to brains. I have tried them and can report that they have the texture of clotted bile and smell like steamed puppy. Before you say it, yes I’m aware of the fact that the French eat brains with great gusto, but let’s be honest: the French aren’t all that fussy about what they eat, are they? In my experience they will happily wolf down anything that bleeds, ejaculates, seeps or oozes, as long as it’s well sauced.
As much as I support Hannibal Lector in his crusade against the ‘free-range rude,’ I think he was seriously pushing the boundaries of good taste with his recipe for brains with brandy and shallots. I can live with the cannibalism, but brains? Eeeew!
You know you’re in trouble when a recipe begins with ‘first peel the tongue.’
Peel the tongue? Could any sentence be more perverse? The most upsetting part about my relationship with tongue [speaking of dodgy sentences] is that I actually quite like the stuff- as long as I don’t know I’m eating it. As a ‘mystery meat’ it has a very pleasant, velvety texture and a delicate beefy flavour, but damn it, it’s TOUNGE; that’s just so wrong!
If you can get past the psychological trauma of eating the great flaccid sausage that is cow’s tongue, it presents all manner of possibilities. Tongue terrine certainly sounds catchy. Personally, I’ll never get past the horror of having a severed and sliced tongue in my mouth.
As someone who takes a fairly liberal approach to the food pyramid, I seem to shock people when I tell them I don’t like tripe. I’m regularly taken to task by ancient crones with names like Audrey or Beryl who, despite having have lost their short term memories, have retained [from their apparently desperate youth], an obsessive and fiercely protective attachment to this most pointless of foods.
Admittedly the Italians do some very clever things with tripe [compared to the traditional and utterly odious tripe with onions that lurks in the dark heart of the kiwi kitchen], but even the most inventive recipe can’t take away that peculiar rubbery texture and ghastly odour. By all means eat tripe if you’re too old or bewildered to remember that food shouldn’t smell like athletes foot.
While the above foods are pretty universally despised by the young and relevant, avocados have a bewilderingly big fan-base. On this I take the path less travelled. I simply can’t abide avos in any form other than guacamole, which pretty effectively disguises most of their vileness. The appeal to the rest of you remains a complete mystery to me. Sure it’s pretty to look at, but with its soapy mouth-feel and peculiar taste – somewhere between grass and pigs blood – it triggers my gag reflex every time. I’d sooner eat road kill. Don’t let me put you off though.
The extended whanau accuse me of having renounced my already-sullied Maori blood through my attitude towards kina.
I’ve really tried to like kina, I have; the trouble is they make my innards want to evacuate through the nearest orifice. I’m quite sure that there’s something worth persevering with inside the spiny little spheres, but one whiff of that iodine/seaweed/fishy fugg and I’m rushing for the porcelain.
So I’m rather hoping I’ve opened a can of worms this week [the contents of which I would find preferable to most of the above]. Let me know if you agree with my list or if I’ve got you hopping-mad in defense of these various food-frights. Better still; list the foods that give you the heebie-jeebies.