Saturday, April 30, 2011

Day 121: Little Miss Muffet Sat on a Tuffet

Today is the last day of phase one! This means that tomorrow, I stop eating things I don't like and start eating things I've never had before. Of course, these things aren't mutually exclusive. Some of the things I didn't like were actually things I'd never had, but since the thought of them repulsed me, I figured they counted. Likewise, when I come across something I've never had that sounds disgusting, I'm going to try not to shy away from it. Because this is about becoming a perfect omnivore, after all. It's about viewing all foods as equal, or at least approachable.

For the very last thing I don't like, I chose a food that I've so long shied away from, I didn't remember it existed until my husband picked it up at the grocery store. This is cottage cheese, or to you Mother Goose fans, curds and whey.

For some reason, I always thought cottage cheese was sweet. People put fruit with it, don't they? But they also put fruit on a cheese platter, I guess. A good English cheddar with a slice of Granny Smith apple? So yummy. Either way, I was surprised when my cottage cheese was savory. I mean, it actually tasted like cheese (duh). Ian described it as tasting like sour cream, but saltier, which is pretty good. He had to describe it for me as I stared into my lumpy white mass, unable to bring the spoon to my lips. He had to assure me I would be okay. It was more difficult than it should have been.

Of course, the texture of cottage cheese is still weird. But you get used to it. I can see working into my life. I can also see never eating it again. However it works out is fine by me.

It's very strange to know I've eaten the last item I need to complete phase one. It's very strange to know that I can now approach fish fearlessly, that I've had squid and octopus and clams. Even stranger to know that I like them. I haven't conquered everything, I know. Beef liver. Hard boiled eggs are still difficult in many cases. But it's gotten to the point where I can't find food I don't like on restaurant menus, or outside the stranger items in the supermarket (pickled pigs feet? maybe some other time).

It's also very strange to know that this means 2011 is 1/3 over. How the time doth fly.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 120: Shrimpalicious

I've done shrimp a few times on this things-I-don't-like journey, but not in a while, and I had some leftover in my freezer. So tonight, I made some linguini and a very simple tomato sauce, then threw in the shrimp. What's amazing is, I almost don't process a shrimpiness or fishiness anymore. That's how used to it I've become.

I'm feeling pretty triumphant right now. Part of that comes from the fact that I've shown so many foods who's boss. Part of it comes from the fact that I have only about a month until I defend my thesis and become a master of fine arts. Part of it comes from the fact (shameless self promotion alert) that I just had a story accepted by Monkeybicycle, which can be found at I would feel bad about feeling so good, but life has been pretty stressful lately, pushing me over the edge in several ways that have not exactly made life easier (tip: keep your temper). I've needed a boost for quite some time. But that's beside the point. At this moment, mostly, the triumph is about the food.

Day after tomorrow, I start in on foods I've never had before. I probably won't like some of them, but I'll eat them anyway. And some of the things I didn't like in this portion of the project were things I'd never had before, but cringed at the thought of. There will be some overlap. But it will continue, as far as I can tell, to be an adventure.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day 119: Some Like It Cold

I am one of those people who drinks hot coffee in the summertime. If it's too hot for hot coffee, I'll opt for soda if I want caffeine, or just skip it all together. Occasionally, I'm in for iced tea. But iced coffee? Never.

Basically, it has been my experience that the icing of coffee exaggerates coffee's most negative aspects, especially its bitterness. It often has a bit of an earthy/dirt flavor when it's cold. Part of this has to do with the fact that many cafes put coffee in the fridge, whether when it's fresh or after it's gotten a little old. Even if it's fresh when it goes into the fridge, it stales while it's cooling. And if it goes in stale, there's just no hope at all. I know this because I've worked for a couple of different coffee houses, chain and independent, and almost everyone I know has worked in the coffee industry at some point, too. I used to worry, when icing down the coffee, about watering it down. Some customers wanted it super strong. Then again, I would get customers who complained the iced coffee was too strong. It seems you can't please everybody all the time.

Today, I got my iced coffee from Tully's, and basically, it was hot coffee poured over a lot of ice. So probably half coffee, half water, by the time I started drinking. I added a little half and half and Splenda, as I would with any cup of coffee (I only drink it black if I know for sure it's really good--and even then, I'm not usually in the mood for so stark a flavor). What I discovered is, with iced coffee, you actually want it watered down. The extra water in my cup seems to have diluted the iced coffee bitterness (for the most part). Plus, the coffee was at least relatively fresh when it went into my cup, so that helps.

I don't know if I'll ever be a huge cold coffee drinker. When the coffee cools in my cup, I still won't keep drinking; I'll either reheat it or toss it (I am an unapologetic coffee microwaver--I know that shocks some people, but I don't drink coffee incredibly quickly and unless you burn it, microwaved coffee is fine). But maybe there will be times in the summer when I go out to coffee with friends in the afternoon and I won't be the black sheep who orders a Coke instead of an iced mocha or whatnot. Then again, it's kind of fun to be a black sheep sometimes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 118: Power Up!

I really wanted a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch today. Really, really, really. But, since I didn't have the required ingredients and I'd already spent money on a latte this morning and I am trying to gear up to lose some weight (this whole food blogging things can really put the pounds on you--during the month of May I'm going to make a real effort to cut the calories while still having one thing I've never had before every day--and until then I'm trying to gradually shrink my stomach so I don't fall into the old diet-and-binge trap that so often happens during the first week of hunger), I didn't have a grilled cheese. Instead, I had the Power Bar I had hanging around, waiting to be ingested as a food I don't like.

Power Bars have changed, I think, since I last ate them. They've never been my choice of energy bar. If I'm going to have an energy bar I usually opt for Luna. Once, when a friend and I backpacked around Europe, we packed a supply of energy bars to bring with us, since we wouldn't have much money for food and we figured energy bars had vitamins. We bought them en masse at Costco. A lot of mine were Luna, and I pilfered SlimFast bars from my mom's supply, and because my friend thought they were the best, I brought Balance Bars, too. The Balance Bars had the distinctly plasticky/medicinal/"healthy" taste that I had noticed in Power Bars, and even on days when we'd walked twelve miles, slept poorly on possibly unlaundered sheets, and been given only a single hard roll and tea as our "continental breakfast" at the hostel, I would usually opt for the SlimFast or the Luna. Starvation withstanding, the Balance Bars were that bad.

So maybe I should have had a Balance Bar today, but as I recalled, Power Bars were even more plasticky and grainy, so I figured I'd go for the worst of the worst. And yet, when I bit into my Power Bar, it was way less disgusting than imagined. Yeah, it was an energy bar, but it was remarkably palatable. And it had a bunch of vitamins. So now I'm healthy and junk.

I do wonder if I should have had a chocolate Power Bar. Mine was vanilla. I think, perhaps, the flavor I was responding to was the carob, which is unnecessary in a vanilla bar. Or maybe they've just started making them differently? Or my palate is different? I've heard rumors that they make energy bars taste bad on purpose because otherwise people wouldn't believe they were eating health food, but I don't think I buy that. Perhaps there will be a chocolate Power Bar in my future, just to see.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 117: Hot Hot Hot

Today, I decided to have gumbo, because it contains shrimp, and because it was the only thing I might have remotely disliked at The Elk, a restaurant just steps outside my front door. Unfortunately, the shrimps were tiny and impossible to find or taste in the soup. On the other hand, this particular gumbo brings me to one of my foodie pet peeves, which I think qualifies as something I don't like. When you're making a hot dish (like spicy hot), don't rely on the spice for all your flavor. There has to be salt, too. All the ingredients have to work together. Don't just throw in a handful of cayenne and call it good.

I'm sure there are many camps in regards to this kind of spice. I enjoy spicy food. A lot. In fact, there are dishes that make my lips blister that I can appreciate because the spice and the flavors balance well. But when heat is all you have going? Nope. Can't do it. It's all about balance. Taste your food before you serve it. And don't fall back on the idea that the spice will burn their taste buds off, so you don't have to add other flavors. Most of the time, it just isn't true.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 116: A Trip to Vienna

I've been having a lot of canned meat lately, haven't I? I suppose it's just an unappetizing subject for me. Generally, these meats have been less offensive than expected. Today's Vienna sausages, especially were not so bad. I was expecting them to be more Spam-like. They were really just sort of cheap, thin-skinned hot dogs. In a can, of course.

The amusing thing to me about Vienna sausage is that the name makes it sound like something fancy, something European, and while these guys have their roots in Vienna just like any other sausage we might call a Wiener (Wien being Vienna's real name and -er meaning from, so from Vienna) they feel cheap to me. And when I eat cheap-tasting food, I assume it's American, or that it's at least been Americanized. Really, it's probably not the sausage itself that is the American part, but the packaging. You have to admit, we love our cans. (If you're looking for an interesting read about American food manufacturing and distribution and its development in the 1940s & 1950s, go get Sallie Tisdale's The Best Thing I Ever Ate.)

Anyway, heated up, Vienna sausage was fine. I can't imagine eating them cold, but I also can't imagine eating a hot dog cold, so that makes sense. Which is apparently what others think, too, as I discovered on this blog.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 115: Happy Easter

This morning, I made myself a smoothie with a couple of my less favorite ingredients: plain yogurt and cherries. Frozen cherries (I use frozen fruit in my smoothies instead of fruit and ice). Plus some orange juice to loosen things up. It was pretty good, actually. The ingredients came together nicely.

Then, at lunchtime (or thereabouts) the hubby and I made some hard boiled eggs, which were partially turned into truffled deviled eggs (Anne Burrell's recipe) and partially into egg salad. It's been a while since I had my last deviled egg, and if you will recall, it triggered my gag reflex. But I've been eating egg salad fairly regularly for months. Hard boiled eggs on their own, I don't know. I ate so many of them, and while I feel I made progress, I still can't say I like them. It's surprising. I thought I would get used to them easily and continue to resist fish. But they are my white whale, in some ways. My teeny, tiny, white whale.

Anyway, I didn't eat a plain hard boiled egg but I did peel a lot of them (happy Easter) and I did try one of my deviled eggs. And again, the gag reflex. It's not the filling, though the filling wasn't my all-time favorite thing I've ever eaten. It's the white. That stupid, rubbery egg white. Even with a lot of the filling, its texture and flavor stand out and make me gag. I mean, I managed to eat and swallow, but it was tough work. And afterward I felt a little nauseous. But then, I had a little egg salad sandwich, which contains the whites, they're just mashed in. So why oh why would you eat the egg white on its own? It's good for you, sure, but it seems strange that some people prefer it to the yolk. My husband does. Why? Good question. He just does.

As for me, I have to face the fact that I can't conquer this. I really don't think I can. I've conquered so much, but not the boiled egg white. And I've tried. Go back through the archives. I ate at least a dozen hard boiled eggs. I just can't stomach them.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 114: Plain Jane Meets Lady Marmalade

I am a little finnicky about yogurt. I buy plain yogurt, but only as an ingredient, not as a food unto itself. I put it in rogan josh or strain it to make it Greek for tzatziki. But why eat plain yogurt when you can have flavored? I am a Yoplait fan, myself, and even just the vanilla or lemon satisfy me--I don't need strawberry cheesecake or Boston cream pie, though I like those, too. But plain? Well, that seems silly.

This is not an opinion that has changed since eating plain yogurt for breakfast this morning. The plain was so unbearably bland, with a little bitterness from whatever yogurt cultures there are, that I tried stirring in some marmalade. Until recently I've been working with a woman who likes to have yogurt in the afternoon and she always stirred in some jam and I thought that could be good. I don't know if I stirred in enough marmalade, because the parts where I tasted it, the marmalade totally masked the yogurt flavor (what little there is to mask) and in other parts, I couldn't taste it at all. But I guess that's okay, since the main challenge this morning was really plain yogurt.

I will eat plain yogurt if I'm starving, or if my jaw is wired shut and I have to suck it through a straw. In dire circumstances. I'm not too good for it. I'll use it as an ingredient. But that's what I think it's good for. Like applesauce.

Day 113: Cobbler Elves

I wish I had some sort of joke saying how cobblers are aptly named because they taste like shoe leather or something like that. But they don't. My best bet would be that they were invented by being cobbled together--someone had the pie filling ready, but there was no crust, so they threw in some oatmeal instead.

My main problem with cobbler (apart from the fruit filling, which I've already addressed in pie form, and am getting used to) is that it makes me think of breakfast, not dessert. Without ice cream on top it really might as well be porridge with fruit. It's crispier, sure, but it's really nothing special. It feels like something healthy, but dressed up, and ideally, that's not what I'm looking for at dessert time. I want chocolate and sugar and sauce and fluffy egg whites with more sugar and--you get the picture.

So anyway, I had cobbler for dessert. It was fine, but again, not my favorite. I wonder if I'll ever have a cobbler that wows me. That would be a challenge. But at least I ate it, and I have a clearer picture of it in my mind than I used to. Which is good, since I previously thought of it as a somewhat syrupy mush.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 112: Stepping Stones

Have you ever noticed that a lot of tropical fruits have a sort of musky, armpit flavor to them? They're sweet, yes, but then there's that... stink. Except for the fact that fruit want to be eaten so their seeds will be spread, I would think that was some sort of natural defense mechanism. (Don't eat me! I stink!) But I guess it's just a flavor that I'm not accustomed to.

As you've probably noticed by now, I'm not a big fruit person. Vegetables, yes. There have been few veggies on this list and I'm now in love with all of them. Fruit is problematic, I think, because of my affinity for candy. I learned at a young age to love the refined sugar instead of the natural. Lately, I've been snacking on dried cherries and I think dried fruit can be a liason between candy and fruit, since it's basically both. But it's a work in progress, you know?

So tonight, I cracked open a can of Kern's guava nectar. Musky. Mostly sweet (I think this has to do with how little flesh is in the can--just a few granules you can feel between your teeth), but musky all the same. Isn't that an appetizing word? Musky. Maybe I can find a descriptor with a more positive connotation. Can't think of one right now. If you have one, please, share it.

Anywho, the nectar was palatable. Of course. Not my favorite still. But because it was less musky than the papaya I ate not long ago, it feels like a good set of training wheels. I think I should work guava nectar into my rotation for a while, then work my way up to the muskier tropical fruits. Stepping stones, if you will.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 111: Pineapple Spread

This morning, I tackled something that I hadn't actually eaten before, but when I saw it in the grocery store, I thought, gross. You see, my mother was in town (sadly, she's probably just about back home now and I miss her already--Hi Mom! Hug Dad for me!) and we wandered the grocery store together, searching for things I might not like. In the cracker aisle, we found a little jar of something called pineapple spread, made by Kraft using Philadelphia Cream Cheese. This sounded revolting, so I threw it in the cart. We bought some plain bagels to go with it.

Now, I don't have a problem with pineapple in all forms. I used to despise it, but now I actually enjoy it on a pizza with Canadian bacon, or on a teriyaki burger, or in a sauce. I'm not as keen on raw pineapple. I certainly couldn't conceive of the mixture of pineapple and cream cheese. I imagined the pineapple would be toothsome and stringy, or oozing its enzymes into the cream cheese. (Pineapple contains enzymes that break down protein, which is why you can't put it in Jell-O molds, and why I presumed it would turn the cream cheese to goo.)

But the chunks in the pineapple spread were tiny and soft, and the spread was surprisingly fluffy. It didn't really taste like pineapple; it was sort of generically sweet. It was a nice, easy experience compared to the liver.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 110: Liver & Onions

My mother is in town, so I thought I would take the opportunity to try one of her favorite dishes that always repulsed me: liver & onions. And really, I thought it would be easy. My mother and I are alike in many ways. I thought I would have grown into a taste for beef liver. I was so, so wrong.

I started out brave. I rinsed the liver, patted it dry, coated and cooked it myself. Mom said she would do it, but I had to brave letting my fingers connect with the slimy, bloody, deep-red flesh of it. I had looked at several liver recipes, some involving breading, some plain. In general, it was advised to cook the liver lightly, so that it was still pink in the middle. I figured, since by coating the liver pieces in milk the milk turned pink, that wouldn't be too hard. I cooked the onions first, then coated the liver in milk and seasoned flour, and fried it in the same oil in which I fried the onions. I got every piece nice and brown on both sides, then returned the onions to the pan to reheat, then served it with a baked potato and salad. I was feeling good. It was just a little piece of meat.

A bite of liver & onions, according to Mom, has to have some liver, some onion, and some ketchup (the ketchup can't be cold--we let it come to room temperature). I followed these directions and popped it all into my mouth, chewed, savored. At first, I tasted the coating and the oil and the onion and the ketchup. It was vaguely meaty. It was fine. The liver was fairly juicy and tender, which I hadn't expected.

But then.

All of a sudden, the liver flavor hit me. And when I say it hit me, I mean it punched me in the face. I literally jumped out of my chair, as if by doing so I could escape it, and let out a wail that seemed to make Mom and Ian think I had burned my tongue. The best I can describe it, it tasted like coagulated blood, or what I would expect coagulated blood to taste like. It smelled like the butcher's shop, that off-putting aroma that makes me want to get out of there as quickly as I can. For the first time in this entire experiment, I spat my food out.

Ian then refused to taste it. My mother, the liver champion, went in for a bite. It wasn't long before her face also morphed into confusion and pain. She managed to swallow hers, but then promptly grabbed the pieces of liver and threw them back in the pan. Liver, she said, must require that you cook the crap out of it. Which makes sense, really. It's kind of a diner food, and I associate diners with rubbery pieces of meat and puddles of grease. Anyway, Mom recooked it, and she dished it up. Ian took some this time, and I waited for Mom to take the first bite.

It was fine, she said. Ian tried it, too. It tasted like liver, he said. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not, but he ate his small piece and then took a little more. So I took another bite: liver, onion, ketchup. Again, it was fine at first. Again, though to a lesser degree, that bloody taste bit me. I managed to swallow this time, but only with the aid of a mouthful of diet 7-Up.

Maybe I'm getting hard-headed, but this is one I do not want to defeat. It is the worst flavor I think I've ever had in my mouth. And I have back-up. When I bought the liver, I was informed by the clerk that she had never sold liver before today, and that the other woman who bought liver today was buying it for her cats. I fed my cat a bit of liver and she sniffed it, licked it, chewed a little, and left, shaking each of her paws as she walked away. So guess what. I don't have to like liver. It was hard enough for me to find in the first place. I doubt I will ever have to deal with it in real life. And if I do, I'll make sure I have a full glass of liquid to wash it all down.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 109: Beer Beer Beer!

It wasn't long ago that I didn't like beer at all. But my husband (then boyfriend) and his friends all liked beer. And I wanted to fit in. So I attempted to learn to like it. Mostly, I took a shine to wheat beers. My general rule is: if it comes with fruit in it (or is vaguely fruit-flavored), I'll drink it. Other beers are generally okay, but they are not my favorite. But the India Pale Ale (otherwise known as the IPA) is another story. It's just so dang bitter, I can't palate it.

Tonight I bought some Deschutes' Inversion IPA (when I brought it home, my husband said, You went for the big stuff, huh? or something like that). It's super hoppy, which makes it perfect for this experiment. It's super bitter. I mean, it makes the sides of my tongue ache.

The funny thing is, this beer is a little bit fruity. Not a lot--but it's there. And then the hoppiness overwhelms. And the aftertaste! That's a lot of...flavor. But I found, as I drank it, that I could do it. I could handle it. It was an exercise of my bitter buds, but my face didn't crumple or anything like that. So now I think that, regardless of what kind of beer my friends serve at their parties, BBQs, etc, I can take it. Woot!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 108: Tuna Melt in Your Mouth

Today I had lunch at the Post Street Ale House with my mother and husband. Of course, I had to choose something I did not like to eat--I didn't want to put it off till the end of the day and risking forgetting to do it (you know how distracting it can be to have your mother in town--taking goofy pictures and laughing till you cry in the lobby of the Davenport Hotel, making that's-we-she-said jokes over lunch and, again, laughing till you cry). I chose, today, to eat a tuna melt.

I haven't revisited tuna much, and I thought tuna with cheese sounded just off-putting enough. What I didn't realize is that it was warm tuna salad, not just tuna meat. So that made it much more palatable. And, at the Ale House, it's on a lovely bread. The cheese was mild enough that I didn't really taste it, but overall, it was much better than expected (isn't that always the way?) and not the cheesy/fishy implosion I expected. So hurray for that.

Day 107: Thou Shalt Love the Tentacle

Those of you who are cool nerds totally get the title of this post. But this really has nothing to do with a giant tentacled creature from an alternate universe. It has to do with a much smaller tentacled creature from this one.

I speak, ladies and gentlemen, of the octopus.

Last night, I went to a restaurant called Italia in Browne's Addition, Spokane. I went with my husband and my mom (yay!!! she's in town!!!), and for an appetizer, I ordered the octopus. It came in a lovely composed salad. It was charred, with parsley, long pieces of lemon zest, some sort of lovely sauce, etc. I'm not sure what all was there. But though it was a hesitant start, it was a really lovely dish. Really, if you hadn't told me it was octopus, I would have thought it was overcooked chicken. It mostly tasted smokey, and it was only a little chewy.

But that's not the only octopus I had. Or maybe it was squid. You see, my mom ordered the seafood risotto for her main course, and it came with two little sets of tentacles. They looked really gross. We were sort of afraid of them. So naturally, we ate them. We had to count it down (1...2...3!) and get them in our mouths without thinking about it. But then, they were nice. Kind of sweet. Slightly briney. Nothing intimidating at all. To reference Futurama one more time... "the challenger's ugly food has taught us that even hideous things can be sweet on the inside." Thanks, Morbo.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 106: Cheeseless Comfort Food?

When I was little, my mom made meatloaf a lot. And, if I recall correctly, I liked it okay. But I did NOT like the sticky red sauce she put on top. In fact, to get me to eat meatloaf, she had to keep a particular section of it sauce-free, and then I would add plain ketchup later. So I figured I should revisit this sauce as an adult.

I also had some more spumoni today, and Good 'n' Plenty (I knew I liked licorice, but there was a time when Good 'n' Plenty were on my gross list, so I thought I'd go for it--they are awesome), and the rest of the peach salsa. But back to meatloaf.

Now, it's true that my favorite meatloaf is capitalized, two words, and has a key role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (see right). Well, in that role I like him. I'm not sure about the rest of the time. But I digress.

This is about sticky red sauce, made of ketchup, mustard powder, and brown sugar. I made my sauce with dark brown sugar, since that's what I had. I tasted it before and after it went on the meatloaf, and I actually liked it a lot. It was spicier than I remembered. Maybe Mom used more sugar and less mustard powder. But it was incredibly good and I have no idea how I ever disliked it. In fact, when I ate my meatloaf, I wanted more of it.

But here's the big thing I found tonight. I've had a tumultuous week, with lots of emotional problems. As I've mentioned before, my favorite comfort food is nachos, followed closely by mac 'n' cheese, followed closely by any cheese product. But this meatloaf was so warm and comforting. It was a simple recipe. I wondered if I'd screwed it up, actually, because I was out of bread crumbs and had to substitute ground cornflakes, I used one gigantic egg (we've been getting them from a local grower and they're not as uniform as grocery store eggs) instead of two, and I only had almond milk for moisture. Also, I used ground turkey instead of the ground beef, pork, or lamb the recipe suggested. But I had two servings. I enjoyed it more than I think I've ever enjoyed meatloaf. I had to stop myself from eating more. And since the hubby hates meatloaf in general (I set aside some ground turkey and made him a burger), I had the whole meatloaf at my disposal. Self-control was needed.

So I guess I can be comforted by food without cheese. This is a revelation to me. I wish I could rid myself of the urge to comfort myself with food in general. Now my range of comfort foods has expanded, as will my waistline, in all likelihood.

Day 105: Thanks, Mr. Newman

You probably know that Paul Newman's name and face grace the labels of about a thousand bottles of salad dressing. What I didn't realize until yesterday was that his face is also on salsa now. It makes sense. It's all sauce. But if there is one product I never would have imagined him endorsing (conjure him up from Cool Hand Luke, for example--all tough and gruff and sweaty, eating a thousand hard boiled eggs or something like that), it's peach salsa.

Yeah, peach salsa. I love salsa, don't get me wrong, but I've never quite gotten on the bandwagon of the fruity salsa. I was going to buy mango, but they didn't have any. But you know your choice of strange food really is strange when the woman at the check-out counter makes a fuss over it. "Peach salsa?" she said. "Really?" Her eyebrows raised, her lips curled. She looked at it like it wasn't even food. She was so distracted by the strangeness of my purchase that she rang me up wrong, so I had to pay twice. First, $.93, and then the remainder of the $9.33 I actually owed.

When I got it home (all the way home--I've been so stressed and emotionally crazed lately that I picked up and went back to Pullman from Spokane, and will not be going back until Saturday when my mommy comes!!! but also to do some workshop that I am less than thrilled about) and took my first bite, I thought it was so incredibly weird. It tasted peachy. It tasted like salsa. But I got used to it pretty quickly, and I think I like it better than mango salsa. Of course, it's been a long time since I had mango salsa. I'll have to try it again. I only eat it at parties where there's no other food.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 104: The Devil, You Say

I've been eating a lot of canned meats lately, haven't I? Especially pork products. I guess they just strike me as unappetizing. So they work for this blog.

Today, I had deviled ham spread. Sounds delicious, right? It comes in a little can, wrapped in paper, with a cartoon devil on it (see picture, left). It's one of those things that I wasn't really aware of before starting this blog, but I found it on the supermarket shelf and thought, yuck. So naturally, I had to eat it.

You know what? Deviled ham is a lot like Spam. It's a little more granular. It has a little more spice. It's a little less cat-food-ish. I had my deviled ham on crackers. Really, I don't know why I subjected myself to this. Not that it was a horrendous experience; I'm starting to think that, culinarily, I can handle anything. It's just that this is such a strange food product. But it's getting to that point, I think, where the only foods I don't like are strange. In a certain sense: hooray. It means I'm climbing walls. In another sense: boo. It means I'll have to eat weird things for the next twenty-six days.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 103: Spumoni

When I was a kid, there was one kind of ice cream my mother could buy of which I wouldn't sneak spoonfuls. In fact, I would turn down dessert when this particular confection was the only option. I remember it being sort of sour and medicinal in flavor, and I wouldn't go near the stuff. That ice cream was spumoni.

Tonight, I bit the bullet and went for it. I could still recall the taste that so revolted me as a child. But as I dug into my tri-colored dessert, I didn't taste it. I knew I would like the chocolate, almond,and pistachio elements of the ice cream, and even the cherry seemed quite palatable. I ate quite happily for a few minutes, until I bit into a chunk of cherry. There was that flavor, just as I remembered it. However, as an adult, it didn't make me shudder. It was fine. Not the greatest, but fine. In fact, when the hubby offered me another scoop, I happily accepted it. It makes me wonder what a real, authentic spumoni would taste like (I believe our batch was Dreyers). Next time I'm in Italy (whenever that is) I will make sure to try it.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Day 102: Horse Food

This morning, I went back to an old nemesis. Sure, it seems innocuous enough. It's probably one of the least threatening food items you'll ever have. Hospital patients eat it every morning. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I speak of oatmeal. Or, as I like to call it, horse food.

You see, no matter what I try to do to oatmeal (in this morning's case, adding maple syrup and raisins, on other occasions various sugars and milk products) I have never been able to push it past barely palatable. I know it has good fiber and all that rubbish (though I'm sure the processed stuff I usually have is less healthy than it tastes) but it just doesn't charm me. In fact, it's a little like eating glue. Which is funny because that brings the phrase "horse food" to a much more morbid level. (Glue factories...horses...if you watch old movies, you probably get it.) Anyway, it's oats. It fills the stomach and nourishes the body. If I could ever finish a bowl of it (I usually fall asleep midway through, it's that boring) I might get up and run the Kentucky Derby. Like the number of licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 101: The Breaking of the Seafood Aversion

My new issue of Food Network Magazine came yesterday, and one of the recipes was an herb soup with crab (that's the crab in the middle of that picture--plus homemade croutons and a lemon oil drizzle). So today, I made it for dinner.

But first, I went to the grocery store with my husband, and we saw something that made me shudder in a way that made me knew it would work for my resolution: clam dip. So we bought it, plus some potato chips for dipping.

Ian had the first bite of the clam dip. He said, "Ooh, clammy!" Then I had my first bite and I thought, clammy? Really? I even had him describe to me how he would define "clammy" or, you know, the taste of clams. He said salty, fresh, like the ocean. And I had to admit that was true. I even went for a little chunk of clam but I still didn't taste it. It was salty, fresh, sweat, sea-like. But clammy? I wasn't sure about that.

And then I realized, I was associating "clammy" or "seafoody" (which was Ian's initial definition of "clammy" but I got a little frustrated with that lack of specificity) with BAD. And despite how gross it sounded, this clam dip was decidedly not bad. I actually liked it. I mean, I had to force myself to stop eating it.

So then, I made the herb soup for dinner. A nice pile of crab in the middle. And it was...good. Really good. To the point where it didn't taste "seafoody" or "crabby" to me anymore. It didn't have even a remote bit of fishy flavor. And you know why? I'm used to it! I think the seafood aversion has been broken!

This is exciting. I've had quite a few seafood dishes over the last 3 1/3 months, and while I've found some of them enjoyable and some of them at least palatable, I think I'm to the point where the fishy flavor is no longer a negative. I mean, I haven't had crustaceans straight out of their shells or fish that I've personally filleted--I do credit a large part of my seafood aversion to memories of whole trout cooking over a fire when I was little, skin curling and eyes fogging in the heat--but dude! Dude! I know why people are always saying things aren't fishy when I thought they were. They were used to it. Kind of like when you wear a perfume regularly, you can't smell yourself.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 100!!!

Today is my hundredth day doing this blog! My hundredth day of things I don't like! In twenty days, I move on to eating things I've never had before... some of which will probably take some getting used to, some of which will probably be delicious. But for now, I'm still on things I don't like, so here's what I had today: deep-fried clams.

I'm starting to think that deep-fried seafood is one of the greatest things ever. I mean, it's deep-fried, so it has an advantage. But seafood is light underneath the breading. It can tend toward chewiness, but sprinkle it with some lemon, dip it in a little tartar sauce, and man is it good. Even though when you order something like fried clams, you might think, ewwwww. I'm starting to get fearless about fried seafood. If it's fried, it's probably good. The worse it is for you, the better it tastes, right? One day, I'll have to try deep-fried butter.

Arteries, beware.

Day Ninety-Nine: Chunkier, Yes. Yummier, No.

Okay, I'm a day late blogging this, but yesterday was a very busy, very tiring day. That does not mean I didn't have my thing-I-don't-like. I had another little can of salad, this time with chicken. This time was less appetizing, too. Which is surprising, since chicken salad is more familiar. It was also more watery and not as yummy. Chunkier, yes. Yummier, no. But I ate it. It made me nostalgic for the ham salad (can you be nostalgic for something that was only two days ago? I sort of think you can).

Also: the consumption of dried cherries continues. I've been carrying them with me in my bag, so if I want a snack, they're my option. And I'm starting to really enjoy them. I'm meeting them on their own terms, I think. If only I could carry around a bag of oysters to snack on during meetings. Maybe I could meet them on their own terms, too. And have cats follow me around. And have whole portions of the conference room all to myself. And maybe get botulism or whatever you get from rotting seafood. Hmm...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day Ninety-Eight: A Good Use for Miracle Whip

I know that Miracle Whip isn't mayonnaise (obviously) and that they claim not to be anything like mayonnaise (right). But, since my only attempt at acclimating to this white, viscous substance was a while ago and since I have most of a bottle of it left, I thought I would try to find another way to eat it today, a way that might showcase the flavors of the Whip a little more so I could fully get used to its flavor. So, one way I love mayonnaise is on French fries. Which made me think, I could eat miracle whip that way, too.

At first, I tried dipping the fries (I got them at Burger King...not the greatest fries ever but not the worst, either) straight into the miracle whip, and that was a little unpleasant. I mean, it wasn't terrible, and as with everything, it got better with every dip, but Miracle Whip just doesn't have the dreamy texture that mayonnaise does. So I thought: fry sauce. I friggin' love fry sauce (I'm super healthy) and I thought I would try it out. So I mixed some Miracle Whip with ketchup and guess what? I was right. It's really really good. The ketchup counters the less appealing flavors of the Whip without completely masking it--it provides an acidic balance, I guess. Anyway, it was good. If I owned a burger joint, I'd make a Miracle Whip fry sauce and people would love it. They would never guess the secret ingredient.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day Ninety-Seven: Hamming It Up

Tonight, I brought my thing-I-don't-like to class (Form and Theory: The Novel). It was ham salad. Which raised a few eyebrows and elicited a few snarky remarks. And really, I almost chickened out on my ham salad, or at least deferred it to a time when I would be alone and could gag in peace, but the box had been seen and I had to go through with it. Hurray for accountability.

What is ham salad? you might ask. Well, it's just like chicken salad or tuna salad, but with ham. Little tiny chunks of ham. Tinier than the chunks pictured on the box. Pulverized ham. Mushy, gushy ham. But you know what? It was okay. Mainly, it was salty. Sort of tangy. My main complaint? The little snack pack it came in needed one more cracker. I guess they expect you to really pile up your ham salad.

As silly and strange as it might be (and as wasteful, packaging-wise, with a box, a bag, a can, and a teeny tiny plastic spoon), in a way, these snack packs are ingenious. Just enough salt and protein to keep you going through a seminar, if you don't have a caffeine crash, which I sort of did. I should start assembling my own little snack packs to bring to class, in reusable containers of course. But maybe not ham salad. It was a novelty, and I did it, but it won't be repeated too often.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day Ninety-Six: Microwavable Shrimp

I know that anything microwavable isn't going to be as good as the real, fresh version, but I can't afford to go to restaurants every day and though I love cooking, I am often too busy. So that's my excuse, up front, for eating microwavable shrimp fried rice.

As you know, my battle with shrimp has been continuous. I like it sometimes; sometimes it makes me gag. I don't know why I thought microwaved shrimp would fall into the former category. Basically, it was tough. And the fried rice (another dish I tend not to order--not hated, but not liked either) was almost mushy. Tasty, though. All that salt. It disguised the shrimp flavor pretty well, but the texture was disgusting. Better luck next time, I guess.

After that, I finished off the frozen popcorn shrimp that's been hanging out in my freezer. These were cooked in the oven, and the shrimp was yummy and tender. Which seems weird since it's still been cooked twice: fried at the factory and baked at home. Huh. Who knows. Maybe the breading is like a barrier, a magical shield. Or maybe if I had microwaved them, they would have been chewy, too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day Ninety-Five: Papaya

Papaya (in today's case, Mexican papaya, the green-skinned variety) is one of those fruits that might be the sweetest thing available in some cuisines, but I find Like armpit, actually. I do realize that it's possible that I've never had a ripe, in-season papaya (the papaya I ate today certainly wasn't at its peak) but I doubt that with a little aging, the entire musky smell of the thing disappears. Maybe I'm horribly, horribly wrong. I guess we'll see come summer.

Today, I had papaya two ways: raw, and (because it was less than delicious raw) as a granita (pulverized with lemon and sugar, then frozen). Of the two applications, I would have to say I preferred the granita. I would give you a recipe if I had followed any form, but basically I food processed half a papaya, added the juice of a lemon and... maybe a half cup of sugar? I eyeballed it. Sorry. After that, I popped it in a baking dish and into the freezer for about five hours, after which Ian broke it up with a fork and we ate it. It was a refreshing, mildly sweet dessert. More of a palate cleanser, really. Quite appropriate after the yellow curry I made for dinner.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day Ninety-Four: The Weirdest Food I've Ever Loved

Tonight, I brought out the sugar-free Jell-O cookbook once more. The interesting thing about this cookbook is that it contains both sweet and savory recipes. Which made me think, ew. Which made me think, I should eat this. Seems like spurious logic, I know. But that's what this project has brought me to.

I had to share this dish with my husband, so I did not try the most disgusting sounding dishes (one involving tuna, the other involving carrots and raisins) but I still chose something that sounded fairly repulsive: a three-pepper gelatin salad, with a base of lemon Jell-O, with three colors of bell pepper and some green onion stirred in.

The mold (as you can see in the picture) did not come out perfectly. Maybe I unmolded it too soon, I don't know. But it was Jell-O and peppers and onion, so that part was accomplished. And I have to say, as I scooped into it, I was a little bit scared. I took my first bite tentatively. And at first, I must say, I was disgusted.

But then I took the second bite.

Guess what, people? Three-pepper Jell-O salad is AWESOME! I suddenly understand why they ate these weird jiggly concoctions in the sixties. Lemon is a flavor that often appears in savory dishes and the peppers are pretty sweet, so it all gels together nicely. The texture provides some pretty nice contrast, too: a little jiggle, a little crunch. I know. It sounds crazy. But here's the recipe, because I think you should try it!

8 oz lemon gelatin
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups cold water (as I write this, I see where I went wrong... I used 2 cups because that's what's on the package)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cups chopped bell peppers (a combo of red, yellow, and green)
2 tbsp sliced green onions

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water; stir in cold water and lemon juice; chill until slightly thickened.
Stir in peppers and green onions; pour into a 5-cup mold (spray with Pam first); chill until firm, about 4 hours; unmold.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day Ninety-Three: Discomfort Food

Today, the hubby and I were down in Lewiston, Idaho, waiting for some car care, and we dropped into the local Red Lobster for lunch. I know what you're thinking: seafood in Lewiston, Idaho? Yes indeed. Lobster, no less.

I have never felt more like a predator than I did today, having been greeted by a tank full of sad-looking lobsters upon entering the restaurant, and then proceeding to eat their kin. Thankfully, I did not have to do the whole lobster-picking hoopla. I might have picked the lonely one in the corner, whose eyes looked the saddest, just to put him out of his misery. Or maybe he wasn't miserable. Maybe I was projecting.

Either way, I had two forms of lobster today: Langoustines (which I always thought were a form of shrimp, but the menu said it was lobster and according to Wikipedia it's known as either the Norway lobster or the Dublin Bay prawn, so we're both right) and something bigger... the second application was less specific in its description. The Langoustines were interestingly prepared. I had them on nachos. Or, what would have been nachos if the restaurant didn't run out of corn chips. It was like a mix between nachos and bruschetta. Nacho topping (with lobster) on rounds of garlic bread. Weird, I know, but pretty tasty. And, I think, a good way to ease myself into things. You see, my all-time top comfort food is probably nachos. It's the thing I crave when I'm stressed, sad, etc. So if you see me eating nachos, you should ask me what's wrong. Hug me or something. I will appreciate it. Anyway--one of my biggest problems with this resolution has been that sometimes, I want comfort food, but am faced with terribly discomforting options. Which only augments the stress. And I know, I shouldn't eat for comfort. But I'm human. So sue me.

Anyway--the second lobster dish I had was a lobster roll, which is basically a seafood salad made with only lobster, stuffed into a lovely buttery roll. It was served with homemade potato chips, which would have been better if they had been fully cooked. I was surprised at how much the lobster actually tasted like crab to me. But it was definitely lobster. It may have been, also, that the only cold crustacean I have had with mayonnaise and such is crab, so the application was just familiar. Either way, the roll balanced the cold sliminess of it all very nicely, I thought. It could have used a little crunch, maybe a little more brightness, but overall it was fine.

So I ate lobster. Two ways. And I survived. I had lunch at a seafood restaurant and barely noticed the seafood smell at all. The harder leap will be to eat the meat right out of the tail (or, with crab, right out of the legs). But I gnaw the bones of cows and chickens all the time. So I can do it, I'm sure. Softshell crab, I don't know. But I can pry the meat out of the exoskeleton.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day Ninety-Two: Gambling, but with Food

I had an interesting lunch today. First, a kiwi, which I recently realized I had not revisited since my first experience with it, so I felt unsure of whether I could claim to like it. I do. So sweet and juicy, and those seeds are like little ice crystals.

After that, plain pasta salad. You see, I've had some pasta salad, but only fancy-schmancy pesto stuff. Nothing with plain macaroni and plain mayonnaise. So today I took that on. Oh man.

Why do people settle for such ridiculously bland food? Why do they prefer it? I still might never love the texture of cold mayonnaisey salads, but as I ate I thought, what about some salt and pepper? What about an aioli instead of a plain mayo? There was a little texture in the form of pickle relish, but not enough. It's white mush, basically, and it can be improved on in so many ways. But I guess this goes back to my applesauce argument. Still, I'll eat it. White mush can be okay.

Which segues nicely into the remainder of my lunch. My love affair with tapioca continues. It was a great way to end my bland meal. Also, it was nice to have something reliably sweet after all the crazy jelly beans I've been eating in honor of April Fools' Day. You know--the ones where some are sweet and some taste like skunk spray or rotten egg. But man, is it fun. It's like gambling, but with food. So far I've eaten (or at least bitten into) skunk spray, banana, rotten egg, chocolate pudding, peach, pear, moldy cheese (not that bad, actually), baby wipes, coconut, and centipede. Though, never having eaten a real centipede, I don't know if that last one was a good representation or not. Kind of gamey. Kind of spicy. You know--centipede.