When in Doubt, Part 8: Invite people over to eat exotic things

This is the 8th and final piece of the “When In Doubt, Do Everything At Once” series on Taste Life Twice. See Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7

This series of “When In Doubt” posts deals specifically with how to get happy when you feel like you’re drowning in more questions than answers. I have frequently been in dips like this, as you can see from many of my posts. Sometimes I work out a problem on the blog here with you, but often it is expressed in activity in another sphere. Here is where I’m showcasing those other activities, and how I deal with uncertainty every day.

Here’s an easy riddle for those of you who have read this blog for a while:
What has NOT yet made it into this series, but used to form the backbone of the site?
Ah, yes: FOOD!

Sicilian Croccante from the May 2012 Southern Italian class

The Taste Life Twice Cooking School

If you’ve been paying particularly close attention, you’d remember that I ran a market trial of a travel-cum-cooking school out of my house last summer. This was the first ‘product’ to ever come out of Taste Life Twice, and I still think it’s got promise, so I will be reviving it after I move, and actually marketing it beyond word-of-mouth. It will showcase just the type of exotic exciting foods I find in places where I’ve traveled.

Why exotic foods? And what constitutes ‘exotic?’ are good questions to ask in a town that has a restaurant for every type of cuisine in the world, overlaid on a landscape of precious fusion techniques and showmanship. Washington, D.C. is indeed a hard town in which to impress the foodie set, just ask Dan O’Brien, whose recent fame came only after years of building and crafting and honing his skill (You’re sorry you missed his fried chicken, too!).

Exotic foods here then are those that are overlooked, unknown, or underappreciated. These pique my interest and I want to learn about them… then I want to share the results!

Romanesco Cauliflower, via Dreaming of the Country blog

Overlooked, Unknown, Underappreciated

I especially like highlighting home foods from different cultures. This is the sort of food that people take for granted that their mother or grandfather cooked, but which they don’t find in a trendy restaurant: Sauerbraten. Pupusas. Soft-boiled eggs. Oxtail stew. Sauteed greens. Dates in almost anything. Chermoula. Purslane. Short Ribs. Gremolata. So many things to discover!

What remains unknown in globalized times like ours? The kind of food that takes a long time, that’s what. Slow-roasted. Sauteed, then in the oven. Takes forever to peel. Requires a finicky water-bath. All these things I have looked at and thought, “Are they really necessary?” And the answer, if you want to experience the real deal, is yes.

I’ve seen several vegetables (think kale) and even organ meats (headcheese!) have their day in the sun recently, but you’d be surprised at the number of still-more unappreciated plain foods that can be wonderful: cabbage. Fennel. Barley. Parsnips. Orzo. And for the love of God: sweet potatoes!

Photo by Domino Postiglione

So where’s the ‘Get Happy’ part of all this?

The reason that finding these exotic foods is so happy-making is that you get to share them with others! You don’t need a cooking school to do it. Invite some friends for an Evening of Discovery and introduce them to The Elegant Kohlrabi, or The Mighty Eggplant.

Knowing where foods originated, what they are most often paired with in different cultures, how they got to be a staple, who made them famous, (this is what I do at the TLT Cooking School!) all this detail enriches our knowledge while enhancing our enjoyment of the food. And hopefully when all that is done, you have time for some helpless giggles at some of your own ‘exotic’ creations! It’s the start of a beautiful community.

How have you challenged yourself on the food front? How have you shared your knowledge with the world?

2 Responses to When in Doubt, Part 8: Invite people over to eat exotic things

  1. Ok, you saw this one coming … Parsnips … I tried again (mashed with potatoes and leeks) and then again (soup), and then left them because I just could not get around the taste and then 3 weeks ago, I tried again, a different soup with lots of spices that made it, well, very spicy. I kind of liked it but only because the taste of the parsnip was kind of overtaken by … spices. I am going to give it one more try although without an oven currently, I’ll actually will have to do it some place else .. parsnips from the oven (mixed through olive oil and with some salt and pepper). Then, my absolute favorite: fennel and then specifically fennel risotto. LOVE it!! And hereby, I shared it :-)

  2. I’ve had kohlrabi on my mind the last few days!

    I thought it might be cool to do podcasts on those lesser known vegetables that hang out in the produce section of the grocery store as part of the nutrition side of my blog. And provide one recipe idea for how to use it. Sort of a Bizarre Vegetable of the Week series kind of thing.

    I can’t wait to see what you produce!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>