For 26 years of my life, I thought beets were a very strange and gross food. I had a distinct memory of not liking them and so I just continued not eating them. They were ugly and weird and I wanted nothing to do with them.
As I started learning more about food and cooking, I finally ran into a beet salad and was convinced to give it a shot.
It was freakin’ delicious.
I sort of hated that I had wasted so many meals not eating beets just because I was supposedly sure that I didn’t like them.
If I would’ve been open to eating weird food, I would’ve learned this much sooner and been better off for it.
In short, I think everyone should be eating more weird foods. If you’re not eating weird food, you’re not eating well.
Weird is Relative
Weird is a very relative term. What’s weird to you (maybe chicken feet?) might be one of the most popular snacks in another part of the world (China). Meanwhile, something that Americans think as completely normal (hamburgers) aren’t really eaten at all in many countries in the world. In fact, McDonald’s doesn’t even serve hamburgers at all of their international locations.
So keep in mind that there is probably no food in the world that’s weird to everybody.
Weird is Safe
It’s human nature to be opposed, at first, to new foods because they could be poisonous or harmful. Unless you are out foraging in the wilderness though, this probably isn’t a concern. Even the weirdest thing you can find in your local supermarket or farmers market is probably 100% safe or at least not any less safe than say, cantaloupe.
As long as the food smells like it’s supposed to smell (some things are supposed to smell rotten) and isn’t expired, it’s probably fine.
If it’s really your first time with the new food, I recommend doing some Internet research before biting in. Not only will this give you some tips on preparation, but will also tell you if those chicken livers you bought are supposed to be brown, green, or red. (hint: brownish red).
If you are worried that you might be allergic to something, then obviously you need to take extra precautions. If you’re allergic to clams, you should probably stay away from oysters. This is another place where a bit of research can go a long way!
Of course, you have to use your brain here. If you’re traveling abroad, you might want to start slow on the “try weird foods” idea or you could quickly find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. But if you’re at home and see a strange new veggie at the market, push fear aside and toss it in the cart.
Weird is Tasty
I can almost guarantee that I can find a food that you’ve never had before and would consider strange that you will actually end up liking. If you think about it, your own supermarket probably sells thousands of different items and you most likely toss the same 40-50 things in your cart every week.
Even if you’re a picky eater, say you only like 10% of the food in the world, there are still most likely dozens or hundreds of things in the supermarket that you always shop at that you’ve never tried, but would probably like.
If you’re like me, this is even more dramatic. I’d say I like 90% of the food I’ve tried assuming it’s prepared correctly. That equates to a lot of stuff out there that I haven’t had that I would consider darn good eats.
Weird is Close
If you’ve ever watched Bizarre Foods then you might have the impression that to try something weird or new you need to fly to Africa and hike for days to find some sort of new, truly bizarre food.
This might be true if you’re interested in making good TV, but it’s not really true for most people who just want to try something new.
I can pretty much guarantee that there are Asian or Latin markets in your town that offer some interesting options. At a minimum, there are probably many things at your normal store that you’ve never tried.
While it’s easy to try new foods while you’re traveling, travel isn’t a necessary component of trying new foods.
Weird is healthy
This applies mostly to Western diets, but of the food that is considered normal and safe typically isn’t healthy. Think burgers, pizza, fries, any anything else you can order from your car.
If most Americans ventured away from their comfort zone and tried a few new vegetables or meats every week, they couldn’t do worse than what is “safe”.
In fact, a lot of the things that are seen as weird are just because there is no marketing for that product. When was the last time you saw a commercial for rutabaga?
If you vary your diet, and avoid just frying everything, you might actually stumble across something healthy that tastes pretty darn good.
My Weird Favorites
Over the years, I’ve made some stuff that was way out of my comfort zone here on the blog. In some cases, I maybe had eaten the food a few times, but had rarely cooked with it myself.
Here are five of my favorite weird dishes I’ve made over the years.
Chicken Liver Pate – I had eaten this in a few restaurants, but making it at home was dumb simple and costs about a buck. It’s really good.
Beef Tongue Tacos - A very traditional Mexican taco filling that is completely lost on most Americans. I tackled it from scratch and it ended up being one of my favorite taco recipes.
Cold Borscht - This post was the start of my transformation from a beet hater to a beet lover.
Kimchi Stir Fry – When described, kimchi sounds pretty NOT sexy. It’s fermented cabbage. But you don’t need much else to make a good stir fry.
Salted Cod – One of Betsy’s friends is from Jamaica and came over one day and showed me the ropes of some traditional Jamaican food. It was delicious and I ended up with a plate of food that I had never had before.
What is Weird for You?
Have you eaten something different recently that surprised you? Do you have your eye on something that you want to try? Do you think it’s fun/important to try new stuff?
Leave a comment!
Purple Cauliflower photo from bradlauster.