By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
I am a finicky eater. There. I’ve said it. It’s “out there.”
I’ve always been a bit squeamish about trying new things. I’ve gotten better in the last 10 years though.
I remember as a little kid trying to explain to my mom, from a scientific perspective, the real reason why I should not be forced to eat my veggies or other weird foods.
“Mom, I have read that certain people have a genetic predisposition against eating bok choy and broccoli. You’ll notice that whenever you’ve forced it upon me, an involuntary gag reflex immediately begins, which is basically a reaction to whatever vile or rancid weed you’re making me ingest. This gag reflex, which occurs through no fault of my own, is obviously an indicator that my body is rejecting the vile, fetid, vomit-inducing substance in my mouth.
“Honestly, mom, I love your cooking and I just wish I had the ability to stomach it and enjoy it as much as I wish I could.
“Do you think I can have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead?”
Since I’ve been married, I’ve basically tried to use the same logic to explain why I still don’t like many veggies. Unfortunately, just like my mom, my wife doesn’t buy it.
The thing is, I don’t think I’m the only one who really feels this way. I actually believe that each of us have our own sense of taste, because to this day, whenever I take a bite of bok choy, it’s so bitter that anyone else who likes it must taste something different than what I taste every time.
On the other hand, I’m also one of those who have an aversion to trying new foods. Something in my mind tells me, “Danger — nothing good can come from trying that dish.” I’ve actually developed a set of helpful rules to help determine what should and should not be eaten.
These rules were a big help during my trip to China last week. Over the course of a week, I was invited to several restaurants.
The first restaurant, which shall remain nameless lest I not be invited back, is known as one of the highest end gourmet restaurants in all of Asia. For the most part, each dish, whether it was an exquisite lobster dish or some of the best shark fin soup I’ve ever had, was truly impeccable. But towards the end of the meal, the waiter placed a dish in front of me that was obviously some kind of bird, served whole.
The bird was basically deep-fried, and was obviously too small to be a chicken, duck, or turkey. Having gone to a multitude of Chinese restaurants in my life and been served a variety of exotic food, I immediately recognized that I was about to eat a pigeon.
Rule #1: Thou shalt not consume anything that could have been sitting on a branch outside your bedroom window.
I’ve actually tasted pigeon before (please see section about my mother above). Yes, it tastes like chicken. That’s not the point. It isn’t chicken. It never will be chicken.
That’s like telling a nearsighted person that instead of spending money on contact lenses, they can save money by just sticking pieces of saran wrap in their eyes since they’re both basically made from plastic. The only thing I’m willing to eat that tastes like chicken is chicken.
The next day, my business partner took me and a group of friends to a hot pot restaurant, where there’s a large pot of boiling broth at the middle of the table and various raw meats and seafood are added to cook in the broth.
At this particular restaurant, each of our two tables had to select the base meat that would go into the broth first. Looking at the list of options, I chose shrimp. The other table decided to go with bullfrogs.
That’s right — bullfrogs. Not just regular frogs. They chose bullfrogs. My partner, who is extremely adventurous in terms of trying new foods, proceeded to go to the other table and brought back a big bowl of steaming hot bullfrog parts.
Rule #2: Thou shalt not consume anything that could be hopping around your backyard.
If that’s not specific enough, there’s always …
Rule #2b: Thou shalt not consume amphibians.
On my last night in China, my partner thought I might like to try a local diner close to his apartment. The dining room was sparse, old, and very basic. Having travelled throughout China, that was not a problem to me.
What was a problem was the daily special — dog.
There are those that say that I shouldn’t be joking about this because it’s cruel (and I’m with you) and there are those that say that some poorer populations have no other choice but to eat what they can to survive. I understand that, too.
But their menu had a lot of other options, including beef, pork, shrimp, and fish. This restaurant certainly wasn’t lacking in variety or resources. So, as far as I’m concerned, they’re fair game, which leads me to …
Rule #3: Thou shalt not eat household pets, especially ones that can roll over and fetch.
Considering the wide range of restaurants I tried last week, from wildly expensive to very basic, at least you can say that I’m an equal opportunity finicky eater. (end)
Wayne Chan can be reached at email@example.com.