September 4th, 2009

You ate WHAT?!

I ate Spaghettios with Sliced Franks (the franks seem to be camera shy and I'm too lazy to search more than four pages of images) for lunch yesterday and part of my dinner was sea urchin sushi. I mention this, not because I think that anyone much cares what I eat, but because I’ve been thinking about what makes a food scary. No conclusions, just thoughts.

I do not remember a time before Spaghettios. I ate a lot of them as a little kid as a welcome change from alphabet soup or grilled cheese sandwiches. This was before I went to kindergarten and insisted on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich daily for something like four years straight. If I did not have the early experience, I’m pretty sure I would not eat them now. They come in a can. They’re salty. I’m afraid to read the list of ingredients.

I do remember the first time I ate uni, because it was the first time I had sushi of any kind. The uni very nearly made it the last time I ate sushi. Sushi tasted like nothing I had ever eaten before. My mom does not do plain white rice. Why, when Rice-A-Roni exists? Even in Chinese restaurants, the rice I ate was always fried. And the rice was the most familiar part of the experience. I couldn’t find anything to liken the taste of nori to. I had to decide, all by myself, whether I liked it. With the uni specifically, the texture bothered me. I had to try it two more times at intervals of about ten years to decide that I liked it and now I order it almost every time I have sushi.

Which food is scarier? The familiar one, full of chemicals, or the new one, made with a whopping three ingredients, two of them plant-based? (Unless there was wasabi hiding under there, but my nose didn’t prickle or anything, so I suspect not.)

I read somewhere that people are, by nature, fairly conservative about what they will eat. It is a survival thing. Back in the day, trying something new could well prove fatal. Nowadays, it’s the familiar stuff that seems to be more likely to kill me. And yet, when I am tired or cold, sad, or otherwise out of sorts, what I want is food I ate as a child: macaroni and cheese, tomato soup from a can, Frosted Flakes with milk.

Although I would settle for a bowl of pho or some oyaku donburi.