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A Food Meme
From crazysoph; the BBC has created a list of 50 'try before you die' foods. It's a staggeringly bad list, with entire cuisines reflected in a line and zero consistency. I think it was voted on by the Folk, which is why it's so very poor.

Meme, as ever, is bold for those you've tried, italic for those you fancy.

1. Fresh fish
2. Lobster
3. Steak
4. Thai food
5. Chinese food
6. Ice cream
7. Pizza
8. Crab
9. Curry
10. Prawns

11. Moreton Bay Bugs
12. Clam chowder
13. Barbecues
14. Pancakes
15. Pasta
16. Mussels
17. Cheesecake
18. Lamb
19. Cream tea
20. Alligator
21. Oysters
22. Kangaroo
23. Chocolate
24. Sandwiches
25. Greek food
26. Burgers
27. Mexican food
28. Squid
29. American diner breakfast
30. Salmon
31. Venison

32. Guinea pig
33. Shark
34. Sushi
35. Paella

36. Barramundi
37. Reindeer (I have only had jerky)
38. Kebab
39. Scallops

40. Australian meat pie (though why this should be any better than any other meat pie I have no idea)
41. Mango
42. Durian fruit
43. Octopus
44. Ribs
45. Roast beef
46. Tapas
47. Jerk chicken/pork
48. Haggis
49. Caviar
50. Cornish pasty

OK. So, for a start, a load of these simply aren't try-before-you-die foods. There are four I haven't tried. Three are Australian specialities, presumably mostly difficult to export. It seems unlikely to me that barramundi is very different from other large firm white finfish, or that Moreton Bay Bugs are hugely unlike lobster or langoustine. And I seriously doubt that Australian Meat Pie is greatly different from other meat pies. Australians should object, or send me a care package. Or both.

The fourth I haven't tried is guinea pig; I've not had hedgehog either. I suspect they're similar, and I suspect that most of the people voting for them haven't tried them either. I've been trying to eat both these foods since discovering that people ate them, and have failed to do so. So I think they're really rather hard to get hold of; I doubt they're very different from rabbit or hare but am happy for people to tell me how wrong I am.

Similarly, I've not had fresh reindeer, only jerky. And not moose either, only jerky and sausages. I don't understand why reindeer is on the list and moose isn't; I don't believe that either of them are as tasty as other deer species, so the only reason to put them on is as trophy food.

Anyone reasonably well-fed will have eaten most of these. I know for sure that my 7-year-old daughter has at least been offered 40 of them (of which I think she has definitely eaten all but three of those; the three I think she's been offered and refused are durian, haggis and oysters (though actually oysters seems odd because she loves all other seafood so perhaps I'm misremembering. I will try again next time we're eating oysters)). To be fair, the list does include many of her favourite foods (mussels, tapas, mango, sushi, octopus, salmon, prawns, fish, pizza, icecream).

The list does have a few genuine try-before-you-die foods (octopus, haggis, caviar, mango, durian, oysters, lobster). And there are some astonishing omissions (foie gras being I think the most extraordinary).

I started to write a list of all the foods you should eat before you die, but it basically came out like this:

Before you die you should eat a wide range of different foods (meat, poultry, fish, seafood/shellfish, dairy, fruit, vegetables, grains), in both as close a state to nature as is safe and tasty, and also prepared in a range of ways which represent the peak of culinary arts in countries from around the world. You should get in the habit of buying, cooking and eating food you've not tried before, particularly where it is a local speciality of the place you happen to be at the time. You should aim to try, for comparison, the wild and farmed versions of foods; but if the wild food is rare and endangered, and the farmed food is plentiful and cheap, you should not hanker for the abandonment of farming. You should try eating every part of a plant or animal that is generally considered edible. If you don't like things, you should try them again as you age, because your tastebuds change and your tastes broaden.

Anyway, I've never eaten much in the way of insects; people do, and they're probably nice enough, but nobody's ever sat me down and said 'now we have to eat some yummy bugs'. I mean, I've had bugs in sweets, and bugs by accident, and I momentously cooked a load of bugs in a stew once (I threw it out, yes), and home-grown raspberries are notorious for having more maggots in than you can easily get out, but I've not cultivated a taste for particular insects. And Steven points out that I've eaten plenty of things with cochineal in them. So recommendations welcome, but they have to be tasty and interesting.

My list was also edgy because it included a whole load of things that are being eaten to extinction because of the precise sort of culinary tourism that this sort of meme encourages (and I am not only a culinary tourist, but also have a massive weakness for some endangered foods, notably sea bass, my favourite fish). So I thought it was better not to propogate it.

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Okay, I'll just list the things I haven't had (question marks for things I haven't heard of)

2. Lobster
11. Moreton Bay Bugs (?)
20. Alligator
21. Oysters
22. Kangaroo
32. Guinea pig
36. Barramundi (?)
42. Durian fruit (?)

The only thing I haven't had and I really *really* want to try is lobster. I've never found anyone who would want to go and eat lobster with me, nobody I know locally could show me how to eat lobster and I've absolutely no idea of a good lobster restaurant in Liverpool I could go to.

Saying that I think there is a fish restaurant on the dock so I might make someone (Caroline probably) go there with me as a birthday treat.

Oysters I would like to try but I have to do the lobster thing first.

Re: Of that list...

I have to do the lobster thing first.

While doing research for a story, I found a good site with directions on how to eat lobster.

Will share if you like...

Moreton Bay Bugs are a large Australian crustacean. I hadn't heard of them either. Nothing I've read about them indicates that they would be much different from other crustaceans; the point is that they're local and relatively easy to get, so in the right part of the world people eat lots of them. Barramundi is the hardest Australian fish to catch, as far as I can tell; again, I've seen nothing to suggest it's particularly good eating. I will surely eat both of them if I'm in the area and they're available.

Durian is very hard to find in places that it would have to be flown to (you basically have to use dedicated planes). It's an exotic fruit that attracts bugs by smelling like rotting meat/sewage. I believe it's one of these foods that has weird trace elements in it, so until you eat it it smells terrible and you can't see the point. Once you've tried it, and your body has had a chance to think about it and digest it, I don't think it smells so bad the next time because your brain recognises the smell as durian and tells you that you want to eat it. Anyway, that's my theory. We bought half a durian (they're big) from the oriental shopping mall at Colindale about two years ago. I'd like more. People say it tastes like strawberries and custard, and I can see that, but there's a definite garlicky component to it as well. We kept ours in the shed.

You don't have to do the oysters after lobster because if you go to a nice seafood restaurant then you can have six oysters as your starter and then lobster as your main course. Job done. I like lobster but it is expensive and I prefer food that I don't have to attack with a hammer to eat. Huge luxury; I had half a dressed lobster once this summer.

Eating lobster doesn't seem to be that big a deal in Jersey. Tobes was shocked to find I'd never tried it. His parents do crab and lobster lunches out on the patio with loads of salad.

I've heard tales of durian but never been near any.

You seem to say things like "My seven year old has been offered most of these things" as evidence that the list isn't a list of particularly special things. But you have an extremely well travelled seven year old with curious parents who have enough money to spend on experimenting with food. I doubt you'd find many seven years olds who have such a wealth of experience as M does. Try following your advice for eating or even just having most of the BBC's list of stuff if you're earning the average national wage or on a job with minimum pay. I suspect that many of the people contributing to the list were in those categories - people who dream of getting to eat lobster one day. Note that I say this without even clicking through to the story and finding out whether the general public or some "specialist" came up with the list.

Anyone reasonably well-fed will have eaten most of these.

Not true. No life-long vegetarian will ever have tasted 26 of them, and I trust you're not arguing that life-long vegetarians are not "reasonably well-fed". ;-)

You should try eating every part of a plant ... that is generally considered edible. If you don't like things, you should try them again as you age, because your tastebuds change and your tastes broaden.

This I agree with, definitely.

Vegetarianism is a perfectly fine and cool life choice, but I mean 'well-fed' here in the same way as 'well-read', not in its more normal sense of 'not hungry'. So, no, life-long vegetarians cannot be well-fed, any more than people who read only books written by women, or only fiction, can be well-read.

So, no, life-long vegetarians cannot be well-fed

Apologies for the brief response, now deleted: if I have time, I'll try and post a more thoughtful and reasoned rejoinder to this statement than my instantaneous reaction to it.

any more than people who read only books written by women, or only fiction, can be well-read.

People who cannot read Chinese cannot be well-read.

(Deleted comment)
I've had fresh reindeer once (we had a Saami lodger for a while), and it wasn't noticably very different from other venison.
Guinea pig you could easily buy live at a pet shop if you really wanted to try it.

Even my food tourism does not extend to buying intended-for-pets, killing them, skinning and gutting them. I would, I think, rather visit Peru.

Since this discussion is in two places I'm reading

Here's what I just left as a comment to yonmei:

I have a sneaking suspicion that the person who wrote that has probably been to one Chinese restaurant in zir life: "Chinese food" is such a broad category, or even category-of-categories: it's like saying "Western European food" and believing that there's no difference between the cooking of Italy and Scotland.

At least they could have come up with something specific for the Asian cuisines: if you're going to say "haggis" and "cornish pasty" why not (just for example) say "kurma" and "green jade delight" (The latter is, at least around here, green beans, broccoli, and snow peas in a garlic-flavored brown sauce: nothing too exotic, but definitely tasty and nourishing.) or tandoori and Peking duck?

As an addendum, I've eaten durian cookies (sandwich cookies with a durian-flavored filling instead of, say, lemon or vanilla), courtesy of gerisullivan at a con room party once. They were vile. The standard claim of durian-likers is that the flavor is good enough that the smell doesn't matter. For me, that's not possible: odor is too much a part of flavor, and I can't block it out while I'm eating something.

Re: Since this discussion is in two places I'm reading


Recently, I was relating the tale of my own close encounter with durian wafer cookies. One of the JPL scientists claimed he wanted to know the secret of the plastic wrapping material, as I'd been able to tell him that the smell hadn't been overpoweringly horrifying until I'd breached the wrapping.

Re: Since this discussion is in two places I'm reading

Nope, it's clear that the smell is a key component of the durian flavour and people wouldn't rave about it so. I've already posted about my theory of what's going on with durian elsewhere.

Dodging the main discussion that has erupted utterly, I'd just like to mention that in Maine, moose is fairly popular and there are quite a few restaurants where you can buy mooseburgers. This trend started after I started keeping kosher, so I can't comment on the taste myself, but my mother and sister say that it's better than venison, and makes fantastic spaghetti sauce.

I think the reason it's becoming more popular up there isn't the cachet of eating game (not in a state where poor people still rely on getting their deer in the fall to have meat for the winter) but more because moose are huge, so people who win the moose lottery and almost invariably get their moose end up needing to find something to do with all that meat that doesn't involve eating it all themselves.

I'm trying to figure out what would be unkosher about Moose. They certainly have split hooves, and I'd be surprised to learn that they don't chew their cud.

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