Alison (bohemiancoast) wrote,

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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