The boys from IT and I went out for dim sum lunch this week. I give them a lot of credit because dim sum is not exactly meat and potatoes fare, but also because they let me do most of the selection. That said, they give me that responsibility because they know I have an idea of what things are and trust that I won’t inflict too many things like stuffed duck web on them.
There are times when I do, though, and this invariably leads to discussions about crazy foods. This week’s trigger was a shumai that had been built around a quail egg (so very tasty), which had the guys asking me why I was trying to feed them pigeon eggs. My pointing out that pigeons had originally been introduced as food birds didn’t exactly help matters, and things escalated. L- brought up the geoduck.
The geoduck is a BIG clam. If you’ve never seen one, it’s certainly understandable that it would seem a bit intimidating. I’m linking a pic, but if you just don’t want to go there, picture a clam with a shell about the size two fists put together with a "neck" that resembles nothing so closely as a huge flaccid member of a well-endowed porn actor. Seriously, it’s a BIG clam.
L- got really animated talking about the geoduck, so much so that once we got back to the office, he emailed a pic to everyone, saying, "Oh yeah, that’s appetizing."
That has me wondering. Is the geoduck unappetizing because it really is unappetizing, or is it more that it appears unappetizing because for most of us, it isn’t familiar as a food? Does it have something to do with the fact that it’s presented as a whole animal and not as pre-packaged single serving pieces? It’s pretty easy to argue that food almost always looks better once it’s been prepared for the table. Consider:
(Actual platings will follow...)
The current food production model in the US seems almost entirely geared towards luxury. The most clearly evident expressions of this take the forms of convenience and variety. While both have clear benefits, they are not without consequences. For instance, while the four-pack of pork chops provides the convenience of an easily portioned meal, the consumer is divorced from the source of the meat and really has no way of determining whether the animal was healthy, well treated, etc. Similarly, while our production and transport chains allow New Englanders to enjoy tropical fruit, lamb chops, and tomatoes year round, it has also created a dependency on those chains and has made "seasonal" and "local" novel concepts to be exploited be restaurateurs.
Unadventurous palates may be another byproduct of this. We're no longer really seeing diets restricted by locale or time of year, and other necessary restrictions seem to come into play only when talking about food allergies/intolerances. Instead, restricted diets seem to be based increasingly on choice. Fifty years ago, it would have been near impossible to live in a coastal town and simply refuse to eat any kind of seafood. Now, not only have consumers been freed from that necessity because of the increased availability of alternatives, but it's possible that the seafood they can get is actually coming from another place entirely.
Who's free for dinner?