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4 reasons why new food is awesome

3 Aug

1) New food is a hot commodity

You can’t get new food anywhere. I mean, c’mon, I’ve had a lot of food in my life. It’s not every day I can get my hands on something I’ve never tasted!

2) It’s exciting and mysterious

I love surprises. I love not knowing what something will taste like, or even what’s all in it. The thrill of experiencing the hustle and bustle of a new city is on par to tasting that city’s specialty dish (mmm!).

The meal on my flight to Japan might have been more mysterious than exciting…

3) You can more fully experience small details

Think of meeting a someone new. You say hello, shake hands, maybe ask a few general questions. Five minutes into your conversation, you’ve judged whether or not you like them. If you do, you talk longer and discover a smidgen of their past, their favorite places to hang out and other details that make them unique. Accordingly, when you spy a new food, you scope it out. Give it a cautious sniff and inspect its ingredients. Then you take a bite. If you like it, you eat more, and as you do, you experience its notes of flavor fully and form adjectives for certain characteristics of it in your mind. Granted, you might learn more about a food each time you eat it, but that first bite has your total attention, allowing you to fully enjoy the details.

4) It tells about a country’s identity

In nearly every culture, meals are a time for community. What get-together doesn’t have food in the mix? A lame one, believe you me. If you want to call up that friend you haven’t seen awhile, you ask her to meet you for coffee or at a deli. Why? Food lightens the mood. We’ve been trained to associate food with good feelings (aka, coffee and friendship). Since food is such an important part of everyones’ lives, the things a person eats tells you a bit about them.

I’m not sure what this snack says about me…

Why do you enjoy new food?

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The taste of Chinese hospitality

5 May

I will go out of my way to try new international restaurants in town. If I discover a new food or drink and no restaurant serves it, I will attempt to make it at home. But recently I had the opportunity to eat both international and homemade food that I did not prepare!

My family “adopted” two Chinese graduate students from Vanderbilt. Originally this was so the girls, freshly off the plane from China, could have someone along side them as they adjusted to American life. But it wasn’t long before both of them were excelling in both college and the good ol’ U.S.A.

When we get together, we have the most honest and interesting conversations about American and Chinese culture, politics and everything in between.

One of the girl’s mothers came to visit, and we were invited to experience some homemade Chinese cookin’. Five members of my family went to dinner, but there was seriously enough food for 20. Our hosts were so precious and scolded me when I got too full to continue eating.

All the food was an aspect of Chinese tradition – Chinese hosts go out of their way to make sure their guests are full, happy and entertained. I live in the South, but the South ain’t got nothin’ on Chinese hospitality!

The table of Awesome

A significant part of the meal was the Hot Pot, a pot of boiling sauce in which you dip raw meat, noodles or vegetables for ultra fresh eating. I loved it because, although everyone was supposed to keep track of their own food in the pot, every time I ladled out my food it was a mystery what would come out with it!

Beef and octopus ready for the Hot Pot

I also enjoyed trying some new foods. This was my first “big” octopus. I’ve eaten what I guess were baby octopi in Budapest. I can’t say it’s my favorite meat ever…it takes about two minutes to chew a bite enough to swallow, and the suckers sort of pop while you chew.

(in Budapest) Do I have to eat him?

Chinese noodles, which look like clear worms but taste amazing when cooked in the hot pot, were new to me as well. We also got to eat Chinese cabbage (bok choy) and tofu sheets.

We communicated with the girl’s mother, who spoke only Chinese, through translation all night, yet the conversation was anything but awkward. Everyone was fast friends before the night ended. My family and I felt so honored by these wonderful Chinese women, and I enjoyed learning from them about Chinese hospitality and tradition.