Friday, August 20, 2021

Food Confessions

 RHYS BOWEN: I confess—I am not a foodie. I never will be. In fact when it comes to food I am unadventurous in the extreme. I suppose it comes from an upbringing in England in the postwar years when things were scarce and most meals involved large amounts of starches with a sliver of meat. But I still enjoy many of those things: steak and kidney pie, sticky toffee pudding, fish pie, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie. They are all favorites.

Of course now that we are diet-conscious I rarely eat them. A treat when I am in England is to have one of them, but I rarely cook them. But on the whole I go for healthy simplicity: poached salmon with asparagus. Roast chicken with crispy roast potatoes.  Things that don’t require enormous amounts of preparation (which is why the food delivery service HelloFresh did not work out for me)

Perhaps I have an underdeveloped palate but for me certain flavors go together and others don’t. I remember arriving in America and finding the mixture of sweet and savory to be odd. Pancakes with syrup and sausage and bacon? Turkey with biscuits and honey? I guess I’ve learned to like them better over the years but still not my favorite.  I suppose we are all a product of our upbringing and the food that tastes best to us is what we remember from home.  If ever I’m sick I want my mom’s chicken stew.

 I’ve been to my share of very fancy restaurants but I can’t say I’ve gone into ecstasies over raw oysters with wilted kale and wasabi.  This is why I’ve never put myself on the waiting list for The French Laundry and paid several hundred dollars for their tasting menu, signing up for dishes you won’t know in advance. ( On a side note my daughter called me once in flat panic. She had made friends with a woman she met in a play group and invited her and her husband to dinner, only to find he was one of the chefs at the French Laundry. What can I serve? She asked in distress. I said he’d probably enjoy something totally simple like pizza for a change!)

I don’t want it to seem that I am rooted in the dishes I know and won’t try anything else. I do enjoy good Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian, French food. These are all tried and true flavors developed through centuries in the various cultures.  I've been brave enough to eat octopus broiled on a Greek quayside, or escargot in France.

It’s the new experiments of flavor parings that I can’t handle.  I remember once being taken to dinner at a new and very avant-garde place in Manhattan. I chose the rabbit. I have a small appetite but when the dish came it was one rabbit leg, standing upright with four stalks of asparagus making a teepee around it. Five mouthfuls of food then it was over.  My table companion was not as lucky. He ordered liver. When he cut it blood gushed across the plate. He called the waiter and said his liver was still raw. “That is how the chef chooses to prepare it,” the waiter said, looking down his nose.

“But not how I choose to eat it,” said my companion. It was whisked away in anger.  Not my sort of restaurant!

So what about you? Are you adventurous in your eating? When you go to a restaurant do you find yourself ordering the same dishes over and over (I know that I do this). Have you discovered new weird and wonderful parings that actually taste divine?

LUCY BURDETTE: I’m not as adventurous as Hallie, for example, who will try about anything. But I sure do love to eat! No liver, no kidneys, no gamey meat for me, and I don’t want to see tentacles. Those animals are smarter than we are. Ditto for pork, though it’s delicious, I try not to eat it. Most vegetables, almost all cheeses, count me in for that. Fried chicken and waffles with syrup--now that could sound like an odd combination. But in fact it’s marvelous!

RHYS; Lucy , I feel the same about pork, unless it comes from a free-range farm

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Cottage cheese mixed with applesauce. I cannot tell you why, but it is DELICIOUS,  and it doesn't taste like either of the ingredients. Brie with fig jam.  Celery with peanut butter, but I guess that’s a staple. Bacon and peanut butter-- I know Jenn is a fan, too.  Lisa Gardner taught me about hamburgers with mayonnaise--I KNOW it sounds terrible but it’s just--different. 

Snails, fine, oysters fine (basically a red sauce conveyance.). NO tentacles. And I know people put ketchup on scrambled eggs, but I cannot fathom why. (Lots of food talk around here lately, huh?) 

JENN McKINLAY: I am adventurous! I mean I regularly eat cake for breakfast and I live down the street from one of the first chicken and waffles restaurants in the country. I love brie and fig jam, Hank! I’ve never tried cottage cheese and applesauce but I happen to have both. I will give it a try. 

I’m truly  up for anything - especially if I don’t have to cook it. Octopus soup, bring it on. You get used to the tentacles curling in your mouth. Really, you do. Rattlesnake? Sure. It tastes like chicken -- make sure you have lots of ranch dressing on hand. And if you’re serving amuse bouche - just make sure to keep them coming. It takes a lot of those little suckers to fill a gal up. 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I am definitely adventurous and there are few things I won't try at least once.  Well, I'm not too keen on the idea of rattlesnake, so maybe I would pass on that one. I'm okay with sampling new flavor combinations if I go to a fancy restaurant, but with the places that we eat regularly I have to admit I will get the same thing over and over, so call me a stick-in-the-mud on that front.

I was a little leery of the smoked eel I was offered at a fancy London restaurant, but I tried it and it was fabulous!

RHYS: Oh, smoked eel. I had that once on the Baltic Sea in Germany. Fabulous.

HALLIE EPHRON: I’m very adventurous… though not a huge fan of kale and I won’t eat octopus (they’re too smart). I draw the line at macaroni and cheese ice cream, a new product recently brought to you by Kraft. No how no way. 

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I would say I’m adventurous in trying new types of cuisines - and considering I was raised as a WASP in the 1960s and 70s, almost everything not made with Cream of Mushroom soup or Jell-O counts as a new cuisine! I mean, I never had a bagel until I went to college… I agree with Hallie on octopus, and I’m increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of some of my food choices and am changing accordingly. 

Oh, and I must confess I have real “white woman mouth.” Thai, Sichuan, Indian - I always have to ask for the most mild spice. I’m pretty sure babies in Mexico who have been recently introduced to solid foods can handle hotter dishes than I can.

RHYS: So, dear Readers--who likes tried and true and who is adventurous? Who has discovered an amazing new paring? And who orders the same thing every time they go to a restaurant?





61 comments:

  1. There’s very little I don’t/won’t eat [cereal tops this list], and I’m willing to try most anything once [although rattlesnake may not make the cut and neither will spicy hot]. The girls and I like liver [cooked, please, with onions and bacon] and chicken and waffles are on my must-try-it-some-day list [although it seems like a strange pairing].

    We enjoy sushi [with just a bit of wasabi] . . . .

    I’m with Hallie on the no macaroni and cheese ice cream, though . . . I’d eat good macaroni and cheese any time, but macaroni and cheese ice cream just seems wrong . . . .

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    1. My mom loves liver, though I am not a fan of liver.

      Diana

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  2. I'm on the adventurous side, having lived and eaten in West Africa, Japan, Brazil, and France. I first tasted escargot in high school when Mr. Grindell took the French Club out to a French restaurant.

    I would draw the line at eating insects, though, and while I love octopus, I've stopped eating it. I tried Guinness beer ice cream once - a definite fail. A good chicken liver stroganoff, though? Yum.

    Sadly, this southern California girl's pepper taste buds have grown into Julia's white person's mouth - I could eat hot peppers when I was young, but now I also ask for mild when I order Thai or Chinese.

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    1. (Mr. Grindell being our French teacher...)

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    2. And for combos, all my life I have put lettuce on my peanut butter sandwich, never jelly. Try it - it's good! My ex-husband liked a slice of onion on his. Just one more ground for divorce...

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    3. I probably wouldn't like Guinness beer ice cream, either. But I tried a Guinness float once (one scoop of vanilla ice cream floating in the Guinness) and it was really quite good! Just enhanced the already creamy texture.

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    4. Cincinnati is the home of the wonderful Graeter's ice cream, and also the home of many small (and huge) breweries. One, Braxton Brewing, has teamed up with Graeter's to produce several ice cream flavors of beer, including the top seller, Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. It's not to my taste (I don't care for overly sweet anything), but it's been a huge hit.

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    5. Love the ice cream in Cinci - but it's also the home of Skyline chili (served over spaghetti?) I did try it. Once.

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    6. The Westvleteren beer float in Belgium is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth.

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  3. What a great topic! When we eat out, I am definitely more adventurous. We can both eat spicy food, but not so hot it ruins your meal. I will not eat any reptiles. No. No octopus. Hallie is right. They ARE too smart. No squid, overdid the deep fried platter once in Athens. Yeah. Pass on those. Raw oysters and clams...once in a while. Fried...yes, please. No pork. No veal any more, either. Yes to sweet and savory together! Bring on the fried chicken and waffles with real maple syrup. No bunnies.

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    1. Those TV programs changed how I feel about octopus. And lobster, too. Did you know lobsters mate and walk around holding claws?

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    2. I love squid, and raw oysters. But fried oysters with tartar sauce and lemon are my heaven.

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    3. Oh, YES, love those, Deb. But you know, fried anything is pretty great.

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  4. Guilty of ordering the same thing every time. I'll be adventurous in a new restaurant provided I'm with someone who's familiar with the place and can recommend a dish.

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  5. I am most definitely not adventurous in my eating habits. I know what I like and I stick to those things.

    When I got to my mainstay restaurant, there are usually three meals on the menu that I might vary my choice between. But ONLY those three. I will probably die a lot sooner than necessary because I'm the dead animal and a potato kind of eater but at least I'll still enjoy eating food beforehand.

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  6. I'm totally adventurous. The best meal I ever had was sweetbreads in Avignon. I go out of my way to order things like liver anything, kidneys, tongue, raw or smoked fish in any of its permutations. Mexican food, Indian food, Italian food. I almost never order beef when out, or meat even, other than chicken once in a while, almost always order fish/seafood. I adore oysters, prefer Pacific, lobster, crab, crayfish, shrimp. Snails are ok but I don't go out of my way to find them on the menu. Don't care much for octopus but love squid, especially the crispy tentacles. And I never met a vegetable I didn't like, including kale.

    A shorter list is things I prefer not to eat:
    Nutella, although I like the ingredients separately
    Chitlin's Or as I call it, shitlin's.
    Very spicy hot stuff ... but a little heat is fine
    And no bunnies. I ate a fair about of rabbit as a child. Squirrel too. Both friend, both tasting much like chicken, so why not eat chicken instead of rodents?

    One last thing tho. I'm not crazy about lamb. But as long as you don't serve anything cute, I'll eat it. Julie says we can come to dinner anytime if you ask us!

    After covid.

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    1. I'm about to have breakfast, short stack of pancakes with a egg easy over in the middle, topped with maple syrup, maybe bacon if I'm feeling indulgent.

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    2. I'm trying to stay away from red meat, Ann, although John would eat steak every night if I let him!

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    3. Ann, I LOVE sweetbreads. My mom used to make them in a sherry sauce--I wonder if I have the recipe somewhere? But Rick would never eat them, so next time we get together we should try to find a restaurant that serves them!

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  7. I'm a picky eater and visual - if it don't look right, I won't eat it. I did try octopus, alligator, and frog legs. Oysters and escargot, yuck. Like Hank, I don't get the ketchup on scrambled eggs. Mayo on hamburgers, no.

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    1. I like salsa on my scrambled eggs, but not ketchup.

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    2. Yes, I love salsa on an omelet or scrambled eggs!

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    3. I'm a mayo on hamburgers, all the way!

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  8. I'm willing to try almost anything once, and I have a pretty high tolerance for spiciness, though I have backed off some since my younger days. (Mainly it's just that if the spices are too intense, it seems like I don't get any sense of flavor, just heat.) I love trying different ethnic cuisines and experiencing the magic of new-to-me spice combinations from other cultures.

    I am allergic to shellfish and I have never invested the time or energy or money to get the parameters of that allergy clearly defined. Mostly this hasn't been an issue because I live in Ohio, where it's pretty easy to stick to just fish with fins and move on. But if, as I hope, I get to expand my travel experiences in the coming years, I will really need to figure out where the line is. I know for sure I'm allergic to shrimp and crawfish, from bitter experience. I have assumed that also rules out lobster, clams, crab, and oysters. I wonder if I'd be OK with octopus or squid?

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    1. I wonder if you can get allergy tested for those, Susan.

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    2. Yes, there is an allergy test. I have been seeing ads on Instagram for Ever....something and you get a home kit. At home, you prick your finger and send in the sample to the lab. I do not know how much it costs.

      Diana

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  9. I"m...mildly adventurous, I guess. I'll try new things, but I'm more likely to stick to what I know and like.

    Oh, and Julia? I'm the exact same way with spicy dishes. When places offer 1-5 for spiciness I always ask if they have a zero ranking on the scale. LOL I wasn't always that way, but I've found my tolerance for spicy has waned as I've aged.

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    1. Liz,

      The only time I seem to want spicy dishes is when I get a sinus attack and the spices automatically clears up the sinuses. LOL

      Diana

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    2. Weirdly, I've gone the other way. When I first moved to AZ, I couldn't handle spice and now I load up on the hot sauce and peppers. Took me 20+ years to acclimate but I did.

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    3. Diana, I think there's an real scientific explanation for why that happens - something in the spices stimulating the mucous membranes in your nose (I know, probably TMI).

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  10. My answer is both. I like to try new things when I travel--that's the point, right? And even here at home, I would experiment a lot more, but Steve is not a restaurant person. He drove all over the country on lecture tours for 20 years, and he detests eating away from home. Except McDonald's, weirdly. You'd think he'd be sick to death of that place. But when we go certain places I almost always get the same things. The fried brussels sprouts and shrimp skewers at the Grove. The fresh tomato/bacon/spinach pizza at Mio's. The spicy collards at Swampwater, which was a taste adventure the first time.

    I was the one who ordered the roast kangaroo in Sydney (tastes like venison, which we eat more than anything else), and once I tried oysters I enjoyed them. Growing up in a small Ohio town we thought the height of exotic eating was pizza, so I've come a long way. Having friends who hunt and fish has added to my repertoire of tastes tried, as well. Alligator tastes metallic, bear is just disgusting--even when smothered in barbecue sauce, and moose is delicious.

    Tonight I'm going to a new Mexican place with a friend, and I already know my drink order from their menu online: pineapple jalapeno margarita. The black truffle taco also sounds delicious, but we always share our plates, so that might be a hard sell for Judy. She won't eat anything remotely spicy (weird that she's the one who suggested this place), so we'll see.

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    1. I would not eat bear, Karen. Anything that is an omnivore does not taste good. I've had kangaroo tail stew--very pleasant. Also camel in Northern Australia.

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    2. Karen, a Mexican place here does a pineapple jalapeno margarita and it is fab. They grill the pineapple.

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    3. Now we aren't going, because we can't be sure to get outdoor seating. Bummer. I was all set for that margarita! Debs, grilled pineapple sounds great!

      Rhys, I agree. Omnivore/carnivore--yuck. That's why alligator tastes so bad.

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  11. Like a lot of you, what I am eating is important. So, no lamb, no octopus,no mahi mahi, and no escargot. As far as escargot, might as well be eating garlic butter flavored erasers. I am willing to try any cuisine at least once. I do get tired of the local fish, wish I lived closer to pacific salmon, Dungeness crabs and so on. I like spice, but am not a big fan of heat.. any cuisine that calls for scotch bonnet or ghost peppers is to be avoided.

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  12. And Rhys, Steve and I were just discussing taste combinations last night. He said he cannot imagine what certain flavors taste like together, and I realized that was one of the reasons he considers me a good cook. Because I generally can. Of course there have been some spectacular failures, like when my then-vegetarian daughter wanted to make pumpkin pizzas. We tried three different flavor combos, and they were all so darned bland.

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    1. I've never taken to roasted kale instead of chips either!

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    2. Kale chips are made out of charred cardboard, don't let them tell you otherwise!

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  13. I'm adventuresome to a degree--love new-to-me cuisines from different cultures. But totally not a fan of let's experiment/shock your taste buds with the most radical pairings we can think of just because we can. And personal choices, quirks--no octopus, no squid, no sushi, no lamb, definitely no bear or bunnies. Enough heat to enhance the flavor of my food, but not enough to scorch the skin from my palate! And please give me enough to sate my hunger when I'm paying for the meal! None of this avant-garde pretty plate nonsense!

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  14. Great topic about food adventures.

    Even as a young child, I remember separating my food on my plate. If it was pancakes with syrup, and bacon on the same plate, I would separate the bacon from the pancakes. I loved bacon. Not a big fan of pancakes. However the only pancakes I love are Pumpkin pancakes at FAT APPLE's in Berkeley. That was before the pandemic.

    My mom has Mediterrean DNA and she loves spicy food. I often thought it was the my half of the English DNA that decided my taste buds? I love cilantro. Some people do not like cilantro. My father loves cinnamon rolls and so do I. I noticed that I love scones, English muffin, fish and chips. When I lived in England, I think I could eat anything, though I never encountered an eel dish.

    As an adult, I started to develop a taste for spicy food, a nod to half of my Meditterean heritage. I love hummus. I love kale in soup because it is crispy.

    Still love candy corn at Halloween. Some people do not like it, though I love pumpkin spice latte (almond milk non dairy). That's a drink, not food. My favorite dessert at Thanksgiving is pumpkin pie.

    Still do not like beets. My mom does not like beets. I love basil though not a fan of pine nuts.

    As an adult, I am a bit more adventurous about eating.

    Diana

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    1. There's an eel dish in England that I won't eat:jellied eels. Anything surrounded by slimy goop is not for me!

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  15. Peeking out from under the table to admit that my all time favorite main course for a celebration is a grilled butterflied leg of lamb (marinated overnight in oil, vinegar, piles of onions, oregano, salt...) served with egg-lemon sauce.

    And I do like a good aspic. With gefilte fish or a country pate.

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    1. It nice to see you peeking out from under the table. I’d like your lamb I think. But I’d rather have your roasted fish. I used to order kosher on international flights. Always so much tastier than the cold lasagna others got!

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    2. Hallie,

      My mom is not a fan of kale either, though I love kale.

      Diana

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    3. Hallie, we too often have leg of lamb for celebrations. I feel badly, but on the other hand, at least it's been out in the field. I haven't touched veal for years because of what I learned.
      From time to time I have a great pang of conscience about eating any meat. I could easily give it all up--except lamb once in a while!

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    4. That lamb sounds fabulous, especially if locally raised. I tried very hard one year to find locally, humanely raised veal within a fifty-mile radius and failed. I won't eat it otherwise.

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    5. Love rack of lamb, I have to admit. Aspic: NEVER. Not in a million years. Anything like that, really. I don't even know what that jelly stuff IS.

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    6. Now I’m so wishing for a lovely lamb chop and my mother’s roast lamb and any number of Greek lamb dishes.Sigh.

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  16. I'm not very adventurous. I used to think I was, but I've slowly realized I'm not.

    But any maple syrup holder is a good maple syrup holder. Pancakes, waffles, French toast....

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  17. This is an apt topic because we just went out to the Inn at Peaks Island last night to celebrate Youngest's 21st (!) birthday. I ordered the fish tacos without paying too much attention to the preparation. Boy, was I surprised when, three bites in, my mouth suddenly registered the fact there were jalapeño slices all along the top, disguised by a drizzle of sauce. Good thing there was some bread on the table. I had to pluck them all out in order to continue with the dish (which was otherwise delicious.)

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    1. Julia, I hate that everything these days has become over-the-top spicy. John ordered a Crab Louis only to find jalapenos had been added. We'll create a generation with no taste buds.

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  18. Not adventurous in the extreme.
    I told my future wife shortly before we got married, "If I can't identify it, I ain't eating it."
    She says I'm boring to cook for, for some reason.
    I see no reason to bury a delicious steak under mushrooms or a juicy hamburger under lettuce, tomato, and onion.
    And, other than corn, vegetable are on my 'Not in my meal' list.

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  19. Hank, mayo on hamburgers is good. I don't have it often, but I discovered a few years back that I like it. How about mayo on French fries? Some people swear by it. If I have mayo on my plate when I have French fries, I will give it a dab. I like it, but I usually forget to use it. Julia, I'm with you on the spicy food. I always ask for the mildest sauce. At the Mexican restaurant near where my daughter lives, I found Chicken on the Beach to order, which is chicken bits on rice with a sauce that's very mild. Lucy, I don't want to see tentacles either. I remember my daughter and I were eating at Union Station in D.C., and I ordered a salad with octopus in it. It came, and there were these tiny little octopuses (I still like octopi as the plural, but I'll go with what is proper here)that did not look appealing at all. I did try a bite, small bite, but that's my last bite of octopus. Rhys, I come from a family that does like oysters, raw or cooked. I am not a fan of raw oysters, but every holiday I fix my family's scalloped oyster dish, and a local restaurant here has delicious fried oysters. Jenn, I have to say that I love your idea of cake for breakfast. My daughter Ashley was like you when she was growing up, as she liked to try different things.

    I'm like Karen, in that I like to try new dishes when I travel, but if I find something I really like when traveling, I'm likely to go back to it again. Eating at the shrimp truck/bus on Oahu's North Shore, I'd always get the same thing, the shrimp and rice. Eating out locally, I have my favorites and don't often stray from those.

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  20. I love this! Count me on the adventurous side of the scale. I will try anything once. Jenn, I thought rattlesnake tasted like fried zucchini sticks! Must be the breading. I won't eat blood sausage again - nor will I dine on head cheese or tripes. Anything else. Sure!

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  21. Rhys, I grew up with a British mum and all the dishes you mention. Shepherd's pie was a big one. She never learned to cook meat correctly. It was always over cooked. Growing up in NH, I loved full bellied clams and onion rings. From working in a drive up restaurant, I grew to love french fries dipped in tartar sauce and deep fried cheese sandwiches. I gained 20 pounds over two summers. My favorite now is calamari. For snacks, I love nuts and coconut flakes and dark chocolate. I used to love octopus, but after seeing the octopus film, I can't anymore. Hank, I LOVE cottage cheese and applesauce! Always a treat. Brie on anything. And a snack my mom and I ate: sardines on toast. OK, I'm hungry. I picked a big bowl of blackberries today and my husband made muffins with them from an old recipe I had in NH. They were called Jordan Marsh muffins. Anyone else know those? Such a fun thread here!

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