Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Adventure Eating Scale

A lot of people (rightfully) accuse me as having rather pathetically picky eating habits.  I am a near-lifelong vegetarian (ok, specifically a lacto-ovo pescetarian), but I hate mushrooms.  And eggplant.  And summer squash and zucchini.  And on the fruit front, I dislike peaches after throwing up (due to the flu) after eating two of them 20 years ago.  Needless to say, I was terrified of the food in South Korea and Japan, so I tried to approach eating on my trip in the same way I've been viewing outdoor adventures.  Go for it, then come up with a mildly humorous way of categorizing my distastes.

Type 1: Relished

Amazing, mouthwatering, and something to write home about.  Sanchon in Seoul was one of the best meals I've ever had.  It consisted of a HUGE set menu of vegan Buddhist Temple food whose elegant and modern plating provided a wonderful contrast to the traditional cuisine.  Each bite was amazing and unique compared with any similar food I've tried in the past.
So. Much. Great. Food

Type 2: Edible

Standard stuff.  It doesn't knock your socks off, but there is no effort required to extract the nutritional value from the matter in front of you.  I found fugu rather subtle albeit an adventurous meal.  The cuts of fish were perfectly edible despite the rather unique presentation.

Type 3: Choke it Down

Sometimes food requires effort to swallow, but can be chewed up and swallowed, potentially with some grimacing.  Sometimes it helps when the awful is accompanied by the good, like dead wasps floating in soju.  But, shit, even with the tasty alcoholic beverage, wasps really aren't too good.  There was tremendous social pressure in the bar filled with Australians and Japanese karaoke stars, so it had to be chewed up and swallowed to retain some American pride.

Type 4: The Pill Method

The pill method is a reliable escape where a big gulp of liquid and a hearty choke-risking swallow makes all but the most wrenched and foreign tastes disappear in a flash.  I busted this maneuver out for the raw horse meat I ate in Nozawa Onsen.  It was bright red, chewy and strangely presented like familiar and tasty sashimi.  My weak vegetarian teeth couldn't rip it apart, so I swallowed it down and quietly without garnering any attention.
It looked something like this.

Type 5: No Way I'm Swallowing this Shit

It was our first real meal in Tokyo, and an expensive one at that.  A myriad of beautifully prepared options filled a box in front of us, most of which were tasty and distinctly foreign flavors.  All but one.  There was a block of bright green gelatin product pressed into a rectangular solid that had a strong fishy taste.  One small bite, and I thought it was pretty good.  Key word: small bite.  As the owner was playing some energetic music (part of the draw to the restaurant), I took a big bite, which resulted in an immediate gag reflex.  Yep, I was done with the fish jelly.

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