(“Asian food” here is defined as foods from the many different countries throughout Asia that I’ve tried. My feelings about Asian food is NOT reflective of my feelings about Asian culture or Asian people – so don’t you dare suggest it!)
Max is exploring Japanese food. He went with Philip last week and had some raw fish he really loved and a cucumber salad he loved and he even liked a tuna sushi roll he tried. I wanted to go to Japanese food with them mostly because I wanted to see Max enjoying food I never imagined he’d like. So we went to Haku sushi just down the street from us.
He tried different things than last time and the only thing he liked was the shrimp tempura this time. The cucumber salad we ordered wasn’t what he got last time and he didn’t like this one. The raw fish was different too. Then he ordered a crazy roll and didn’t like that. But the main thing is that he’s trying lots of new things these days.
I was reminded that I don’t like Japanese food and it does not get along with me at all and never has. The only thing I can eat is the miso soup, the cucumber salad, the dressed lettuce, the plain rice, and tempura. But tempura has always made me feel queasy and gross after eating it no matter how much I enjoy the flavor. The miso soup always has bits of seaweed in it and though a fairly mild kind I only just tolerate it. Things that taste remotely like the sea make me gag. Literally gag. Haku’s tempura was very good, as far as tempura goes, but I burped for hours afterwards. Not my favorite way to remember a meal.
But before I even ate the tempura I made the mistake of eating a bite of some bright green stem things that were served with the cucumbers that turned out to be some kind of sea weed that tasted STRONGLY of FISH. I would have spit it out but I didn’t want to be impolite. After fighting my gag reflex to the death I managed to swallow the nasty stuff and within minutes I was burping up fish flavor.
I have come to the realization that not only does Japanese food not agree with me, no Asian food agrees with me. I am using “Asian” in a generic way to include food traditions from Thailand, Burma, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam. I’m keenly aware that the food traditions in each of those countries is unique from each other in many and distinct ways – I don’t mean to lump them together for any other purpose than that they all happen not to agree with me. Fish being a huge part of all of those food traditions as well as meat and sauces using fish and shrimp and then there are the radishes (I burp them up) and water chestnuts (I burp them up) and the Asian style of fermenting (I burp it up) – get the theme here?
Then there are curries. My one favorite thing to make that is based on a Thai dish is Winter squash curry coconut soup. It’s amazing and for some reason that particular dish does not give me any problems. I’ve never been a huge curry fan but these days it isn’t just a matter of preference, my body doesn’t like them either. So let’s add Indian food to the list because now when I have Indian food (which I do love) it generally doesn’t agree with me either.
I do love some Chinese food but I can’t lie – I usually don’t feel that great after eating it. Never have. I have always eaten it anyway.
Among my peers it feels like a point of shame not to LOVE Thai food and Japanese food. If you don’t love Asian food you’re just not cool and may as well be an ignorant white-bred bitch from the fifties. (Interestingly, most of my peers do not like Chinese food except for my Chinese friends and me.) The most uber-cool people love Korean and Vietnamese food because Japanese and Thai food are so common now that it may as well be spaghetti.
I don’t even like rice that much.
I like a lot of components of Asian food traditions such as tofu and soba noodles and miso and simple stir-fries and edamame and satay sauce but it’s a real inauthentic pick and choose kind of thing.
What food do I like? I like Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. But even with Middle Eastern food I can’t eat things that are heavy on the cumin which always repeats on me like old-man armpits in my esophagus.
Mediterranean food (Italy, Greece, France, northern Africa, and Israel etc.) is what my body likes the best. It’s what I crave. It’s what I feel my best eating. It’s easy to make Mediterranean food minus the meat and fish. I also love Mexican food which generally agrees with me well.
So there it is. My big confession of shame. I’m not a cool eater. I’m not adventuresome. Even if I loved adventuresome flavors my body wouldn’t let me explore comfortably.
But if Max’s body and tastes lead him to Japanese food and maybe eventually some other Asian food traditions – I will be thrilled! He likes raw fish. He loves seafood. I’m excited for him to find new food traditions that he’s actually wanting to explore. He’s tasting things he never would have tasted two years ago. He’s trying things.
Yes, he still mostly loves fried foods and mostly sees produce as a necessary evil that his mother forces him to keep trying. But what I see is a good food palette forming. It’s just the beginning. I see a future in which I wean him off of chips and crackers and french fries and he eats more raw fish and vinagered cucumbers and some veggie burgers. I don’t know, I just think it’s awesome that he’s exploring. Any mother of an extreme picky eater knows how huge this voluntary exploration is.
I will not go out to Japanese food again but this is something that Philip and Max can do together and now I need to go apply to some more jobs so we can support a sushi-eating habit.