Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Shut up and try it

"I’m scared.”

I heard this today in response to a vegetable. Yes, a vegetable. Collard greens, to be exact.

Today it was Soul Food Day at work (we get free lunch every Wednesday), and in addition to the fried chicken and corn bread, there was collard greens. Standard southern soul food fare.

But a twenty year-old intern was scared of the food.

This isn’t the first time I heard "I’m scared" in response to a vegetable. At my cousin’s graduation party, I heard several teenagers say the same thing upon a pasta dish cluttered with vegetables. One girl nervously took a spoonful and asked me what the yellow wedge nudged between two white oblongs was. “It’s a piece of zucchini,” I said, appalled.

I realize these kids were being flippant. But scared? Not only are they using the wrong word, but they’re "scared" of food? Of vegetables? Clearly they lead incredibly sheltered lives. The intern hails from the Midwest, but she’s not giving a good impression (although we were all amused when she had never tasted cannoli, pronouncing it a “Jersey thing”).

There are very few things in the food category that anyone should be scared of. Being scared indicates that your heart rate is rising and you have some sort of fear of the outcome. The worst that could happen when eating collard greens or tasting a piece of cooked zucchini bathed in olive oil and garlic is that you don’t like it, and so you don’t eat it again. The only time, in fact, that it’s acceptable to say “I’m scared” when eating is if A) you are on Fear Factor, Survivor, or another reality show where you are forced to eat something slimy, raw, alive, or not meant for human consumption; B) you are afraid of throwing up, especially if in front of people; C) the food in front of you is or has a strong chance of being poisoned, sour, moldy, rotten, or filled with bugs; D) the food has tentacles, claws, strange bumps, odors, colors, or textures and no, ethnic food does not count.

Basically, if you are served food, especially catered food, and the dish seems normal, it probably is. I could understand being worried about recalls. Fine. Understood. But being scared of cooked vegetables is ridiculous.


petpluto said...

I have to say, I love your options for when it is okay to be scared of vegetables.

As for the other things, I completely agree. As strange as it sounds, I blame the homogenizing influence of chain restaurants. It used to be that when you travelled to a different part of the country or world, you were immersed in their cuisine and their own culture because you had to be, because there was no McDonald's or Burger King or IHOP there for your convenience. But now, you can get a quarter-pounder with cheese and an ice burg lettuce salad everywhere without stopping to try Cajun food or Soul food or any type of ethnic food.

People go to NYC, the Mecca for everything from liberalism to art to food, and they eat at Friday's -because that is what they're accustomed to and that is what they are comfortable with.

We need a real revolution in this country in terms of food, and I think you are the one to lead us!

John said...

I think you should find out if this intern ever orders chicken fingers when she dines at nice restaurants. How's that for a call-back?

I can't believe someone called cannoli a "Jersey thing." Do people really think the state is populated entirely by clones of the Sopranos? Also, are there really no Italian pastries served in the midwest? Bizarre.

Stephen Colbert once commented during a segment (I believe he was arguing the merits of taking over Cuba and turning it into a tourist destination) that the thing Americans love most about traveling is doing things that they could do at home. Shopping at The Gap, eating at McDonalds, etc. We want package tours, Big Macs, and a stand at the airport where we can buy I <3 NY T-Shirts and keychains for our loved ones.

petpluto said...

John, having spent some extensive time in the midwest visiting family, I can tell you that Italian pastry shops are rare, and the Italian pastries that are present taste nothing like the Italian pastries here.

Also, avoid the bagels. They are nothing more than circular bread and are like our bagels in name only.

And yes, a lot of people outside of the Northeast do think that Jersey is populated by cast offs of the Sopranos. I wouldn't feel too badly about that, because the last time I was out west and told someone I was from CT, they asked if that was a new state. So at least people know you guys exist!

mikhailbakunin said...

Trying new foods and then criticizing other people for NOT wanting to try those same foods doesn't make you more open-minded. It makes you a condescending, snobby douchebag.

MediaMaven said...

I've seen that segment, John. It's pretty true; so many people I meet are too afraid of anything out of the ordinary. This country might be a melting pot, but it takes a long time.

There's a difference in saying that you're just not interested in trying something new and saying that you're "scared" of trying something new. Afraid of roller coasters because you might get sick? Ok. Don't like spicy foods at all? Fine. But to not try something as basic as cooked vegetable because you are scared of something unknown is silly.

And as retribution for me writing this, I felt ill the rest of the day from from the food I ate last week. C'est la vie.