There are people in this world who eat to live and others who live to eat. I fall in the latter of these two categories and I could never understand the skinny bland white food eaters who only ate because otherwise they would die. I once had a boss whose daughter only ate butter sandwiches on white bread for lunch every day. Apparently there are people in this world who only like to eat white food. And I don’t mean Caucasian food, I mean the color white as in white rice, white bread, potatoes, pasta, butter, etc. Except I don’t think there is an 'etc' after that list, it is literally all they eat. I could not live like that. It would be torture and I would die of gastronomic distress. I love colorful spicy bold food flavors that make your mouth sing and your stomach happy.
But being around lots of friends I consider “bland” eaters, I decided that I would shake them up and introduce them to new foods that they never considered and might actually like. One of my best friends for like twenty years has a very narrow range of food she eats. She has never been interested in Indian food. She has stated that not only is it visually unappealing, but the spices in Indian food would be too foreign for her palette. Actually, like many of my other “bland” eater friends, Indian food is always their number one rejection of places to consider eating out at. Now I love Indian food and I feel that it gets a bad rap for being too spicy and all curry and so on. But there is much to love about it.
Finally convincing my friend that it was in her best interests to try something new, and also threatening to hide something that would leave a funky smell in her car, we took her out to a really good Indian restaurant. Rule number one for trying out a new ethnic cuisine - get alot of recommendations and go to the best restaurant you can. While I love greasy hole in the wall places, as they usually have the best and most authentic food, it is never a good idea to start a novice in a place like this.
We started out with garlic naan, which is grilled Indian bread with rich garlic and butter that is heavenly. It came with a variety of dips and chutneys, one particular favorite of mine was a spicy mango and chili chutney that imparted heat and sweet tanginess. We moved on to Aloo Gobi Gobhi, which is my favorite vegetarian Indian dish made of potatoes, cauliflower and green peas that is so simple and yet is packed with flavor. Then came chicken wings cooked in ginger and cumin and tamarind with enough spice to leave your mouth tingling. Is your mouth watering yet? The waiter then brought a hot clay pot of our lamb biryani, which is meat and rice mixed together and my other favorite dish – chicken vindaloo, a hot and spicy chicken and vegetable dish smothered in rich spicy sauce that is also slighty tangy. Last but not least, a king prawn masala rich with onion, tomato and coriander, all served with a bed of fragrant basmati rice. Notice, there were no true "curries" in our dinner.
We ended our meal with a trio of sorbets in mango, raspberry and lemon which was a perfect icy end to our spice filled meal. I asked my friend if she now liked Indian food and she said yes very enthusiastically. She had no idea what Indian food was really about. It was such a pleasure to introduce her to a whole new eating experience. Now if only I could convince my children to eat Indian food, it could be a great family night out instead of our current standard taco night out.
While I am no expert, I am a fairly adventurous eater, although nowhere near the level of Anthony Bourdain, who is my hero. Anthony Bourdain, who was the executive chef of Les Halles in New York, author of Kitchen Confidential (awesome book!) as well as numerous others, and current host of Travel Channels No Reservations, is at this time my favorite celebrity. He used to host a series called A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network but he left them due to creative differences. Apparently the story is that they wanted Tony to stop traveling to Asian countries and stick with countries white America would be more comfortable seeing. Thumbing his nose at them, he took his show and his production team to Travel Channel and there a hit show was born.
No Reservations is an amazing show where you get to watch Tony partake of things both incredible and heinous. He is quoted as saying, "If it walks on four legs, is slower and stupider than I am, and tastes reasonably good; pass the salt." Boy does he take that literally! In my favorite episode, Tony goes to Namibia and has the worst meal of his life. He joins a tribe of bushmen who track and kill a warthog and brings it back to the tribe to be cooked. While enjoying his pre-dinner treat of tree beetles he is caught off guard by what comes next. They buried the head in dirt to cook and pulled out the rectum which is supposedly a treat. Since Tony was the special guest, he got the excrement filled treat. Tony knew he couldn't be rude and ate it to his great dismay. Every viewer shuddered and cringed along with him.
I'm glad Tony let Food Network for a network who isn't afraid to let him be himself. While I still watch Food Network on occasion, I have never been a fan of Rachel Ray or the semi-homemade cook Sandra something or other. Tony really hates them. He is quoted as saying Rachel Ray does to food what Hitler did to Poland. He is harsh because he is a foodie - a gourmand, a true lover of food - and a great chef. Rachel and Sandra on Food Network are not chefs and have never claimed to be such. They are typical at home cooks that most people can relate to, and that seems to be the niche Food Network is pandering to. Not a bad strategy on their part, and while they continue to have Nigella Lawson and The Barefoot Contessa on their schedule, I will continue to watch them.
But as long as Anthony Bourdain is on the air, taking us all over the world for amazing and bizarre cusine, and providing us with his sarcastic, intelligent diatribes, all is good in the food world.