I like to eat, there’s no doubt about that. Just looking at me will confirm that notion. Generally speaking I’m willing to try most things, but I’m not an adventure eater on the scale of Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern. I’m not going to eat something purely for shock value. I can recognize when something is challenging or new but don’t come back at me and say, “I can’t believe you put THAT in your mouth!” like I’m some sort of gastronomic freak.
Having said that, I have difficulty with people who are closed minded about their foods. I’m even less tolerant of those who impose their food phobias on the rest of us by, say, dictating where we can eat and what we can eat in their presence. (Allergies are a completely different matter.)
So I choose my dining companions carefully and pair my meals with my companions carefully. One of my most memorable meals was with the person I’ve deemed my foodie soul mate. With the exception of a few, rather minor, palate disagreements, we are perfectly matched. This particular meal was at my favorite restaurant, Craigie on Main. Over the years we’ve come to find out that we are not just known by the restaurant staff, but we are infamous. Much to my embarrassment I’ve been greeted a number of times to the exclamation of, “oh that was YOU!” To give you an idea of how we earned this moniker, we chose to have the ten course tasting menu and added the Confit and Roasted Milk-Fed Pig’s Head. And if that wasn’t enough, we threw in a side order of bone marrow to boot.
The meal was fabulous but we knew we were in trouble when they brought the second table to hold the pig’s head and its accoutrements. For those unhappy with facing a whole fish in a Chinese restaurant, the sight of a pig’s head will send you running. All we saw was perfectly crisped skin; succulent flesh; and wonderful, pork deliciousness. I will say, however, that what I thought was a fairly advanced view on eating nose-to-tail was challenged at times. The cheeks were beautiful, no problems there, and no problems with the actual pig’s jowls, but seeing the teeth and jaw bone gave me pause. Then moving up to the ear and seeing the ear canal, again gave me pause. Note I said, “gave me pause,” but did not say, “made me stop.”
The one thing I did stop at was the pig’s eye. Reassurance from the restaurant staff that it was delicious wasn’t quite enough for me to get past my mental block. Watching my companion bravely take it on and seeing his reaction only confirmed that I’d made the right decision. We’ve since gone back and had the pig’s head (sans ten course tasting menu) and I again deferred to him, allowing him to savor the eye. That I can’t stomach the thought of eating the eye bothers me just enough that I know I’m going to just do it one day. In the range of risky, adventurous behavior, this one is pretty minor. It’s just a matter of time …