Dig Baton Rouge

Get After It

By Nick BeJeaux

Being a picky eater is the gastronomic equivalent of sexual repression – boring, vanilla, and outright lame. For God’s sake, it’s 2015.

In my travels I have met many a picky eater, people who would run for the hills at the mere sight of pho, hongzhang (a chewy octopus dish from Singapore), and ox tails – even crawfish, that damn yankee. I knew a guy who once traveled with my wife and I to Valencia, Spain, one of the most interesting and culturally diverse cities in Europe, and all he wanted was a damn hamburger. To these people, I say it’s time to break out of your shell and live, if only a little.

To be fair, not every experience is going to be pleasant. If you ever find yourself in Camargo, Mexico and someone offers you menudo, tread lightly. And be extra careful when handling peppers whose names you cannot pronounce. Trust me when I say the chilies we have here are nothing compared to the lava plants that grow just south of the border and beyond. But, like any experience, bad food experiences are just as important as the good. They shape what we know we like, and the saying “You are what you eat” is truer than you probably realize.

A good eater is adventurous, takes risks, and most importantly enjoys doing something crazy every now and then with what they eat. Doesn’t that overall sound like a more interesting and fulfilling person to be and to be around? Now you may counter with “picky eating habits are a product of evolution that have kept us alive,” blah, blah, blah. I’m not asking you to run out into the wilderness and start eating all the purple flowers and woodland creatures you can find – that’s stupid. All I’m asking is that you approach food with an open mind, and if you try it and know you don’t like it, then you can take it off your menu.

So what if the head is still attached to the fish? It still tastes delicious. And yeah, the octopus tentacle might still technically be alive, but it will be an experience right? If people have been eating it for hundreds, even thousands, of years there’s probably something to it. That knowledge alone should be enough for you to block your instinctive gag reflex and at least attempt to enjoy something your palate has never experienced before.

If you need further convincing that being an adventurous eater is the way to go, then consider the health benefits. When you start your culinary adventure you may find a new fondness for kimchi, beef tongue, liver, eel, quail eggs, kale, polenta, raw oysters, duck and so much more. Just the foods that I listed by name are not only tasty, but super rich in vitamins and minerals that burgers, mashed potatoes, and easy mac just can’t match. There is also the psychological benefit of being more conscious about what is on your plate. Even if you like it, actively knowing what you are eating has been shown to cut back on overindulgence. Cool, right?

But the best part of this piece, I’ve saved for last.

If you, picky eaters, my dear, tender, gentle snowflakes, seek to renounce your ways of trepidation, you are in one of the best places in the world to do it. Louisiana is, of course, known for its unique culinary traditions, but few realize that it is becoming even more unique every day. We are blessed with a food culture that spans the globe, from Taiwan and Vietnam, to Spain and Germany, and pretty much everywhere in between. It would be a waste even downright disrespectful, I think, to squander such a gift in lieu of a bowl factory-kneaded noodles and a bright yellow cheese-like substance.

We live in a world – and country – were people routinely go hungry and don’t have the privilege of being picky. So if you aren’t going to donate anything to the Baton Rouge Foodbank (www.brfoodbank.org, 225.359.9940) at least enjoy the cornucopia of options presented to you.

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