Tuesday, July 2, 2013
May I Be Excused?
A common question we both remember from our childhood at the dinner table was "May I be excused?" If there was much on your plate, the answer was typically "no," as parents raised during the depression knew the importance of food in a way that our generation had not experienced. This nightly reality led to a few "adaptive" behaviors. For example, Sally became expert at hiding peas and Jess's family dog often lay close to her seat. The reality of needing to finish every bite did not promote experimentation, despite both of our mothers insisting we try "just a little bit" of everything on the table.
Despite the programming to be cautiously risk averse to new foods, we have loved the opportunity to try new foods as we have traveled this year. Of course, not every attempt has resulted in new favorites, but all have been interesting and our parents are no longer around to make us finish our plates if we choose poorly.
Overall, we have, much to our chagrin, loved bakeries. We have found tasty treats whether savory or sweet in bakeries all over the world. We enjoyed them so much that after two months on the road in Alaska and Canada, we weighed ourselves and realized the need for a lot more moderation and hiking. While we have had some incredible treats in Canada, New Zealand and much of South America, it will be the Filipino bakeries that we will best remember. Whether simple or fancy, at a bus station or on a promenade, the treats have been delectable. For all those who are adding ideas to their bucket lists, we contend that we did not truly understand gastric bliss until the meringue cashew filling of a perfect silvana melted in our mouths.
Not all new foraging adventures have ended in moans of culinary rapture. We have come to recognize that many sea creatures are better left in the ocean than served on our plates. We have dined on jellyfish, abalone, conch, octopus, squid, and sea cucumbers and found that generally (but not always), the textures overcome the taste. Yet, raw sea urchin gonads really were tasty, and they mixed nicely with spicy vinegar rice. While satay sticks are a passion for Jess, even she gave up on the third attempt in Malaysia where the typical satay is chicken tails. Charred tough skin stretched over globules of yellow fat and soft bones is obviously not for everyone, regardless of the sauces added to them. Whitebait is a delicacy all over New Zealand. Yet, when we gazed into the small black eyes of the tiny fish we were to eat whole in our fritter, we paused, blinked, and turned away.
As we prepare to venture deeper into Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Nepal, we know we will continue to pursue our love of sampling local cuisines. Just don't tell any parents if we leave something on our plates!
Images are of Jess in yet another Filipino bakery; sea cucumber delight; and a white bait fritter from New Zealand. Posted in Cebu, Philippines