Friday, November 30, 2007

Frugal Friday - Lowering Your Expectations

Crystal is hosting "Frugal Friday" which consists of many links to helpful tips on living frugally.

Even though my posts are primarily about food and eating exotically (which may sound expensive but it isn't), I thought I'd join in and post a tip.

Lowering your expectations.

Settling for something less. Here is one way to be happy living a frugal life – lower your expectations. Be content with less-than-perfect. Easier to say than to do. The new dining room table you desperately want is $1500. It would look fabulous in your new dining room and you’ve never had a dining room before…so you REALLY want it.

But then you find one second hand for $250. Maybe a listing in the newspaper, maybe a friend is getting rid of hers. It’s not EXACTLY what you want and it’s not new – but you know what, it’ll work. Might have a few nicks and scratches, but so will the new one in a year.

You’d really like to buy your son that new bike for Christmas. He is 7. It will be his first “real” bike, so you want it to be special. A new bike is $140 – the thrift store has one for $50. The $50 one is a few years old, needs it’s tires pumped and a wash-down. But it will do. What your son really wants is the bike itself.

Now there are times when you don’t want to “settle” for something less. Obviously something that would comprise your health or the well being of your family isn’t any good. “Settling” for a prospective husband or wife is not a good idea either.

Set an example before your kids of having “lower expectations” when they are young. The other day we were out shopping at the mall and my dd saw the prices of mall clothing. “Wow” she said “no wonder you shop at the thrift store.”

It’s not a new tip to buy something used – the tip is in lowering your expectations of what you really need or want.

But Not On Us the Oysters Cried

Well after talking about "The Walrus and the Carpenter" in my previous post, I went and read that poem to the kids again. Then when we headed out to the store - and they obviously had oysters on the mind.

As am I wandering about the kids have stumbled upon a "treasure". They are excitedly calling to me "They have oysters" "They have eels" "They have snails". I decided on a can of smoke oysters. I didn't like the fact that it was packed in "cottonseed oil", I prefer water packed - but bought it anyway.

The kids wanted the oysters for lunch - so I opened up the can, or "unveiled" it as my dd said.

I did not like the looks of the little fellows packed into some yellowish looking oily oil. The kids though, at least the girl, were very impatient to try it. Dd said when she first looked at it, "looks like the yum yums grandma feeds the kitties." Then I heard, "not bad - it tastes like shredded crab - actually pretty good. Tastes really good on bread".

The boy first exclaimed, "It smells terrible...tastes like tuna a little, " then "hmmm not bad."

The girl ate 2 of them but said she was disappointed in how they tasted - thought they'd taste better. She thought they would not have been so slimy. The boy ate only one and thought too that they would have been harder.

I thought they tasted a bit like canned tuna, with a hint of smokiness. They were little and slimy and dark. Not an unpleasant taste - but not something I'd be wanting to buy regularly. I thought they would have been more chewy and rubbery, but at least the ones we had were very soft and the inside was kind of the consistency of liverworst.

I would like to try them in a "nice" restaurant sometime - but not raw and not cold!

Take Two Butter Tarts and Call Me in the Morning

They may not be considered exotic - but they are delicious. And I have never seen them in the USA before. Butter tarts!

This morning I woke up feeling dizzy. When I went into the kitchen to get something to eat, my 8 yr old presented me with a card. It was drawn and scrawled in her usual quick manner - but it was very clever. A pic of me sick in bed is on the front (not very true to life artistry - I don't look nearly that good in the morning). Inside it reads: Get well soon, I love you. Then there is a teardrop and written around the inside edges it says "I weep for you I deeply sympathize" (a quote from Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter".) I need to add that I had NEVER heard of this poem until about a year ago. Found it in an old poetry book and my dd memorized it for school. I LOVE IT!

Then it said "Feeling well is like building a snowman - feeling sick is the snowman melting." Watch out Hallmark writers! She sure is sweet - she did all this even though she in on day 2 of a miserable headcold herself (and no I did not come up with a card, clever or otherwise, for her).

Anyway back to the butter tarts. There is no dessert that says holiday time to me like butter tarts. I grew up in a small town in Manitoba, Canada - and every year around Christmas and for rare other occasions, my mom would make butter tarts. And if it wasn't a special time of year with butter tarts hiding in the freezer (which I would sometimes sneak out and eat frozen) that's ok - b/c I could go to pretty much any convenience store or grocery store and buy my own little two-pack for about a buck.

Basically it's a tart shell filled with a gooey, sweet concoction of brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, egg, vanilla flavoring, vinegar and raisins. You put the concoction in the tart shell and bake it for about 20 min. I think it tastes and has the consistency of a pecan pie - minus the pecans. The recipe varies - I found mine in a magazine, but here is one that is similar. I do NOT add nuts to mine, nor any spices as I've seen sometimes.

I don't bake them very often b/c my dh does not like to eat sweets (well he loves them but he prefers not to have them around) and so if I make something like that - they will be consumed by my children and me...primarily by me - and I don't need that much sugar. Well unless I'm feeling dizzy. Then nothing is as good as two butter tarts and some decaf coffee, and a sweet card from my little girl.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Guava (fresh & canned)

We were eager to try the guava after reading about it - but I let it sit for awhile to make sure it was ripened to the proper consistency. I cut into it - we tasted - and were much disappointed!

It was hard-ish and had almost no taste at all. Not ripe enough? Just a bad one? Out of season? Don't know the answer. But then I found some canned guavas and decided to give it a try.

The canned guava was great! There were about 8 smallish guavas in the can, packed in syrup. I was happy to find out that they have about 5x as much vitamin c as an orange and they are high in fibre.

The flavor reminded me of an apricot. Dd said, "It has the texture of a pear and tastes like a combination of a pear and an apricot. Ds said "ain't as bad as mashed potatoes."

The guavas were full of tiny, hard seeds. In the canned guavas they were fairly easy to just scrape out with a spoon or fork. If they were not so expensive canned, I would buy these more often. If you don't like the idea of all the added sugar in the syrup you can rinse them under water before serving.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What the World Eats

Awhile ago I wrote here about two of my favorite Peter Menzel books - one being "What the World Eats".

Today I came across a link on "A Penny Closer", to a photo gallery on Time Magazine's website which shows some pictures from "Hungry Planet - What the World Eats" - it includes 16 pictures of families from around the world and their food for a week.

So if you haven't read the book yet and would like a "sneak preview" of what the book contains before you buy it on Amazon or check it out from the library - head on over to Time's website.

This is an easy way to explain to your children the variety (and sometimes lack thereof) of food throughout the world.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sugar Cane

This afternoon we tried some sugar cane.

The sugar cane cost a couple of dollars for one small stalk about 6 inches long. The instructions said to cut off the outer stalk so I got out the cutting board and knife and tried cutting. It was like cutting a small tree. I started to think I was going to need to go and get my husband's hand saw, but then I thought of poking the tip of the knife between the outer and inner layers and kind of peel back the hard outer layer. It worked!

You are supposed to cut off a part of the inside of the stalk and chew on it until the sweet juice is all out of the piece (which takes about 3 chews). Then you are left with what resembles pieces of shredded wood in your mouth, which you spit out.

There was a slight fruity, sweet odor when we sniffed the sugar cane. It tasted like it smelled - sweet but a bit fruity. It wasn't overpoweringly sweet like a spoonful of sugar. There was another hint of flavor that reminded me of molasses.

Ds thought it tasted yummy "best stuff in the world", dd said "it's delicious!" and kept wanting more. After about 5 bits to chew - ds's comment was "it makes me feel a little sick". Don't know where that came from b/c I think you could probably chew on the cane for 1/2 a day without getting enough sweetness to make you feel sickly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tricking Kids Into Eating Healthy

I've come across a couple of books lately "Deceptively Delicious" and "The Sneaky Chef", that provide recipes and ideas on how to get your kids to eat more "healthy" foods. The problem I have with this idea of slipping in healthy ingredients, is the fact that you "hide" the healthy foods inside foods your kids are more likely to eat. It may give kids more of the vitamins and fiber and such that they need, but it's not teaching them anything about eating healthily.

I'm all for eating healthy. I think it's ok to add zucchini to chocolate chip bread or to use whole wheat flour in place of white and to try to fit in as many fruits and veggies as we can into our meals. And I don't feel like I need to tell my kids everything that is included in whatever I've prepared for them. The problem is, the problem is not being dealt with.

The child won't eat anything except macaroni and cheese so we feed them m & c all the time but now it's mixed in with some "secret" healthy ingredients. How will Johnny learn to like carrots if the only time he tastes them are in carrot cake or in lasagna?

I'm blessed to have a dd that is CRAZY about carrots. And she loves bananas (the greener the better) and apples and kiwis. My ds eats carrots, hates bananas and would probably be happy if I never made him eat another apple or kiwi again in his life. He LOVES orange juice - but doesn't like oranges. But I don't hide the foods I want him to eat. I don't give him a huge helping of carrots or apples like I would give to his sister - but I do expect him to eat some - and that amount is usually whatever I put on his plate. The kids would prefer not to eat onions or peppers - but unfortunately for them, those things are included in some of the dishes I prepare and sometimes they eat them and sometimes they ask if they can skip them.

It's all about balance - my son gets a ton of vitamin c in his orange juice so if he doesn't want kiwis that's fine. Kids would eat potato chips, pizza, soda and candy all day if we let them - but they are kids and they don't always know what is good for them - so it's up to us to make some food decisions for them.

I've read that it sometimes takes up to 5 times of trying a new food, before you may develop a liking for it.

When Candy Isn't

CANDY! When a child sees that on a package they figure it MUST be good, b/c it's candy!

Well we tried a couple of "candies" from a Mexican store. The first was tamarind with sugar. We researched tamarind and found out that it is the fruit of a tropical tree and is somewhat like a date. The fruit is tart and can be used in sweet or savory dishes.

These 4 little candies were pretty expensive - $1.30. My dd described the taste as "sweet and sour, tangy" and she said she didn't like it much. Ds said it was "raisny and bitter". I thought it was an interesting combination of flavors - it was kind of like a raisin or a date but with a large pit inside, very sour but made sweet by being rolled in sugar. It was quite sticky.

The next "candy" we tried was called Pica Limon - Lemon and Chili Powder Candy. The individual packages looked so cute - we were excited to try it.
I figured it would be similar to the dip and lick candies where there is a little stick that you lick and then dip it in the candy powder - kind of sweet and sour at the same time.

Maybe we should have read the list of ingredients first. Because - it tasted like SALT. Now this wasn't called lemon and salt powder - which were the two main things we tasted. Actually the prevailing taste was salt. Dd pointed out that salt was the main ingredient. It was cute - but after one or two finger dip tastes we pitched it.

I find it interesting that one man's "sweets"is another man's salt.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fierce Food

Fierce Food - The Intrepid Diner’s Guide to the Unusual, Exotic, and Downright Bizarre by Christa Weil, is an interesting book to say the least. Even though I wouldn't think of tasting the majority of foods described in this book - it was still a fun read (though not advisable for children).

Fierce food lists alphabetically, approximately 70 different delicacies such as: Bat, Cattail, Bark, Jellyfish, Bird’s Nest Soup (for some reason it’s always held an appeal to me), Salt Licorice, Prickly Pear, Sea Cucumber, Maguey Worm, Calf's Head and others. The book not only details the food and how it tastes, but it gives you some information on the history of the foods and preparation and serving methods.

I found that there were a few things listed that I have partaken of: prickly pear, coconut, and honeycomb.

A few foods described in Fierce Foods that I’d be willing to taste are: bird’s nest soup, cricket, frog’s legs, salt licorice, snake, and snapping turtle. Though not included in the book, a couple of foods I've always wanted to taste are: rabbit stew and squirrel stew.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What Did Not Come Home With Us

We were shopping at a little ethnic store and my dd brought me a little cellophane bag and said "I want to buy this." Buying it - meant she wanted to try it. She was serious. Inside were about 50, whole, little dried fishies not much bigger than minnows. I think the eyes were still attached. I'm not quite sure how you'd eat something like that. Do you soak them in water or add them to soup and rehydrate them?? Can you really eat something that is starting at you?

Also in the store was a fresh meat counter. Proudly displayed were some of the biggest pig hooves I have ever seen. They were not nicely packaged up in plastic wrap on a styrofoam try - but just laying on a tray. And not just the hoof part - but looked more like everything from the knees (do hogs have knees?) down. DD said "I'd be willing to try pigs feet, I'd even try the toes." Younger, but wiser brother pipes up - "they don't have toes".

Friday, November 16, 2007

Papas Toreadas a la diabla Potato Chips

Yum-a-licious is what I have decided, to describe these kettle cooked potato chips.

After our morning swim the kids and I headed over to a Mexican grocery store next door, that I've been wanting to visit for awhile.

Let me start by saying, there is pretty much no better food (snack) on the face of the earth than potato chips. My favorite being Canada's Old Dutch SaltnVinegar. Well so no surprised I was drawn to the bright red package that contained the la diabla potato chips.

Knowing how hot, hot can be when referring to peppers and Mexican food - I kind of wondered if I'd need a fire extinguisher near by (a slurpee would have been the perfect accompaniment but I didn't buy one today). The back of the package says "just as toreadors inflame fighting bulls with their capes, there's a time-honored secret to heighten the flavor of chiles...chiles toreados are created by searing fresh chiles on a blistering grill to intensify their heat."

I only barely tasted a crumb to start with - and when my mouth didn't blister I tasted some more, and more and more! The kids loved them! My dd said "hot on the tongue - makes your mouth feel like you could breathe out fire like a dragon." My son added, "tastes grand...but makes your eyes water."

It had a great spicy, tomato flavor. Reminds me very much of Old Dutch Ketchup flavored chips but with some heat. Also there is a hint of vinegar in it...

The girl could not finish all of hers, not b/c she didn't like the taste - just too hot for now. The boy - who just found out he loves jalepenos - decided he'd save some of his for later.

I would totally buy these again - they were not as hot as I thought....they could be a bit hotter and still be fine for an afternoon (or morning) snack. I think these would make a great new Doritos flavor.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Incredible Edibles & It's Disgusting - Children's Books

Incredible Edibles by Teresa Domnauer is a good, easy-to-read book, to introduce children to some unusual foods such as oysters, snails, squid, tripe, flowers etc. The book has nice colorful pictures and does not present the unusual foods in a "disgusting" or belittling manner.

As we read the book the kids and I talked about which of the foods we'd be willing to try...yes to snails and caviar, yes to tripe (the girl), no to tripe (the boy and mother).

Another book I like, and we've read a few times, is "It's Disgusting and We Ate It! True Food Facts From Around the World and Throughout History". We enjoyed reading it, even though there were obviously foods in it that we would not even consider trying - but still interesting to read about things that were consumed throughout the ages. This book kind of has more of the feel of trying to appeal to children's enjoyment of things that are "gross". Includes some poems about the foods that are eaten.


Well I have two coconut eating experiments - one good, one bad.

The good first...we researched how to drain and then open our coconut. Being rather impatient, and not very good with directions - I poked the holes with a screwdriver and banged on it with a mallet. This worked to get out some clear liquid. The kids were surprised to find out that the liquid was clear. They both had a taste and decided it tasted ok. They were more interested in getting the whole coconut opened up. I tried a variety of methods and finally resorted to hurling the coconut onto our concrete driveway. It split open into many little pieces - which the kids enjoyed eating. Not as tasty as the shredded coconut you can buy in a bag - but the novelty of eating something fresh and in it's natural state, wins out.

I had a hard time figuring out how to shred the coconut - which ended up being ok, since I didn't really have any idea what I'd do with a bunch of freshly shredded coconut.

The coconut remains, remained in the fridge for a few days and then I pitched it, much to the chagrin of my dd.

So we bought another one. Being too lazy to go outside to the garage and fetch the mallet and screwdriver, I attempted to improvise with inadequate kitchen utensils. I did manage to easily poke out one of the eyes (no not of my children but the coconut) - which seemed a bit odd. I used a nail and the basement hammer. After safely "sterilizing" the nail (well ran it under hot water and a bit of dish soap anyway) - I hammered it (easily) into the eye. Then I did the same with the other two eyes.

It did not appear that the holes were large enough to drain the coconut - so I tried poking in the sharp end of a vegetable peeler and hammering on that...then a cocktail fork - to no avail. Thankfully my dh then arrived home and took over. I noticed the coconut liquid smelled kind of "funny" - rancid or fermented. I took a taste - tasted like it smelled.

Dh took it to the basement and cracked open the husk and it looked very odd. Instead of being a nice white cracked in to - it was kind of dirty and speckled and instead of the meat adhering to the husk part it kind of came apart like a hardboiled egg...and looked like one. Nasty smell. Felt kind of soft. He broke it open and I feared it would be crawling with maggots or something else...the inside just didn't look normal - it wasn't hard and deep white like our other coconut and the smell was bad.

I've read that rancid coconuts smell HORRIBLE - well this was not to that point - though after throwing it all in the laundry room trash can - we decided to take it outdoors to the trash. The laundry room smelled of coconut for awhile.

I've read that coconuts can stay fresh for a few months, and since we only had this one for a short time I'm kind of surprised (though who knows how long it sat in the store).

Pictures below of the "bad" coconut.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Babette's Feast

About 1 1/2 years ago we somehow came across a great movie - Babette's Feast.

It's the story of two old spinster sisters who are used to living simply, plainly and in denying themselves.

Along comes a foreign woman- Babette, they take her in and she agrees to be their cook. The sisters "teach" the foreigner how to cook and she lives with them for many years.

Upon the advent of their dead father's anniversary of birth, the women decide to hold a celebration for their friends. The cook agrees to prepare the meal using a large sum of money she won from the lottery. Exotic foods are ordered and shipped out to the cook. The sisters and their guests are apprehensive about what this foreign woman might try and feed them, since they are used to simple foods and seem to believe that fancier foods are "ungodly" or sinful.

Babette prepares her feast. Working in the kitchen by herself she prepares multiple courses comprised of foods they've never tasted...caviar, quail and turtle soup are a few of the exotic dishes she serves.

The plain folk are surprised at how wonderful the food tastes, overcome their fears and start enjoying this exotic meal.

Just talking about this movie makes me want to watch it. This time I'll let my 8 yr old watch it too. She loves watching cooking shows on tv "especially when they are cooking meat!". Rather surprising being that she is not a big meat eater.


At the grocery store today the kids eagerly kept an eye out for something exotic to buy. Eggplant won.

I've always loved the color of eggplant - dark purple almost black, but I've been afraid to try it.

I was very apprehensive about trying the eggplant, the kids were excited. I searched the internet to find out how to prepare it...found out some interesting things - such as the eggplant is part of the nightshade family (which includes potatoes and tomatoes), and is actually a fruit not a vegetable.

I also read that the eggplant is generally bitter and you can remove some of the bitterness by salting the eggplant and letting it sit for about 1/2 hour, and then rinsing it.

I wanted to find a way to prepare the eggplant that would allow the true flavor and consistency to show. There were tons of recipes but mostly included breading and deep fat frying or mixing it into a casserole type dish.

I finally found a simple recipe: salt the eggplant, then slice it up, and mix into a combination of lemon juice and oil. Then sprinkle on salt/pepper and any other spices you like. I chose Italian Seasoning. Then bake for 10 min in the oven at 400 degrees.

I was really put off by the texture of the eggplant. The skin is thin enough that you can leave it on - and it kind of has a soft, rubbery texture. The inside feels spongy.

I prepared the dish, not feeling very excited about tasting it. I never let on ahead of time to the kids how negative I felt about the whole thing.

I found the eggplant to be pretty tasteless, except for the flavors of lemon and Italian Seasoning that I added. I didn't notice any bitterness so seems like the salting trick worked. The texture reminded me of a pan fried zucchini, but more spongy.

The girl ate a couple of little slices and didn't like it. I think the seasoning was a bad choice and overpowering. The boy didn't seem to really like it, yet awhile later at supper time he asked if he could have some more, and was disappointed when I told him I "disposed" of it.

I'm not really disappointed when we find a food we don't care for. This is all about experimenting with new tastes and introducing the kids to things we normally would not buy.

My only experience with eggplant was in 8th grade cooking class - all I remember was that I didn't like it. Never tasted it again until today. And I don't plan on eating it in the future.

For some strange reason, I think it's cool that it's part of the nightshade family.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Food Phobias

Are there any "normal" foods that you or the kids won't eat. By "normal" I mean the typical American foods that usually no one finds offensive (bread, potatoes, chicken).

For instance, ever since he was a baby eating baby food my son has HATED potatoes. He will eat French Fries, Potato Puffs or potatoes dripping in cheese/butter/ketchup. But a baked potato or boiled potatoes - he can barely stomach it. Apples are another food he can hardly eat - unless it's apples in apple pie. Lasagna? He can't get enough!

My daughter HATES milkshakes (homemade or otherwise), porridge (cooked oatmeal), raisins and chili. Today she gave her brother $3 to finish off her porridge. But give her a bag of carrots and she is happy!

Is there any "normal" food I don't/can't eat? I can't think of anything. For me my food phobia is more likely to be about eating something that might have been lingering in the fridge or cupboard too long...or might have been made by someone who I wouldn't trust to be concerned about kitchen hygiene.

I had a dear old "friend" (identity clouded in order to avoid offending - don't worry mom it's not you) who I enjoyed visiting. Whenever I would visit though, she would "pressure" me to eat something along with the ever present cup of tea. Now I never quite knew how long something had been in the cupboard or in the fridge or freezer - so I would try to avoid eating. Didn't matter if I said my very-full-stomach had just finished a large supper, and I wasn't hungry. She'd keep at me (in a kind way). Well eventually I'd have to give in. For awhile I had a little help. She had a dog that would come and sit under the table...I could secretly give him the little bits of muffin or cookie. Or I could slip something into a pocket.

Being all grown up now (so to speak), I can see why she did what she did. I know when I have company I enjoy preparing a meal or a snack for them. It's a way to show love and concern for others.

So what "normal" food will you not eat???

Friday, November 9, 2007

Research Shows Relationship Between Intelligence and a Willingness to Eat Unfamiliar Foods

Well at least that is so according to Terry Ryan in her book, "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" :)

I am enjoying this book about a mom of 10 children, who supplements her husband's small paycheck (a third of it going to liquor to support hub's drinking "problem") by entering all sorts of contests. She was a frequent winner - not only winning money but a bicycle, appliances etc.

One contest she won was for a shopping spree - fill up the grocery cart in 10 min and keep what fits inside. Talking to her kids about what she was gonna fill her cart with, she tells them... "I want you kids to taste chateaubriand, New York steak, lobster and anything else you've never tried before. Heck, I want to try them too." While on the move throughout the store she instructs her helpers to hit the European aisle and pick out exotic things.

So is there a relationship between intelligence and the willingness to eat unfamiliar foods? If there is such a study out there, I'd be curious to read it.

Polish Style Red Borsch Soup

I found a cute little package of borsch soup and decided to give it a try. The directions are simple - just add water. Can't mess that up. The listed ingredients are: beet powder, vegetable fat, sugar, salt, citric acid.

My children are of Polish descent along with Ukrainian, Scottish and Swedish (on my family's side) and German (on my husband's side of the family).

I have tried homemade borsch made by my mother when I was growing up. This delicious, hearty soup contained things like cabbage, onions, dill weed, beets and potatoes. Usually mom would serve it with tea biscuits (what Americans might call baking soda biscuits) - yum!

My dd enjoys canned sliced beets, so I figured she might like this soup. Wasn't too sure about the boy.

Let's just say I was the only one who finished my soup. The soup was a beautiful red color with flecks of something floating on top (parsley??). It had a pleasant, sweetish beet taste. Though the color was pretty, and the taste all right - it definitely needed some bulking up. If you didn't have beets on hand and wanted to make beet soup - this package would make a good base for the soup - just throw in some cabbage, potatoes etc., to thicken it up and make it into a meal rather than an appetizer.

I made some "tea biscuits" to serve with the soup.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Eating Bugs

In the past couple of years I have enjoyed reading a few books by Peter Menzel... Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects, and Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.

Man Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating Insects - is about, you guessed it, eating insects. So even though I mentioned that I would not eat wiggling worms, it does not mean that it is disgusting fare for others around the world.

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. This book includes photos and essays on people in different countries and what they buy/eat in a week.

Both of these books, though geared to adults - are great ways to introduce the diversity of cultures and eating to our children. It's also good for kids to see that not everyone is blessed with a variety of different foods - some people eat rice three times a day - and not b/c they are crazy about it - but b/c that is all they have.

"Gag Me With A Spoon"

A phrase I've borrowed from the old tv show "Valley Girls", describes what this is NOT all about.

I am not trying to find the most disgusting foods on the planet ... I have my limits and so do the children.

I'm not going to try something that I think might curl our if it smells real nasty - I probably won't take a taste. I won't buy it if it's called something like "pickled pigs feet"(blended or otherwise) or "fried rooster combs" (well actually since that one is fried I might be willing to try it), or "maggot bread" or ____ (fill in the blank with the nastiest food you can imagine). We won't be digesting wiggling worms (though we have the book "How To Eat Fried Worms"), domesticated animals, or non-food items (ie. clay, grass or ground up glass).

We are blessed to live in American, and to live during a time, where fresh fruits and vegetables and baked goods are a hop, skip and a jump from most homes. Not only that - but we can (usually) purchase traditional foods from all different countries and ethnic groups.

If we are not willing to be a little bit brave, we may miss out on something wonderful!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Quail Eggs

Ever since we bought the can of quail eggs, the kids have been asking "are we going to try the quail eggs today?" I kept putting them off, in part, because I was scared to try them.

We were having a kind of Chinese-ish supper tonight - so I decided this would be an appropriate time to serve the quail eggs. I actually had the thought that for this food, only the kids would need to try them.

I opened the can - with two little eager beavers watching closely - and proceeded to dump the contents into a sieve (they were packed in water). I thought only a few eggs could fit into a can that size - but was excited to see about a dozen of the smallest hardboiled eggs I had ever seen, fall into the sieve. I didn't have a clue that they were going to be so tiny!

I smelled the eggs - didn't have a bad smell. I felt them - they were very rubbery. I sliced one in half - it looked just like a miniature sized chicken egg. The yoke portion seemed stickier than a regular egg.

We popped them into our mouths - the kids eagerly, me with trepidation. They tasted egg. A milder flavor than a hen's egg . We added salt and pepper and the kids could hardly wait until supper when they could consume more.

I'm not surprised that the girl liked them so much b/c she loves hardboiled eggs, but the boy is not crazy about hardboiled eggs...he usually doesn't like the yoke. But they both kept asking for more. When I'd say something like "ok two more" than the boy would pipe up "but I didn't get as many."

I was pleasantly surprised at their excitement over the eggs - they probably would have eaten the whole can in one sitting if I had let them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Childhood Memories of Exotic Foods

There are only about 3 exotic foods I remember having as a child. I remember my dad bringing home some sugarcane from the grocery store, and us girls getting to chew on some of that. I also seem to recall a whole coconut and some ginger root.

As a child, I was not a very brave eater of unusual or exotic foods I'm sure - seems like I was an older teenager before I even tried mushrooms, and was surprised that I actually enjoyed them.

I remember a pomegranate. Don't know if I actually tasted it - but I remember the name of the girl who had it. Her name was Sherri Fidler. The name stands out in my memory b/c even though she was probably at least a few years older than me, I one day threw a rock at her and got in trouble. Don't know if I did it intentionally or if she just got in the way of a wayward rock I was playing with...

Anywhooo the thing I most remember about the pomegranate was that Sherri said the seeds were poisonous. Now anyone who has had a pomegranate knows they contain about a million little seeds surrounded by red jeweled bits of yumminess. They are very messy and time consuming to eat. This is especially so if you place them in your mouth one at a time, burst the juicy sac with your teeth and then have to remove the tiny little seed, all the time being careful not to accidentally swallow the little seed and poison yourself.

I'm sure it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized the seeds were NOT poisonous.

Speaking of accidentally swallowing tiny little seeds - this summer my sister was visiting and told me that she had become lazy when eating cherries. "I just swallow the pits now." She was serious. I had never heard such a crazy thing! But then again this is the sister who enjoys drinking a little glass of pickle juice every now and then.

Purple Potato Eater

We were meandering through the produce section of the world market, when I came across some purple potatoes. The outsides didn't look very purple-y, but I bought four of them, hoping the inside would be purple.

I read that purple potatoes were originally from Peru and were reserved for the Inca kings and that yes they are purple inside.

I decided to bake them in the microwave...poked each one with a fork a few times (squirting bits of purple potato juice onto my white kitchen curtains) and baked them one at a time for about 6 minutes (it's an old microwave).

I sliced open a baked potato and was excited to see the beautiful royal purple inside.

The kids were excited to see the potatoes and to taste them...well one of them was excited about tasting it. My son has HATED potatoes every since I first started giving him bits of mashed potato as a baby. A gag reflex inducing food for the poor lad. As he has aged, he has decided he does like potato chips and french fries (though more than 1/2 the time at McDonalds he only eats a few and the rest of us fight over who gets the rest) and once he ate some scalloped potatoes that were swimming in a pool of cheese and butter and enjoyed those. But, for the most part he HATES potatoes and usually has to drown them in ketchup to finish the few bits on his plate, his mean mother forces him to eat.

How did they taste? We all agreed they tasted pretty much like....a regular potato. My dd said "It tasted perfectly normal. Only thing I liked about it was the color. The color was un-potato like." The boy said something like "yeah that's what I think." I am not a Food Connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination - so if there was any subtle taste difference, it was lost on me.

The purple potato is apparently high in antioxidants - so it has "brains" as well as "beauty".

I will definitely buy these again - they were kind of expensive for everyday potatoes (about $2.50 for the 4 little spuds we bought) - but I'd like to try making purple mashed potatoes or something "fancier" with them.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Squid Shreds

Our food of the day was squid shreds. I liked the colorful package, the cute squid picture and the fact that it was unusual and cheap (approx. $1.50) and looked like something the kids would think was fun to try.

Squid shreds are basically dried, shredded squid. The main ingredients in order are:

squid, sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate

No country of origin was market on the package but there is some Chinese?? characters on the package that may supply that information.

What did I think of the shredded squid: overpowering shrimpy/fishy smell...surprisingly sweet and chewy (similar to beef jerky in consistency) and after you've been chewing for awhile it tastes hot/spicy.

What did the kids think of the shredded squid: Daughter - "I didn't think it was very good. Very sweet, very spicy, has a really strange smell, feels like beef jerky." Son - "It was salty and yummy."

Recording Our Adventures On The Food Frontier

Today "The Kids and I", (not to be confused with The King and I) are launching the recording of our exotic eating and our adventures on the food frontier.

I am a housewife/homeschool teacher/stay-at-home mom (though my dh and kids would probably say, instead of stay-at-home mom it should read "Going-to-town-a-lot mom"). My kids are 8 and 5.

Recently, out on one of our "Going-to-town-a-lot" jags, we came upon a world foods type of grocery store and decided to pop in. The kids are usually up for trying something new and unusual. Not necessarily when it is a recipe I try - but unfamiliar foods from the market.

We bought quite a few new foods and, as I was nibbling and reading other blogs - I decided our exotic eating would be something we could blog about. My daughter has been wanting to blog for months and I have been reading blogs for about a year.

Exotic is something that is from another place or part of the world or is very different. Something we are not used to. All the foods we experiment with will not necessarily be strange to everyone - but as we are typically meat and potato type of folks...things like red rice or quail eggs from Thailand or prickly pear fruit or flat bread or ginger beer from England, will be exotic to us.

We will never know about all these exotic, unusual and sometimes strange foods, unless we hunt them down, give them to our children... and are brave enough to try them as well.