Friday, December 12, 2008

Omnivore's 100 REDUX

Remember the Omnivore’s 100 list that I posted back in August? A list of 100 things any good omnivore should eat in his lifetime? Well, besides limiting our taste of Central and South America to rice and beans, dulce de leche, fried plantains, and mole, AND insulting America by reducing our cuisine to PB&J sandwiches, hot dogs from street carts, root beer floats, Jell-O shots, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, McD’s Big Mac meals, S’mores, Hostess fruit pies, Spam, and catfish.... ?@?%!!!!... it's an interesting list to consider. If it weren’t for the clam chowder in a sourdough bowl I’d be supremely disappointed. I really find it interesting what was chosen to be on this list. What people determine is “representative” of a culture and its cuisine, and what was deemed worthy of inclusion. And which countries were unfortunate enough (and ignored enough!) to have nothing on the list…

Anyway. Since posting the list I’ve made it my mission to get a 100%, like the teacher’s pet that I am. So here’s what I’ve tried here in Australia since August, in the order that each item appears in the original Omni100 list:

5. Crocodile
I came across a website that said croc “is like a really firm white fish crossed with chicken breast.” I agree. Here’s proof that I ate it at Ying Chao (or was it T-Chow, or Ding Hao? Crap) –

16. Epoisses
Oh, this one was such a treat!

First of all I’d been dying to go to Bottega Rottolo, a specialty foods shop that has a climate controlled cheese room. And lo and behold, they had the infamous Epoisses sittin’ pretty right up front, waiting for me.

Époisses is a smelly French cows-milk cheese that you can read a lot about on Wiki but the coolest claims I’ve read are that Napoleon was a fan of the cheese, Brillat-Savarin thought it was the “king of all cheeses,” and it’s so darn smelly that it’s banned from French public transport! All of which might be false but sometimes it’s more fun to just BELIEVE.

It comes in a fancy little wooden circular box…

And I cut into it for the dessert platter for Meagan’s fancy pants birthday dinner (see previous post).

Gosh, it sure was smelly. But it was also incredibly creamy and perfectly pungent. This article talks about a bunch of scientists with the enviable job of tasting bajillions of cheeses to determine which are the smelliest. Where can I send my resume?

33. Salted Lassi
Jackie introduced me to Maya Masala, an Indian restaurant around the corner. The masala dosa was a real treat…

And I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to order a salted lassi to check one more item off the Omni100 list. Oops! Lassi mustachio! Check out my contribution for Mo-vember!

A very thick, frothy, and, you guessed it, salty yoghurt drink. It was yum but I couldn’t finish the whole thing because it was thick enough to be a whole meal in itself. Would be a perfect lunchtime treat on a hot day, though.

43. Phaal
Oooooooooh dawg. Phaal is aw-phaal. It’s an “Indian” curry dish, which I believe is more likely some Londoner’s idea of an Indian curry, Anglicized to cater to the tastes of manly men trying to outdo each other and see who can stomach the bloody hottest dish possible. It’s apparently the hottest Indian dish you can get at restaurants. It’s so hot that you can’t even tell if it’s good or not! What’s the point in that? I put all of these chilies in PLUS two dried habaneros. For two servings.

Ridic. I love hot stuff but this was just over the top. I’ll leave it to the manly men to get into the “P’Hall of Fame.”

44. Goat’s Milk
The gentle alternative. That’s what it says on the carton. Looks like milk...

Smells like milk…

Tastes like milk and gives a milk mustachio…

Goat’s Milk: The Gentle Alternative

Nothing much to report. It tasted like milk.

60. Carob Chips
Are interesting. They’re sometimes used as a substitute for chocolate in cookies or those “health” bars you can get in the 7-11. Please be warned. If you expect this:

to taste like a chocolate bar, you’re in for a “treat.” Carob Buckwheat Crispbread tastes more like Cardboard Buckwheat Crispbread.

I can’t really fathom a situation where I would eat or use carob! Maybe if I were fatally allergic to chocolate, or couldn't eat gluten, or were a health nut. But I still might risk it and get the Mars Bar instead.

74. Gjetost
I’m not sure that I can really comment on this one. Maybe the gjetost I got at the market had been sitting there for ages, cuz I don’t think it’s exactly flying off the shelves, or maybe the ship that brought this Norwegian brown cheese to the opposite side of the earth encountered unexpected storms that caused the gjetost storage room to flood and “spoil” the cheese. Is it really supposed to be like this?
I detected a hint of caramel in there, and maybe a little sweetness, but I like my cheese to be more smelly (see #16). And the texture was honestly like soft rubber, so again, I’m not sure if this is really what it’s supposed to be like and will have to taste this again at some point... maybe it's an acquired taste… but the dill pickles I made were pretty rockin’.

79. Lapsang Souchong
Ending on a high note, this Chinese smoked tea was so different from other teas I’m used to. It makes Lipton’s and chai seem like lame-o wussies.

It tastes exactly like a bonfire would taste if you could eat it. Shocking!

Am going to experiment with using this tea for cooking – forget liquid smoke – there’s gotta be something creative I can come up with to get a smokey bbq flavor in the oven with this sucker. Amy, any ideas?

Well, that’s as far as I think I can get through the list here in Oz. I couldn’t find whole insects or road kill in the market, missed the abalone season by mere days, and don’t trust the haggis I saw at the butcher shop. But I’ll keep on eating these things if I find them, don’t worry!


Unknown said...

Cari, I laughed so hard when I read the Carob section. My husband's parents wouldn't let him eat candy or sweets of any kind when he was a boy. So his mom would come up with all kinds of creative ways to let him and his sister have "treats". Her solution...carob chip cookies! He said they were just plain awful and no substitute for good ol' chocolate chips. Good thing his grandmother made the best darn chocolate chippers ever.

Home Producer said...

Just came accross your blog from god knows where, and just wanted to say that you've struck me as potentially the most interesting person I've come accross in a long time. I must sheepishly admit however that I wasn't 100% sure what Gastronomy was until I wikied it to help me fill in the blanks. I'm also a student Adelaide (Psych/Phil), what department/faculty does one study Gastronomy under?

Thanks for the interesting read!

Cari said...

Hey Bryan and sorry for the delay in responding - just finished a move from Oz to Switzerland and am finally settled here! Will be writing my dissertation from St. Gallen. The gastronomy program lives in the history department at Uni Adelaide - and it's one of only a few programs like it in the whole world. It's quite a fun, rigorous, interesting program, you should check out the page if you're interested - Thanks a ton for stopping by and glad you enjoyed!

Anonymous said...

This tea kind of tastes like smoked pork!