Knives and forks
Continuing the food-related themes I’ve been writing about of late (not that I intend this to be my sole source of subject matter), I was intrigued to come across this 100 foods to eat before you die list. It’s been doing the rounds as a Facebook app and there are countless blog entries that deal with it, so I can’t reliably say who came up with it, only that I found the complete, unedited list here.
It seems to have originated in the United States: although there is quite a bit of diversity of cuisines and ingredients included, it contains quite a significant number of things that are easily identifiable as quintessentially American, including chicken and waffles, clam chowder, biscuits and gravy, as well as a number of other things I hadn’t heard of and that don’t seem to have found international recognition. Some of these I have looked up in the meantime, but any items that baffled me initially I have marked with a question mark.
I’ve crossed off all the items on the list that I’ve tried, and the grand total is: 54. This compares really very favourably with the predicted average total of twenty items, though I am still some way behind friends who have travelled more widely, grew up with a wider range of these foods or have more adventurous palates.
I’ve also picked out a few of my personal favourites (comments in green) as well as a few items I either don’t like or think are overrated (comments in red). At the end of the list you can find out which further items I’d most like to try, those I’d prefer to avoid, and a few suggestions of my own.
Baba Ghanoush – I adore aubergine, and although I find this dip fiddly to make, the taste is SO worth it
Bagel and lox
- Bird’s Nest Soup
- Biscuits and gravy
Black Pudding – one of those foods from home that I miss here (German Blutwurst is similar, but not the same and tends to be served differently)
Black Truffle – I can’t really understand the appeal of either black truffle or white truffle. They both seem to add a slightly mildewy note to things
- Chicken and waffles
Chicken Tikka Masala – possibly not my favourite curry ever (I prefer ones that are more coconutty and a bit hotter), but definitely one of the best items on this list
- Chile Relleno ?
- Chitterlings/Chitlins ? (I’ve heard of this but can’t remember what it is)
Currywurst – definitely not a favourite: I don’t like sausage and chips, or the sauce, or the sprinkling of curry powder
- Dandelion wine
Dulce de leche
- Durian ?
- Eggs benedict
- Fish Tacos
Foie Gras – I’ve written about my dislike of this before – I really don’t see the appeal at all (and it’s not exactly good for the goose or for the person eating it)
Fresh Spring Rolls
- Fried Catfish
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Fried Plaintain
- Frito Pie ?
- Fugu ?
- Funnel Cake ?
Head Cheese – I’ve only had this once, in France, in a truckers’ hotel we ended up in at the end of an exhausting 100km+ bike ride. The most welcome meal ever! It’s called fromage de tête in French, which sounds so much more poetic, doesn’t it? ;) (edit: originally had this in red, but could also be green, hence “neutral” black…)
- Heirloom Tomatoes
- Hostess Fruit Pie ?
- Huevos Rancheros
- Jerk Chicken
Key Lime Pie
- Kobe Beef
Lobster – although I went through the whole of my childhood seeing the piles of lobster pots at the harbour in Aberystwyth, it wasn’t until well into adulthood that I actually tried lobster. Verdict: wow!
Mimosa (I guess a strong Buck’s Fizz counts ;))
- MoonPie ?
- Nettle Tea
Oxtail Soup – in its tinned variety, a childhood trauma (and I haven’t felt moved to try a better version since)
Paella – I got to know and love this dish at a shooting club in Tübingen, of all places. The (public) restaurant there was run by the Spanish wife of the guy who ran the outfit, and a large group of us would often go there on special occasions, when Carmen would serve up these huge pans of garlic-infused goodness
Pastrami on Rye
- Philly Cheesesteak
Pineapple and cottage cheese – cottage cheese is excellent stuff and I could eat it by the carton, but I really don’t like pineapple in combination with anything savoury
Pistachio Ice Cream
- Po’ boy ?
- Pocky ?
Raw Oysters – I’m inclined to say these are highly overrated, though I have had them only once and that was without any kind of dressing (other than a bit of seawater and sand): I’m told a good vinaigrette makes all the difference
Root Beer Float – definitely doesn’t float my boat. The two ingredients should be served separately
S’mores – In my case, s’lesses (far too sweet and sickly)
- Sea Urchin
Soft Shell Crab
- Som Tam ?
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Umeboshi ?
- Zucchini Flowers
A few things on the list I’d like to try
Borscht – not really sure why I’ve not had it before (I prefer the impossible-looking German “beatbox” spelling Bortschsch)
Crabcake – I’ve got several recipes for Thai-style crabcakes, so this is something I should definitely try making
Dandelion wine – the sound of this has always had a magical quality. I expect you can create your own fairytale world if you drink enough of it. I have recipes for wine made out of various common or garden plants among the old recipes I wrote about here.
Kobe beef – just to see what all the fuss is about
Snails – they’re a fairly local speciality here, so I think I should try them
A few things on the list that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole
Abalone, bird’s nest soup, sea urchin, snake – these all sound ecologically and/or ethically dodgy in some way (though maybe the same could be said for many of the things I’ve eaten and enjoyed. Hmm)
Chicken and waffles, chitterlings (I have now looked them up), crickets, squirrel, sweetbreads – I find all of these ideas a bit stomach-churning
Items I’d add to the list
Pakistani mangoes – I love mangoes in any case, but the elongated, yellow Pakistani ones – which Kavey introduced me to – are the most exquisite in flavour, perfume and texture
Traditional mature Cheddar cheese – I’ve tried a lot of cheeses in my time, but nothing beats this. It’s such a pity that the mainstream market (esp. outside Britain / Ireland) is flooded with poor imitations
Fresh tuna steak – I know there are ethical issues with particular species of tuna, but if you can get a sustainable, reliably sourced and dolphin-friendly variety (feel free to add any further criteria I may have forgotten), then do try it. I’m happy enough to eat tinned tuna, but the fresh stuff is something else entirely.
Pickled walnuts – eaten with cold meats after Christmas, pickled walnuts remain one of my favourite foods in the festive season (not that there is any reason not to eat them at other times!)
San Daniele ham – this is cured roughly in a similar way to Parma / serrano hams, but I find the flavour superior
Suet crust – another of my favourite comfort foods from home
Morellino di scansano (red wine) – this comes from the same area of Tuscany that produces the prestigious (and pricy) Brunello di Montalcino. It’s a fraction of the price and on almost every occasion I’ve been able to compare the two wines one to one, this one has been the distinct favourite. As the name may suggest, it has a deep cherry flavour, and it’s been one of my favourite wines for years now.
Have you tried any of the more unusual things on the list? Have I missed out on anything spectacular in the dishes I put a question mark next to? I’d love to read about other people’s “scores” and experiences with any of these foods / dishes.