I had no idea that parsnips were so delicious until this past year. I’ve been aware that parsnips existed my whole life, and I’ve seen them at the grocery store for years but never took the time to investigate them. In my head, I assumed they were similar to turnips or rutabagas – another white root vegetable just in a different shape. How wrong I was. I would describe them as a sweet, white carrot, and served with butter and honey they are sublime. Thrilled with my discovery I have been enjoying parsnips regularly.
When it comes to food, sometimes humans aren’t very adventurous. After all, there is comfort in the familiar. This got me thinking about the psychology behind trying something new. I found a great article in Psychology Today entitled “Trying New Things,” by Alex Lickerman, M.D. A portion of the article is about trying new foods and why some people are more open to it than others. Here is a summary of his thoughts to consider when trying something new, food or otherwise:
- Trying something new often requires courage.
- Trying something new opens up the possibility for you to enjoy…something new.
- Trying something new keeps you from becoming bored.
- Trying something new forces you to grow.
Number two is especially important to consider when deciding whether or not to try a new food. Think about a favorite food that you love so much you can’t image not ever savoring it. Now imagine that you never tried it in the first place. It would be a lost love that you never knew you had. This thought dynamic actually worked on my kids when they were younger. I could get them to try anything once by saying, “But what if you never tried mac and cheese?”
Today, more than ever, there is an abundance of diverse and interesting foods for one to explore, and sometimes it’s all in how you think about options. With the over harvesting of seafood, many restaurant owners are turning to less traditional options for those willing to try something new. Restaurants are beginning to offer invasive species for both the sustainability aspect and the adventure of it. Whether it is axis deer being served at the Four Seasons in Lanai, lionfish made available at Whole Foods in Florida, eating silver carp in the Great Lakes, or tasting a snakehead fish right here in Maryland, eating an invasive is one way to solve a big problem. Unfortunately, eating something strange or different usually involves getting out of our comfort zone and it forces us to muster up some gumption. It doesn’t help that most invasive species have unsavory names like “snakehead,” with many reporting that they are actually delicious to eat.
Sometimes people are just “picky.” In a recent article from National Geographic entitled “The Revenge of the Picky Eaters?” the article points to the fact that 25% of people are “supertasters.” Supertasters can have up to four times as many taste buds on their tongues as the average human, leading to greater sensitivity to bitter flavors. According to author Victoria Jaggard, “As with many human behaviors, the reasons behind picky eating are complex, and it’s tough to untangle the physiological factors from the environmental ones. Genetics may play a role, but so can early exposure to diverse foods, past bouts with food poisoning, psychiatric and neurological conditions and just plain life experience.”
If you are not jazzed about eating invasives, maybe you’d like to try a less intimidating new trend called a “mocktail.” An alcohol-free cocktail might defeat the purpose of a drink for some, but for those looking to cut a few calories or feel more functional the next day – there just might be a mocktail for you. I recently purchased a bottle of Kentucky 74, a spiritless bourbon, who’s slogan is “less is yes.” Distilled in Kentucky, it takes some moxie to make a non-alcoholic bourbon in the heart of bourbon country, but they’ve done it and it’s surprisingly tasty. So far, I’ve made an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan, and they were quite nice, even without the afterglow.
Trying something new doesn’t always have to be a hair- raising grand gesture. Sometimes trying something new is merely a course change – for the better. For example, palm oil is something I have been reading about lately and I may want to change course on what palm oil products I buy. Palm Oil plantations have been connected to the destruction of habitat of endangered species, including orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos, but there is more to it than that (see links below for more information). While I continue to read and learn more about palm oil, I’m going to look for the RSPO label that marks a product that is certified sustainable palm oil. It’s something new to look for when I shop.
There are always different seeds to try growing in the garden. While I look forward to some of my favorite vegetables that I grow every year, each season I try to plant something I haven’t tried before. This year I planted an Armenian Striped yard long cucumber, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. While a cucumber isn’t new to me, this variety is. I came upon the idea while talking to a childhood friend of mine that grew up in Afghanistan. She talked about the special cucumber they grew there; she hadn’t seen it in the States. We went on a search together and found the seeds. She is growing them for the first time in California where she now lives. We are sharing this new adventure through pictures.
I believe new experiences help keep your brain adaptable and healthy. Today I ate my lunch with my left hand. Since I am righthanded, it was awkward. The fork felt like it didn’t belong in my hand, and I wasn’t very adept at hitting my vegetables with the tines of my fork. Consequentially, less food made it on the fork and lunch was longer than usual. Why did I try this tedious exercise? There were two reasons: One, I eat too fast, and this slowed me down, and two, I was trying something new.
Cathy Schmidt writes from Trappe where she and her husband Chef Brian Schmidt own Garden and Garnish Catering. A food explorer, Cathy loves to garden and cook from scratch.
(Recipe from a friend)
1 lb parsnips, peeled and sliced (3 cups)
3/4 cup peeled and sliced carrots
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 TBS butter or margarine
dash of nutmeg
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
Cook parsnips, carrots and onions in boiling water until very soft. Drain. In a mixer beat the carrots, turnips, eggs, butter, nutmeg, salt, pepper until smooth. Transfer to a greased one-quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes for until a knife comes out clean. Serves 4.