Travel Thursday: Confessions of a Picky Eater

From 2007: To everyone’s amazement, including my own, I wrote a blog about food to kick off my South America trip. Me, the anti-gourmet!

So I’m having dinner with a friend in a new place, going-away party type o’ thing, and I can’t find anything I like on the menu, so I skip straight to dessert, much to her chagrin. I tell her I would rather not eat than eat something I don’t like, which I would have done, had I not found the cinnamon orange stuff. At this point she can’t keep herself from saying, “I don’t see how you manage to travel and not starve! And don’t say McDonald’s!”
Okay, I won’t. Instead I’ll use two magic words: corn and potatoes.

There’s only been one place in the world I haven’t found corn and potatoes, and that was last year in the Western Chinese desert. In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Machu Picchu, where corn is a sacred crop, and by that time I figure I’ll be hungry enough to save some farmers’ jobs. Or keep them from turning to cocaine as a cash crop.

How much do I love corn? I keep rankings on where I’ve had the best. Here’s the top three:
3) Jimmy’s Diner in Berlin (although that might be because I hadn’t had any in so long at that point) {Update: place is no longer there. . .}
2) A corn festival in. . . I’m thinking Wisconsin, but not completely sure. Some place Midwest. And I can assure you the redhead selling the corn did not influence that ranking (side note: I tried counting all her freckles, but gave up on her lower back at around 1500. . . and she wouldn‘t let me mark where I left off with a Sharpie!)
1) Rotorua, New Zealand–they cook it in a geyser!

Some people have gotten on me for a slightly different reason, claiming that part of the lure of traveling is experiencing different foods alongside different cultures. To which the easy answer is “Bullshit!” One does not spend thousands of dollars and travel those same number of miles just to sample the cuisine. Besides, in towns like Los Angeles, Noo Yawk, and D.C. there are restaurants from every country for you to try before heading off for said country; I ran across a Bulgarian place near Fairfax the other day, and there’s an Uzbek restaurant right on Sunset. {Update: not anymore.} C’mon, there are Chinese restaurants in Mississippi! And just because I don’t like eating chocolate covered ants in Mexico doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in the occasional Schnitzel and potato pancakes at the local beerhaus, even if I don’t drink the beer.
Mmmm, Schnitzel. The word alone is magical. . .
Then some true idiots will say–channeling everyone’s mom–how do you know you don’t like it until you try it? (Did you hear her voice? Ugh. . .) Do I look five years old? Why would you assume I haven’t tried it? Maybe I’m so ugly because of all the disgusted faces food has forced me to make in my life!
And what about markets? And I don’t mean the Sunday markets, like the one in Hollywood, where the local indigenous people sell trinkets. I mean places you can buy a packaged loaf of bread and some crackers, or even cans of corn. It’s amazing how people on vacation always have to go to restaurants, like it’s mandatory. Don’t believe the old saying, man can survive on bread and water. . . provided the water’s bottled.
So here’s a story to prove just how far I’ll go when it comes to not eating food I don’t like. Imagine me back in high school, looking unfortunately pretty much the same, except for being thinner with soccer legs (you know what I mean, the kind of muscles that make everything else in the area look small in comparison. . . yep, TMI.). School trip up to San Francisco, group reservations at a seafood restaurant. In addition to being a proud picky eater, I also have a powerful nose, to the point where I can not only tell apart the smells of potatoes and eggs–a lot of people can’t–but can also tell you what type of potatoes are cookin’: fries, tater tots, mojos, baked, boiled, even chips in a bag. In case you didn’t know, fish stink even when not spoiled, almost as much as penguins (oh, wait, fish are why penguins stink). And we were scheduled in that place for two hours, and the chaperones would not let me explore the area for another eatery.
Trying not to feel immensely sorry for myself, but failing pretty miserably, and seeing no one was using the bowl of sour cream before me, I casually scooped it up and somehow managed to keep from scarfing it all in ten seconds; I don’t remember, but I hope I didn’t lick the bowl.
Still casual, I asked the table behind me if they were using the sour cream. The bowl was passed over and another dairy product bit the dust.
Ten bowls later, I was satisfied.
So just to get off on the right track when I arrive in Buenos Aires tomorrow night, I’m going to have a huge steak while watching some tango, juicy meat of another kind. . .
See ya on the other side!

2010 update
That corn at the Warner Park event was so good it has jumped into third place, behind only the New Zealand geyser and the likely Wisconsin state/county fair thing. This drops Jimmy’s Diner in Berlin out of the medals.
I still pine for those awesome tater tots at that mall in Victoria, British Columbia though. . .

;o)

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