Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Got Soup?

For those who are taking part in the new gastronomic rage and, perhaps dare I say- fad, overtaking this country, their deputation has just taken a disturbing turn. The butter and cream sauces of Julia Child, James Beard’s Chicken Risotto Topped With Caramelized Apricots, or Craig Claiborne’s Acini di Pepe, are now as passé as Brontosaurus burgers (Sorry Fred).

Stepping up to the plate are dishes like boiled sheep’s lung. Brains, tongue, feet, stomach, intestines, and other internal organs are now all fair game. Remember when you were a kid and your mother took you to the grocery store with her. When you passed the butcher’s stall, all the above were there specifically to gross you out. Maybe she said something to you like, “that’s for the poor people.”

Most Americans consider themselves to be “foodies” now. The proliferation of cooking shows, trendy restaurants, along with a host other influences has manifested a nation of daring gastronomes. Only a few years ago, the biggest threat to our sensibilities, was to watch people consume the hottest Hot Sauce they could without bursting into flames or stripping the lining out of their intestinal tracts.

But Americans love to out do each other. This is a basic creed. And the new arena is what I call “the gross out factor.” I know that it has long been fashionable to gross us out with foreign food in the movies and TV. Remember the monkey brains in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, or Napoleon Solo and the goat’s eyeball (this one dates me). Well guess what, Anthony Bourdain will down a raw seal’s eyeball for you, if only you tune in to his show.

There used to be a rule: if it moves don’t eat it. The haute couture of the day is: if it is still moving, this will be a moment of culinary transcendence. The slugs, bugs, and creepy-crawlies of Survivor, has become the satisfier of deeper appetites; the food odyssey.

"Testicles appear on menus under various euphemisms, which prevent the diner from confronting too directly the contents of the plate," writes Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food. I’m not sure how to deal with this one, but for the brave of heart, there is no doubt a restaurant for you. Just don’t ask me to come. Which brings me to a phobia of mine? I tend to avoid those new fashionable places that offer cuisine from other countries. They are opening up all over mid-Ohio; Russian, Turkish, Thai, North African, West African, etc.

If I have to go, you had better bring a good translator with you. And don’t forget, there is always a good burger somewhere on the route home (make mine Brontosaurus, please).

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