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Creativity and the Culinary You

Creativity and the Culinary You
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  • Creativity and the Culinary You

    Post #1 - December 13th, 2005, 9:32 pm
    Post #1 - December 13th, 2005, 9:32 pm Post #1 - December 13th, 2005, 9:32 pm
    For an upcoming conference on creativity attended by an eclectic group including many new products professionals, I have plans to develop an experiential event involving foods. Ideally, the foods involved would evoke, to borrow a phrase, the "varieties of [gustatory] experience".
    Some may take issue with the premise embedded in such an enterprise, and indeed, it is an ambitious project, cheeky even. Nevertheless, my intent is ultimately this: to enable the participants to begin to reflect upon novel food experiences and in so doing, to identify their hidden assumptions about food and eating.

    My current strategy is to present participants with novel foods and to facilitate a discussion of these experiences. Ideally, the participants would benefit from understanding what they bring to the table (as it were) where food is concerned. Where do their biases lie, and is there, for instance, a public/private dimension to the experience of individual foods? Is there such a thing as a food experience without a cultural context? What makes a food approachable or off-limits, or even a must have?

    I have been very interested in the gusto with which LTH-ers generally approach food, particularly novel foods. Silk worms in cans come to mind, as do Thai crickets and ant eggs. I would sincerely appreciate ANY thoughts that members of the forum would care to share on this topic, as well as, more specifically, suggestions for foods to include in the tasting. Let your imaginations run wild! In addition, if others have important moments in their food histories (of insight or high emotion) that they would care to reveal, I would be most grateful.
    Last edited by Josephine on January 31st, 2006, 9:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #2 - December 13th, 2005, 10:00 pm
    Post #2 - December 13th, 2005, 10:00 pm Post #2 - December 13th, 2005, 10:00 pm
    Foods to include...hmmmm

    Silk worms and ant eggs would be challenging, but you might consider some more typically "American" foods that are equally challenging, to wit:

    • Chitterlings
    • Gizzards
    • Pig's feet

    That's a gut reaction...I need to give this topic much more thought (which it deserves), and it sounds like a fascinating event, Josephine.

    Hammond

    PS. Is that Henry James you're borrowing the phrase from?
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #3 - December 13th, 2005, 11:34 pm
    Post #3 - December 13th, 2005, 11:34 pm Post #3 - December 13th, 2005, 11:34 pm
    Josephine wrote:Silk worms in cans come to mind, as do Thai crickets and ant eggs.


    Having ingested all three, I would put silk worms on the bottom of my list. The liquid was dark like coffee with an off smell. I would show the can but not go so far as ask those to try it because it would be a turn-off instead of a turn-on. Whereas ant eggs were pretty close to tasteless and crickets more texture than taste.

    Chicken and duck's feet
    Duck tongue (has a tiny bone which is annoying) from Triple Crown in Chinatown
    Check Fergus Henderson's book The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating (I can lend a copy) which features a salad of bones!

    I'll think of more ...
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #4 - December 14th, 2005, 12:45 am
    Post #4 - December 14th, 2005, 12:45 am Post #4 - December 14th, 2005, 12:45 am
    Even among adventurous eaters, few want to return frequently to the dishes mentioned above. Lots of them fall into the category of subsistence foods -- things people eat because they (or their ancestors) needed to find food where they could, rather than because of any intrinsic goodness. I find Fergus Henderson's marrow-bone salad the most delicious of the suggestions so far, but it still isn't something I'd want to eat too frequently, due to its richness.

    Instead, you might look into foods that challenge one's perceptions of what they're supposed to be without necessarily evoking that instant "ugh" response: Peruvian purple potatoes, for example, or giant corn, candy-striped beets, chilled soups, spiced chocolates.

    Food dyed in unexpected colors can be a challenge. I personally found the Heinz colored ketchups off-putting and I note that the company's Web site says they no longer make them.
  • Post #5 - December 14th, 2005, 12:49 am
    Post #5 - December 14th, 2005, 12:49 am Post #5 - December 14th, 2005, 12:49 am
    If you can find it, I'd sugggest fresh huitlacoche as a challenging-looking, but utterly divine tasting food.
  • Post #6 - December 14th, 2005, 5:06 am
    Post #6 - December 14th, 2005, 5:06 am Post #6 - December 14th, 2005, 5:06 am
    nr706 wrote:If you can find it, I'd sugggest fresh huitlacoche as a challenging-looking, but utterly divine tasting food.


    The more common name, "corn smut," also presents a challenge, but not nearly so challenging as the root meaning of word, which in Nahuatl translates as "raven excrement."*

    Hammond

    *http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-huitlacoche.htm
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #7 - December 14th, 2005, 8:43 am
    Post #7 - December 14th, 2005, 8:43 am Post #7 - December 14th, 2005, 8:43 am
    I think things one group likes that others might not has to do with what we were raised with. The whole idea of chitterlings turns me off, but there's a great article in a recent Saveur (Dec issue?) about a mother and daughter bonding while cleaning and eating them (dad and other sisters don't like them).
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #8 - December 14th, 2005, 8:53 am
    Post #8 - December 14th, 2005, 8:53 am Post #8 - December 14th, 2005, 8:53 am
    I would highly suggest using beef tongue.

    A co-worker recently asked me if there was anything that I wouldn't eat. After answering "well, of course. I wouldn't eat another person, a 2x4, or a radial tire (among other things)", he started listing things and asking if I'd eat them.

    Tongue was on his list. I told him that I've been eating tongue since before I could walk. After seeing how disgusted he was, I pointed out the fact that the tongue is a muscle, just like any other cut from the animal. He didn't seem swayed.

    Clearly a point of prejudice. Why is someone comfortable eating muscles from every part of the cow except for the head?

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #9 - December 14th, 2005, 9:00 am
    Post #9 - December 14th, 2005, 9:00 am Post #9 - December 14th, 2005, 9:00 am
    I think people have a much harder time eating anything they can visualize where it came from on the cow or pig. (The same problem doesn't seem to apply to poultry, though it might if they left the head and feet on, I suppose.) Some get squeamish about ribs, even, but definitely tongue, feet, and other such easy to visualize parts. The ideal cow or pig part is a squarish block of meat that could have been removed from a door on the side of the animal for all you can tell.

    I used to gross out kids with tongue sandwiches in grade school. The lateral slices look to me now like CAT scans.
    Watch Sky Full of Bacon, the Chicago food HD podcast!
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  • Post #10 - December 14th, 2005, 9:19 am
    Post #10 - December 14th, 2005, 9:19 am Post #10 - December 14th, 2005, 9:19 am
    HI,

    Head Cheese like was served at Klas isn't widely accepted. Nor is blood sausage. While the elegantly named Czarina soup is made from duck's blood. Some tThai dishes have essentially 'Blood Jello.' While all are delicious people are turned off by the concept of consuming blood.

    Give the health conciousness of many, pork skin whether it is chicharon or lechon is not acceptable. Brain tacos from Pilsen I still dream about though are definitely a yuck in many people's opinions. My Dad was furious when he learned I was eating brain tacos simply because of Mad Cow disease.

    When my Mom used to regularly watch fear factor, she would call for me when the eating portions began. They made an eggnog from preserved eggs. People were eating pig uterus, testicles and penis. Live bugs!

    Preserved eggs or the famous Filipino Balut -- watch the video clip in the link!

    We also have a thread just on disgusting foods.

    Do let us know what you choose to present and their reaction. :roll:

    Regards.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #11 - December 14th, 2005, 2:27 pm
    Post #11 - December 14th, 2005, 2:27 pm Post #11 - December 14th, 2005, 2:27 pm
    Thanks for everyone who has so far contributed to my thinking on this. Indeed, as many of your posts point out, there is a question as to whether people react to the idea of the food in question, or to the taste/smell and texture itself. For instance, for me, eyeball tacos are just too threatening a concept. I fear I would never get the sense impression of biting down on an eye out of my mind and that I would be forever haunted by it, as I am by the image of the eyeball sliced open in the film Viridiana. Cow tongue, brains, pig testicles -- no problem, I enjoyed them. Gizzards, sweetbreads, and kidneys, I could eat every week. Nevertheless, I'm not after a Fear Factor experience. I'd just like to recreate the emotional experience of a child or a traveler for these focus-group moderators and ideation facilitators and R&D engineers -- a somewhat demanding experience. It should also be an experience that helps to dimensionalize people's reactions so that they may more effectively reflect upon them.

    Which prompts a follow-up question: Would it be more instructive to offer blind tastings? What about manipulating the context? For instance, though Cathy2's not a big fan of the silk worms, ReneG indicated that they taste a bit like crunchy walnuts. What do you think, Hammond? What about serving them in a context that walnuts would enhance, e.g. an ice cream sundae? It's probably not an accident that the Demon Barber of Fleet Street dispensed humans to be wrappen in pies, as almost anything in a pie crust is basically palatable, but that's another thread, isn't it?

    What about renaming the challenging food? "Popcorn shrimp" comes to mind, since, though I am not in possession of any data, it is quite possible that many middle Americans find shrimp a challenge. (Why else would you soak it in cocktail sauce?) In this vein, I think that someone on the board referred to Klas' sulc as what Spam would aspire to be. Head cheese may be an example of a food suffering unjustly for its name. Give it an original name (such a Spam) that evokes a pork product rather than a body part and you might have a market, (though perhaps not a $20 million market). Another strategy could be to develop a non-threatening rubric for what may otherwise be seen as unapproachable tastes, e.g. Village Creamery Ice Cream (Skokie)-- durian and jackfruit come to mind. What might other such rubrics be?

    I am also intrigued by LAZ's response, which suggests that the visual properties of an otherwise approachable food, like beets or tomatoes can put people off. This must have evolutionary roots, but I have to say, like LAZ, I could never bring myself to try the green ketchup on my pantry shelf.

    Again, thanks for any and all thoughts. I am also interested in vivid childhood memories of new foods. (Sorry, but my fascination with this is an occupational hazard).

    Oh, and Hammond -- yeah, William James. Now all I need is to scour the board for the food equivalent of a spiritualist medium. That could really sell with the new products folks. Any vounteers?
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #12 - December 14th, 2005, 2:34 pm
    Post #12 - December 14th, 2005, 2:34 pm Post #12 - December 14th, 2005, 2:34 pm
    Harry James, Henry James, William James, Jesse James, Etta James...I get them mixed up. At dinner the other night, I almost called you Jacqueline (which I'm sure is a name your parents may have briefly considered then immediately dismissed due to uncomfortable Stevensonian connotations).

    Before MikeG corrects you, the cut eyeball scene is in Un Chien Andalou (another film by Bunuel).

    Looking forward to hearing more about this at Tre Kroner.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #13 - December 15th, 2005, 8:37 am
    Post #13 - December 15th, 2005, 8:37 am Post #13 - December 15th, 2005, 8:37 am
    Josephine wrote:Again, thanks for any and all thoughts. I am also interested in vivid childhood memories of new foods. (Sorry, but my fascination with this is an occupational hazard).


    As above, beef tongue. I had never had sliced tongue sandwiches, or any tongue. My parents went out to dinner, and my grandmother served me boiled tongue. It was a big, nearly entire, tongue! With the tastebud stuff still on it around the sides, and some gristly bit where it must have attached. It even smelled like bad breath. There it was, plop, a big old tongue, looking like a tongue. Where someone had sliced off the top and bottom skin, and that was it. I couldn't even touch it. She made me taste it, and all I could taste was bad breath. ARGH!
    Leek

    SAVING ONE DOG may not change the world,
    but it CHANGES THE WORLD for that one dog.
    American Brittany Rescue always needs foster homes. Please think about helping that one dog. http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org
  • Post #14 - December 17th, 2005, 9:43 am
    Post #14 - December 17th, 2005, 9:43 am Post #14 - December 17th, 2005, 9:43 am
    leek wrote:

    "There it was, plop, a big old tongue, looking like a tongue."

    Thanks, leek, for this memory. (The embedded sound effect makes it ever so much more vivid, doesn't it?) This is an excellent illustration of MikeG's thoughtful point: that the closer the food is to a body part you can visualize, the more unapproachable the food is.

    So that brings me to another question: what about those of us who seek out unusual foods? Is it just that we never left behind the 4th and 5th grade gross-out stage? Or is there something more subtle at work? I'd certainly eat an eyeball made of marzipan, though I must admit that perhaps my anticipation wouldn't be quite as keen. Could it be too threatening to eat an eyeball , a finger, a tongue, or another sensory body part because that is somehow a transgression more fundamental than eating another creature? Certainly, vegetarians often respond to the idea of eating flesh as repugnant, which, if you think about it at all, it is. Alternatively, is there a shunning of mixed sensory stimuli at work? Some sensitive individuals require their foods to be in a certain color palette only, or need to cleanly separate different foods on a plate. Many cannot abide inrtrusive smells (tobacco, perfume) while dining. This must have been a concern for Chef Achatz in developing Alinea. On the other hand, experiences of synesthesia are among the most sublime in human experience. Is the culinary art particularly suited to evoking -- or approximating-- synesthesia?

    Any thoughts?
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #15 - December 17th, 2005, 1:50 pm
    Post #15 - December 17th, 2005, 1:50 pm Post #15 - December 17th, 2005, 1:50 pm
    Josephine wrote:Any thoughts?


    Would you like a little penis for free?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #16 - December 17th, 2005, 2:36 pm
    Post #16 - December 17th, 2005, 2:36 pm Post #16 - December 17th, 2005, 2:36 pm
    stevez--

    OK, I'll bite.

    Regarding coolerbythelake's lunch truck experience, I'm just wondering why a cook would offer the diner a "little one," when it's my understanding that big ones are also available for free.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.
  • Post #17 - April 7th, 2007, 12:28 pm
    Post #17 - April 7th, 2007, 12:28 pm Post #17 - April 7th, 2007, 12:28 pm
    Figured this would be the best thread to post this link (guess what search term I used to find this thread).

    Anyhow, from the BBC:
    Beijing's penis emporium
  • Post #18 - April 7th, 2007, 5:58 pm
    Post #18 - April 7th, 2007, 5:58 pm Post #18 - April 7th, 2007, 5:58 pm
    If you're trying to remove yourself from the fear factor aspect, what about doing a certain kind or genre of food? You could make it a tour from the most to least familiar: For instance, (off the top of my head) you could do eggs: chicken eggs, quail eggs, duck eggs, 1,000 year eggs, caviar, tobiko, salmon roe, ant eggs...

    Or cabbages: cole slaw, galumpkis, sauerkraut, kimchi...I don't really have the imagination to do this further, but I thought the concept might be interesting. Cheeses and sausages spring to mind as well.

    Next picnic I'm gonna have to bring Lengua a la Vinagreta, which I was raised on - no bad breath, I promise...
  • Post #19 - April 7th, 2007, 11:42 pm
    Post #19 - April 7th, 2007, 11:42 pm Post #19 - April 7th, 2007, 11:42 pm
    Not mentioned yet are eel and jelly fish. Both are tasty, both are available from more than one great cuisine, but both have connotations of being nasty and/or slimy. As Ogden Nash wrote, "I love eels, except as meals, and the way they feels."
    "All great change in America begins at the dinner table." Ronald Reagan

    http://midwestmaize.wordpress.com
  • Post #20 - April 8th, 2007, 7:29 am
    Post #20 - April 8th, 2007, 7:29 am Post #20 - April 8th, 2007, 7:29 am
    what a 'happy' lot we are...

    when we can contest, indulgence over real hunger.

    sorry, but... without digressing into the many cultural and evolutionary considerations - is there anything profound, to be 'gleaned' from your model experiment?

    greasy grimy gopher guts... from ughh, to yumm.
  • Post #21 - April 8th, 2007, 12:57 pm
    Post #21 - April 8th, 2007, 12:57 pm Post #21 - April 8th, 2007, 12:57 pm
    jellobee wrote:sorry, but... without digressing into the many cultural and evolutionary considerations - is there anything profound, to be 'gleaned' from your model experiment?

    jellobee, if your question is directed at the OP, then I'd have to say that one person's profound is another's trivial. In the context of LTH, I am always fascinated by the passion that accompanies discussion, and the very specific food observations -- they continually surprise me. In the context of a jaded group of new products marketing professionals, the original idea was to shake things up. Lots of the group process exercises people use to encourage the suspension of assumptions are a bit stale. This could rock, but I didn't get a chance to do it, as it turned out.

    Still, point taken. Profound is not what this is about. (See stevez's link to the classic chowhound post upthread.) Rethinking the subject line, this is not about creativity either, as that relates to something else that was behind the OP-- too boring to explain. I will spare you.

    However, as long as I promise not to develop a cute name and put a TM next to it, I could live with myself should I ever stage this tasting. (Might need to get releases signed by participants, though.) Besides, the new products context is highly tolerant of gimmickry.
    Man : I can't understand how a poet like you can eat that stuff.
    T. S. Eliot: Ah, but you're not a poet.

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