Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Try, Try and Try Again.

Thanks to Shauna's guest post on Limes & Lycopene, I discovered the rest of Kathryn Elliott's 31 Days To A Better Diet series. (As well as her entire fabulous blog.)

Several of the ideas in that series I already do. A few of the things I'd already made up my mind to incorporate into my diet. And the diet diary I avoided altogether. What really resonated with me in particular were days 7, 16 and 21. I knew I was in a rut. I knew I was trying to overcome some of the fears I have; what better way to start than with foods!

For years I've been telling people there really isn't any food I dislike other than, thanks to too many childhood dinners that included them, veggies that have been boiled to death. Oh and I just thought of a new one: carrot and parsnip mash.* Mainly because upon seeing it on the plate I always mistook it for mashed pumpkin and potato. They do NOT taste the same, people!

Sorry, digression over. I've always bragged there wasn't a food I wouldn't try at least once. Lookit me, I proudly eat century egg, chicken feet and all kinds of things that western people tend to consider revolting. Nothing I wouldn't try eh? I've been known to go looking for pizzle in asian grocery stores to try pizzle soup.

Nothing I wouldn't cook?

You sure about that?

What about brains?

What about fresh beetroot?

What about red cabbage?

What about figs?

WHAT ABOUT COTTAGE CHEESE?

What about-- Okay! I get the picture. But apart from the smell alone of brains putting me off (Dad used to eat crumbed/fried brains) I draw the line at them for safety reasons.

And the rest?

Well... Um... You got me there. I can't count the times I've bought red cabbage or fresh beets and let them languish in the crisper until it was time to chuck them out. They scare the crap outta me. They're so messy and hard to eat/cook and...yeah the reasons went on. I also thought the greens were poisonous like rhubarb greens. Cottage cheese the texture looked like I'd have serious issues with it; and it's a diet food! Everyone I knew who did weight watchers was shoving as much of the stuff in their gobs as they could get. We had a fig tree in the back yard when I was growing up. The smell in summer when the figs would drop onto, and end up ground in and baked on, the concrete was indescribable. I still gag when thinking about it. We prepared them once in chef school, but of course I made sure there were none left when it came my turn to try them. Oh! I also tried low fat Fig Newton's once. BLECH!

Last week I bought a bunch of three beetroots, a WHOLE red cabbage, and a tub of cottage cheese. I spent the whole afternoon ringing various people and scouring the internet for recipes. The beet greens were wilted so they were out, but there was no avoiding the roots. I opted to boil one, roast one and shred one raw on sandwiches. But come dinner time I was too stuffed to fart about and went with roasting the lot. I pulled on some trusty disposable gloves, (complete with thwacking noise and smart arse comment to Alaskaboy) then top'n'tailed the beetroot, peeled and cut them into eighths, tossed 'em in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and baked at 200C/400F for 45-50 mins.

OMG! I've avoided these delish gems for HOW LONG?! We ate a whole beetroot each with dinner and had the other a couple days later as part of a salad. Umm..yeah and beetroot helps your bowels along. I'm glad I knew that before eating them, else I'd probably have eaten more than I did in one setting and sat on the toilet all the next day.

Beetroot: Check! Verdict: Please Sir, I want some more.

The following morning, I spooned 1/2 a cup of the cottage cheese onto a saucer as part of breakfast. You shoulda seen it. I had to fight to get the first spoonful into my mouth. Screwed up my face exactly like a kid who does NOT want anything to do with what that Choo Choo or Aeroplane is carrying towards their gob. After that first bite I was hooked. I practically inhaled the serving while the rest of my breakfast lay neglected on my plate. I called Alaskaboy and yelled into the phone, "I LOVE cottage cheese! It's like cream cheese in a bath of sour cream!!!!!" I was that excited, those exclamation marks were practically visible in the air. It was only by a supreme effort of will, almost as great as getting that first spoonful in, that I made the remaining cottage cheese last a few days.

Cottage cheese: Check! Verdict: More! NOW!

I first tried the red cabbage in my chicken, cabbage and rice stirfry, but I really couldn't taste it, and the green cabbage version tastes better. I eat it fine in "salad mix" and didn't want to try coleslaw since I've had a fair bit of mayo recently. So, tonight we're trying Kathryn Elliott's Red Cabbage, Dried Fig and Pepita salad with dinner. I snacked on a dried fig while preparing the salad, they're kinda like dried dates but with extra crunchy bits in it and a slightly different flavour.

Red Cabbage: Check! Verdict: Dunno yet.

When we went to Whole Foods on the weekend to buy the dried figs for the salad, there just right inside the front door was a mountain of punnets. Full of--I'm betting you guessed it--fresh figs. I was going to call it good by tasting the dried figs in the salad, but that's cheating really, so I picked up a punnet that seemed to have soft but not too squishy fruit in it.

I had to look it up online when I got home, "How To Eat fresh Figs". Yeah, that's right, I had no clue! I'd tried looking through all my chef school handouts for the recipe we used, but I gave up halfway through. After washing us a fig each, I trimmed the stem off and chopped them in half, duly admired their pretty innards, and we sat down to eat them. Our techniques were vastly different. Alaskaboy put a whole half in his mouth and chewed relentlessly until it was gone. I nibbled bit after bit after bit. We both had the same reaction. It's not horrible or anything. Pleasant, but really didn't float our boats. The texture however was interesting. Almost like it was filled with thick raspberry jam or something.

Figs: Check! Verdict: Fresh = Eh. Could take it or leave it. Dried = Yum.

Funnily enough, this great food experiment has put my confidence through the roof. I feel fabulous. It's like I've got a new lease on life. It's not only gotten me over those long standing food fears but has helped me regain my sense of excitement with food. Ever since that antibiotic poisoning I've been almost scared to try anything new of even go outside my careful regimen of known safe foods. It probably also helped that I found some lox I could eat this week and was thus able to watch Alaskaboy eat his turkey lunch meat with only a little jealousy.

How about you guys? Got any foods you're afraid of or ones you're willing to retry?

Does anyone have tasty recipes for collard greens that don't include pork products?

Next week I'm gonna try me some turnips, parsnips and canned baby corn. Not all at once of course.

*Woohoo! Another new combination to try out as an adult.

7 Nibbles:

Fat Lazy Guy said...

I used to hate onions, cucumber, avocados, beetroot, jalapenos, tomato, pumpkin, kumara, tuna, salmon, spinach, capsicum (bell peppers) and... yeah. There are probably some things I'm forgetting. But because I kept trying them anyway, I came to acquire their tastes, and came to like them.

I'll pretty much try anything once, and if I think it's worth liking, I'll do my best to like it. Cottage cheese, however, is something I've not been able to like just yet :D

kathrynoh said...

I am totally afraid of cooking with stuff like yeast or gelatine - if I'm looking at a recipe that uses either, I stop reading straight away.

Have you thought of mashing your roast beetroot and mixing it with the cottage cheese to make a dip? Yum. My friends roast them covered in foil in the oven - much less messy.

Btw I've been to do the meme you tagged me for but am still thinking!

Marshmallow said...

I am totally green when it comes to leeks, swedes, yams, turnips, parsnips - never mind things like kohlrabi and kale.

I saw a beautiful dish on Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares pan-seared sea bass and creamed leeks that looked fan-fucking-tastic.

I think I need to try some new veggies!

cmae said...

Good for you for challenging yourself! I love cottage cheese - it is just like how you described it! Isn't it wonderful? And beets are another favorite of mine. The only taste I don't really like is fennel, but I'll eat it chopped really fine in a soup.

My man steams collards with a bit of garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil to taste. I like them, but then again, I also like veggies that have been boiled to death. Probably because I grew up on New England boiled dinners.

kathryn said...

Oh well done Kada - that's all a brilliant, brilliant result. You've done something which most people never do. And given my obsessive love of beetroot, I'm extra glad you liked it!

My favourite beetroot recipe is a kind-of curry, paired with tomatoes and very mild. But one of those dishes where the final dish is so much greater than the ingredients.

And new confidence in cooking. Very good.

Christie @ fig&cherry said...

Great post! I was smiling the whole time I was reading it. You're very brave revealing all that and good on you for giving those foods a go!

Can I suggest a cooking method to make you love red cabbage?

Shred the cabbage and add to a saucepan that has a lid. Grate a red apple and add that to the cabbage. Add a splash of water and cook with the lid on over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Check and stir to make sure it's not catching on the bottom. Season with salt, pepper and a tablespoon of butter and steam with the lid on for another 5 minutes.

It's really tasty! The cabbage becomes really soft and the sweetness of the apple (which will turn purple!) is really nice. Plus, adding a little bit of butter to veggies never hurts!

Hope you try it!

Elfdesign said...

Parsnips are really good in chicken noodle soup.

Collard greens are very tasty just stemmed, rough-chopped, and then sauteed in some olive oil with garlic. I occasionally will chop up a red onion and toss it in there too. And then add a bit of vinegar at the end. Salt it, pepper it, and red pepper doesn't hurt either. Yum.

If crunchy greens aren't your thing, do all the above, and then braise in white wine, chicken broth, or water. Also yum.

It's also really good when you get a potato into the mix - like chard and greens in enchiladas. Mmm.