Usually our meals are pretty routine. It's not that we won't try new things. It's just that our choices are restricted by what's for sale, and that's usually limited to what people will buy. It often feels like our food supply is geared to the lowest common denominator. That doesn't normally bother me. There's safety and ease in going with what you know, but sometimes it's nice to break the routine. In the week before my digestive meltdown I had the opportunity leap out of my dietary rut on two occasions.
My book club met that Wednesday. We managed to talk about the book, but only after we discussed the seasonal appetizer our hostess served. She had set out two shallow dishes containing damp, green, wavy...stuff. It was actually rather pretty, and at first I didn't realize it was meant to be eaten. When she explained what it was I was a bit skeptical. I tried it anyway. After all, she had waded into the cold March ocean to collect it for us, she had rinsed it repeatedly to remove all the grit, and she was organized enough to marinate it in soy sauce and rice vinegar in advance. I figured that kind of effort deserved at least a taste on my part.
I selected a piece, tried to forget I was eating herring roe on seaweed, or spawn on kelp (SOK for short) as I later discovered it is generally called, and gave it a go. It tasted like the beach smells; like oyster guts. It wasn't spit-it-out gross, but I wasn't quite sure I liked it. I pondered the flavour for a while, then tried another piece.
That second trial was the charm. In a Green-Eggs-and-Ham-esque moment I discovered I do like spawn on kelp. I do! I had to restrain myself from gobbling up every piece on the plate. The only things stopping me were my manners and my caution when trying new foods. I don't like to overdo on the chance that there may be strange reactions later. I woke feeling fine the next day, which probably led to my brave, weedy choice at the whole-foods store.
Actually, my choice wasn't that brave. I had accidentally tried nettles last spring. I say accidentally because I didn't really choose the nettles. They arrived in my vegetable bin, and as I don't like to waste food I had to use them. It took some research and a few phone calls to figure out how to prepare them, but once I tried them I was hooked.
As a result, it hardly felt adventurous when, on the morning after my SOK experience, I bought nettles. On purpose. They went into risotto. I was so pleased with my daring dish that I was inspired to harvest some dandelion leaves from the yard for salad.
It's a good thing the risotto turned out well, as I made enough for 6 hungry people. You can see why, when I started to feel ill, my first thought was to blame my diet. How often do you eat weeds on 4 out of 7 days? I was relieved when I returned to work and discovered that several others had succumbed to the same stomach bug. Selfish, I know, but having just discovered these wild and weedy culinary delights I'm not anxious to give them up.