I have been preparing my own meals for many years. Like most people, I suppose, I would fix only familiar dishes.
That has changed. For health benefits, I began eating more fruits and vegetables. Trying unfamiliar vegetables and fruits made eating interesting and more enjoyable. Many of those new fruits and vegetables became favorites. I tried many other foods that were new to me, for example, whole grains, various types of beans, seeds and nuts. Many of those became favorites. Using unfamiliar ways of preparing food also made eating more of an adventure. A few of my favorites are pesto (pureed greens and oil), raw foods that are normally eaten cooked, and unusual combinations such as bread with peanut butter, covered with pizza sauce.
The circumstances of my life encouraged more changes. Making do with a small amount of money gave me a liking for oatmeal, beans, and other very low-cost foods. Growing up on a farm and having a garden each year provided new fruits and vegetables to try and enjoy. Having been raised to ‘waste not, want not', helped me not to pass up unusual foods: gifts such as my sister's ‘beans ‘n’ greens', the landlord's parogies, and my son's homemade deer jerky. The point is: The changes in my diet gave me more foods to enjoy. I now know that I can like a great many unfamiliar foods. At first some of those foods may not be enjoyed because they are so different and are unrecognized as a ‘goody’. For me, that recognition is typically made gradually by many small trials. Once that recognition is made, the food ‘hits the spot’ and can be nutritious, healthy and convenient. Then I have yet another food to enjoy.
The process of trying new foods and having them become enjoyed fare, makes eating an adventure. Eating becomes more nteresting and more enjoyed. Meals become more than a time to enjoy what I have enjoyed before. Awareness is heightened by experiencing the unfamiliar. There is anticipation of discovery of a new enjoyment. Meals become pay-off times of previous experimentation efforts. The food is more appreciated for having creative effort invested in it. Perhaps I have gained a health benefit, saved some prep time, saved money that can be used for some other purpose, and have added to my repertoire of pleasure.
A cookbook might help you get ideas about what new foods to try. A cookbook about a particular ethnic food or some other unfamiliar category of food would be particularly helpful. Buy one or get one from the library. Some ethnic categories are Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, African, soul food, Southern, and Mexican. Other categories are health food, quick and easy recipes, weight loss diets, vegetarian recipes, and using food from the garden. You might even enjoy some obscure categories such as pioneer food, early American/Native American food, wild food, early European food, food from storage, and low cost food. I particularly like quick and easy cookbooks.
If you need help becoming comfortable with trying new foods, try small changes:
- Eat breakfast foods at lunch or supper. Or try a vegetable at breakfast. If you normally have a sandwich at bedtime, have a salad instead.
- Try different brands from the ones you normally use.
- Leave out one or more ingredients from your standard recipes. Or change the proportions - a little more of this or a little less of that.
- Substitute a similar ingredient for a usual ingredient, for instance, orange juice concentrate or lemon juice instead of vinegar on a salad.
- It may help to eat smaller portions but include a greater number of foods at each meal. That may help you develop a liking for variety.
- Try unusual combinations such as cooked chicken and raw fruit cut in small pieces and mixed together. . . or pizza sauce on a peanut butter open-face sandwich. . . or a teaspoon of honey or pancake syrup on a dark green, leafy salad.
Salads are great to experiment with. Many vegetables can be enjoyed in a salad. Try various amounts and combinations of carrot, tomato, cabbage, broccoli, bell pepper, cucumber, or other vegetables you enjoy. Use other types of greens: romaine lettuce, bibb lettuce, collards, mache and basil. Dressing can be just oil, pesto, syrup, tomato sauce, ketchup, fruit juices, mayonnaise, peanut butter softened with oil, and even jam or jelly. Dressing can be used to soften the strong flavor of raw cabbage, basil, or dark green lettuce.
The subtle flavors of many vegetables are easily hidden with anything more than tiny amounts of vinegar, lemon juice and tomato sauce. Try a salad without any dressing to enjoy the full flavor of the vegetables. The vegetables can be proportioned to subdue or enhance particular flavors - use less basil to lessen its pungent flavor, use more carrot to boost its flavor and texture. Other salad ingredients can be nuts, peanuts, coconut, cereal, baked beans, and fruit. Some ingredients I like are raw beets, raw potato and raw sweet potato.
Watch out for raw greens and other raw vegetables that cause digestion system upset. It only takes small amounts of some raw vegetables to cause a lot of discomfort. Use small quantities of an untested food to begin with until you know how well your body deals with it. The body will adapt to some foods over a period of weeks or months but results vary from food to food and, I suppose, from individual to individual. Some raw foods I avoid because of previous bad experiences are green beans, asparagus, and beet leafs. I don't eat more than a tablespoon of raw parsley pesto in a day. The same for kale. I don't eat more than the equivalent of 1/4-cup pesto of raw Chinese cabbage.
To develop a liking for a new food, eat it at the beginning of a meal when you are most hungry. Being hungry greatly improves the ability to appreciate the taste of a food. Eat only a small amount of the new food at each sitting. For some foods, a tiny bite, just enough to sense its flavor, is enough to handle at first. Don't give up easily on a food that at first seems too strange to be enjoyed. Some foods will require dozens of ‘get acquainted’ trials.
Other strategies for liking new foods:
- Read about nutrition and health to know the benefits of a changed diet.
- Be aware of how much time you spend shopping for food and other food related tasks. Would you rather have some of that time available for other things? Non-traditional foods can use preparation methods that take less time.
- Make a choice about the money you spend for food. Atypical foods may be less expensive than traditional and popular food. Getting the most bang for the buck can add to the pleasure of eating.
- Make a decision to increase the pleasure in your life. Your success in developing a fondness for a new food, will encourage you to try other kinds of new pleasures.
Have reasons in mind to try unusual foods:
- to be able to enjoy healthy foods.
- to enjoy low-prep-time foods.
- to use what you can grow in your garden.
- for the satisfaction of acquiring new pleasures.
- to increase your enjoyment of eating.
Know why liking new foods is difficult. This is the know-your-enemy principle. It seems to help me. People have an instinctive protection against eating toxic foods. Nature has provided you with a mistrust for new, unfamiliar food. If the food is enough different from what you are used to, it will not be immediately liked. This is a necessary instinct that keeps you from poisoning yourself by eating the wrong mushroom, for example. Evolution along with chemistry eliminated the gulp-down-anything individuals from our gene pool. The little-by-little taste-developers survived.
If it's the sugar, salt and spices you depend upon to enjoy food, other flavors will go unappreciated. To help your fondness for new foods come easier, ease up on spices, salt, and sugar. That encourages your taste to appreciate a greater variety of flavors. You then can more appreciate the sweetness of cherry tomatoes, the sweetness of raw pumpkin, and the sweetness of sweet potatoes, for example. You can enjoy the mild flavor of raw chestnuts, the richness of nuts, and the subtle starchiness of cereal grains. Your palate will be more adept at experiencing the pleasures of subtle flavors. A great many foods that previously seemed mostly tasteless, can then be enjoyed for their unique flavors.
Your enjoyment of stronger tasting food will be helped by reducing sugar and salt use. You will be switching from depending on saltiness and sweetness to getting pleasure from other flavors.
Finding new foods:
- Browse at a health food store, a farmers market or an ethnic food festival.
- Take the time to look at all the items at a local supermarket.
- Browse at local ethnic food markets: Middle Eastern or Greek, for example.
- Try raw foods and whole grains.
- Use native plants and foraged plants. Know what you are doing, there are poisonous plants that resemble edible ones. A few plants are toxic even when eaten in small quantities.
- Do your own cooking and gardening, if you have the time and space.
A few unusual recipes can be found at www.leisureideas.com/easy recipes unusual recipes.htm
Alan Detwiler started the web site Leisureideas. Visitors to the site are encouraged to use imagination and whatever happens to be available to discover new ways to enjoy themselves.
Alan writes books on how to pursue playfulness and a sense of wonder. His books are available in digital format and can be purchased and downloaded on the eBookMall web site. Go to http://www.ebookmall.com Then do a search for Detwiler.