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Criminally underappreciated foods


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Lobster used to be something fed to criminals and slaves. Tuna belly was considered no better than dog food until just a few decades ago. Oysters used to be a free snack food given out in bars to keep people drinking. Sure, there are some foods which could be considered underappreciated today but it's hard to think of many examples that had such a reversal in status.

If a visitor from 100 years in the future came back, would there be anything they would consider that we also similarly criminally under appreciate? About the only thing I can really think of is bone marrow and even that has a large degree of respect within foodie circles although not with the general public.

Tied to this, I wonder how such foods were perceived by the foodie elite of the time. Sure, quite a lot of people are driven by fads & consensus opinion but true foodies learn to trust their tongue more than other people. Could they also not recognize the inherent deliciousness in those foods?

PS: I am a guy.

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Chicken wings were tossed into the leftover bin and you could get them for free to feed to dogs.

Lamb was one of the cheapest meats on the market. I know because it's all we could afford 50 years ago when we were first married. Now we can't afford to eat lamb.

Also according to some sources, almost the entire soya markets arose from a clever idea of how to market the leftovers after fermented soy products were made. I have no idea of whether this is true or not. :huh:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

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My husband grew up hating parsnips. His mum used to boil them and serve them with butter - Bunnicula carrots. I found some in their crisper once, cut them into matchsticks and roasted them in olive oil and butter. Not only did they eat them all, I caught him and his brother in the kitchen after, trying to peel the crispy ones stuck to the pan off.

I nominate: lard.

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Okra. I roast em whole at 450 and hit them with a squeeze of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar when done. Love those things. People gripe about them being slimy, when roasted whole they are not slimy at all.

Rutabagas rock too.

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I have to agree with the root vegetables. Potatoes and sweet potatoes have stolen all the limelight. It's time they move over and give parsnips, rutabagas, beets, celeriac, turnips, etc. room to shine!

edited to add: I'm with Darienne, I'm still not sure about Okra :hmmm:

Edited by Shamanjoe (log)

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I think specific food appreciations (or lack thereof) are too culturally specific to be painted with such a broad brush. "Criminally underappreciated" in one culture is a daily staple in another. My upbringing in rural USA did not leave me prepared for the first time I experienced an authentic Asian market. We are culturally horrified in the US by horse meat and dog meat but have you ever tried it? Is it underappreciated here or just taboo?

Appreciations also ebb and flow with time. Not only can we look back and see foods we now hold dear being effectively thrown away in previous eras but the reverse is also true. I think that organ meats (offal, variety meats, guts or whatever you want to call them) were far better appreciated and much more widely eaten even a few decades ago. Calves brains, sweetbreads, boudin noir (blood sausage) etc were all considered standard fare on classic menus around the world just 30 years ago. Now (thanks largely part to BSE/mad cow fears) I can’t even get the brains from my own cattle, from my own butcher, for my own table. No wonder it’s difficult to find good variety meats in a restaurant today.

Another thought: In today’s food industry, marketing as much as classic supply and demand dictates what is available on grocery shelves. We buy things because Oprah or the NY Times or the Slow Food organization (bless their souls) tell us that it’s good, interesting, different or just plain popular. Chef Paul Prudholm’s Cajun “blackend redfish” almost single handedly led to the extinction of a species. Now where is it? There are cuts of a beef that once were often ground into hamburger that today command prices just shy of the super-prime cuts in some cases (thinking here especially of the flat meats like skirt steak/flank/brisket etc.) because BBQ, churrascaria’s and fajitas are currently in wide vogue.

The Big Cheese

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I think specific food appreciations (or lack thereof) are too culturally specific to be painted with such a broad brush. "Criminally underappreciated" in one culture is a daily staple in another.

In Asia, chicken thighs usually command a higher price than chicken breast meat. Every time I go home to Canada, I worry that people will have discovered thigh. Fortunately for me, breast still seems to be favoured there.

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Turnips are food for the Gods. But, a good, golden and crispy parson's nose takes a lot of beating!

Not once have I eaten a parson's nose - I took a vow as a child that my mum could have them all. Even when I roast a chicken at home I still dutifully pack up the nose to take to her on the weekend :laugh:

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Marinated grilled skirt steak was one of my favorites growing up in the 1970s and 80s, and it was cheap, because most people didn't know what it was or what to do with it, but the fajita craze made it suddenly desirable and expensive.

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I reintroduced myself on the Moringa thread so won't repeat here. I wander through eg at lengthy intervals when life permits. It's always interesting.

In the US so many vegetables seem criminally under appreciated, and in fact, criminally libeled / slandered:

1. Root vegetables other than potatoes (OK I know I am mixing up tubers and roots): beets, parsnips, turnips etc. These are superlatively excellent when roasted, I know I am preaching to the choir here. :)

2. Cruciferous veggies: cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and so on. One can write entire cookbooks around their deliciousness.

3. Okra, as many upthread have mentioned. Those who (in this day and age, and on this of all groups) who remain 'in the dark': find an Indian/South Asian friend who's a decent home cook, or go to a good Indian restaurant, or get a cookbook and try just about any recipe from this region for okra. The word 'slime' is unknown to these cuisines for this vegetable.

Luckily, other parts of the world don't have this negative baggage about any of these veggies.....

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Marinated grilled skirt steak was one of my favorites growing up in the 1970s and 80s, and it was cheap, because most people didn't know what it was or what to do with it, but the fajita craze made it suddenly desirable and expensive.

We are lucky, I guess, because the bodegas in DC still have cheap and plentiful skirt steak. Sometimes when I'm in the Whole Foods I do a double take -- they charge almost twice what the Mercado Internationale around the corner from my house charges.

Speaking of criminally under-appreciated, I'd go with salt cod, which makes about six different excellent apps.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Parsnips definitely! Another one is Cauliflower. It is such a regal vegetable and not used anywhere near enough. Fresh sardines are right up there as well as the hated anchovy. Pigs cheek is rarely ever found on menus. Then there's things like custard apples and cape gooseberries which when they come into season, never seem to make it onto menus. And what about mulberries? When in season and on song they are great. Don't see them in a restaurant very often do you? Another one is Brussel Sprouts. The ubiquitous Brussel Sprout. Yum. Blanch then pan fried with a bit of butter and toasted caraway seeds. Yum. I love smoked mullet roe too. It's pretty new to Western Culture - at least the Japanese version which is my favourite - but it's amazing.

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