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Bizarre Reactions...


cakewench
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The world is full of cultural incongruities, and it isn't always possible to measure up to one's own open-minded ideals. I like to think I'll try anything once... but when you get right down to it there are a few things that give me pause. So on the other side of the coin, I can only hope that I can offer as much tolerance and understanding to other people's cultural taboos as I need for my own.

Funny how that golden rule just keeps rearing its head....

Strangely I would consider myself fairly open to new eating experiences, but there is a line that I would draw. Number one on my list is the fetus of a Chinese River Dolphin that I once read an account of being served as the special dish to a (horrified) European guest. Number two is any dessert containing peanut butter, but anything else I am game for.

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:laugh:

What excellent responses... canned pumkpin is actually something I brought along with me, for my pumpkin bread recipe. That went over well with his family, once they got over the 'pumpkin? bread?' problem. :raz:

Back to my brownies, one last time. I was very aware that they were rich, so I had cut them into small (miniscule, by American standards!) squares. I knew this was their tea/coffee time, and that this would be the appropriate size for the time of day/ beverage of choice/ tastebuds of someone not used to the richness/ etc. I did put a lot of thought into this, as I have spent a lot of time being the 'the American' foisting off food on non-Americans. heh.

Smaller brownies usually work over here, because people are used to having a nice piece of chocolate with their coffee, anyway. For example, cappucinos are always served with a piece of chocolate here, and it is a nice addition. I'm quite certain it was the cheese that made them turn up their noses.

More for us, I say. At least my fiance loved them.

On the other notes: I can appreciate the analogies to bug eating (I think just a little part of me died inside at the thought of comparing my lovely brownies to Fear Factor food!), but this wasn't nearly so extreme. Those cases are involving ingredients 'we' wouldn't normally dream of consuming (yes, I'm sure some eG'ers would, just work with me on this!), no matter how they were prepared. I wasn't serving up fluffy kitty fetuses, I was serving food made up of ingredients that these people would have happily eaten in any other combination. It was a leap of faith I was asking for, yes, but it wasn't a massive one.

As for the 'American' factor: Honestly? Yes, one of the guys in particular probably avoided them because he simply hates all things American. I only know this because my fiance has told me; I have not spoken to the guy, myself. He knows English but won't use it with me (I am in the process of learning German, but am obviously restricted to rather rudimentary sentences in the meantime. And, people like this don't usually want to put up with that sort of crap. :hmmm: ) Perhaps one or two others feel the way that he does, but the vast majority are simply very nice guys. (in fact, the Yank-hater hates just about everything. He isn't exactly personable, and has very few friends. If you can imagine that. haha) On the other end of the scale, there is a Thai man who has a lot of family in the US, loves it there, and has had us over for traditional Thai food. :wub: Of course the Swiss man is lovely (neutrality, hah), but above all else, did I mention:

The FRENCH guy had FIVE of them! :laugh::laugh:

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Yes of course with all this pseudo-intellectual talk of cultural differences etc, one tends to forget that rude dickheads are found in all cultures. This is also a distinct possibility based on what you have described. :smile:

I have had few poor experiences with people of germanic extraction, however, at a family dinner I did see a German guest react badly to the sight of roast pumpkin on his dinner plate. Apprently, Pumpkin = cattle food. It wasn't a big deal and I know that the hosts of the dinner would have reacted in the same manner as their German guest if they were served pig knuckle or Ox muzzle in Germany.

Edited by Adam Balic (log)
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Food and exchanges involving food are sacred in all parts European. Universally, refusing to even taste something home made by a co-worker's fiance and presented along with an engagement announcement is a personal insult thinly veiled beneath a food combination aversion. The guys must have been childish schoolboys succumbing to that kind of herd mentality.

Unfortunately, there's nothing that can be done about it. Best to have a really fabulous party and not invite the childish bores who shunned your divine labors of love.

From the French people I know, I can say it would be a rare occurance for someone to come home from the bakery and say, "Man, I just hate it when people don't say :Bonjour, Messieurs-Dames ! Its so - RUDE!" :laugh::laugh::laugh:

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Yea, wierd looks and upturned noses at various food products is a common thing in many areas. In Texas, I was an EC at a Cowboy resort and people from all over the world that stayed there couldn't figure out what Chicken Fried Steak was. Was it chicken? lol...it was funny. But I think that as food progresses and people are more informed about various styles and cuisines, the public as a whole will be more adventerous.

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No, peanut butter and jam does not translate well in Western Europe.

I eventually got used to peanut butter and jam sandwiches when I realised that's what american pen pal meant by peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! As a Brit, what I call jelly I think the US call Jell-O? the idea of some lurid green wobbly gelatinous stuff on bread was way too freaky for me!

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:laugh: Adam, I've heard many comments from Germans regarding ...well, most vegetables. Mainly, that they would be better served as ham. :rolleyes:

(Savory pumpkin was one of my favorites things to have in Oz. I won't be finding it here anytime soon. Perhaps when we hit the UK)

Peanut butter and jam! The jam/jelly thing is a common misconception, actually. Yes, Brits have a product called 'jelly', which in American is 'Jello', but Brits ALSO have 'jelly' in the form that Americans know it. Say, mint jelly? In that sense, the jelly is just the clear juice from that substance (mint), boiled down with sugar until it gets to a vaguely gelatonous quality. Well, in the States, the most popular partner to peanut butter is Concord grape jelly. It's not a jam (jam = bits o'fruit in it), it's a clearish jelly made by boiling down sweet grape juice. No bits of grape, no jam-like qualities.

Concord grape jelly is sold in massive jars, and is made to be just thin enough to soak through any sort of bread during the 4 hours you have to wait until lunchtime. :hmmm: It is a popular lunchtime food for middle-school kids.

A lot of us make PB&J's from jams, though. I prefer strawberry. And I've drifted enough. I'm certain there is a massive PB&J thread out there, somewhere, addressing this exact issue.

Back to the original (sorta) subject: Hey, I like rutebegas. We had them in New England, around Thanksgiving, all the time. They are an acquired taste, though, I think.

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Good point. I'm not a member of the Clean Plate Club by any stretch of the imagination, but I take the importance of a palatable attitude quite seriously; a rotten one can ruin any great meal.

An old Muslim folk tale tells of a tribe that is making its way north from Mecca during Ramadan (the month of fasting; no food or water from sunrise to sunset). They stumble onto another tribe's turf. The leaders meet, and the travelling tribe is invited to set up camp for the night. A huge feast is laid out (before sunset). There is an entire roast pig (Muslims don't eat pork).

The Muslim chief thanks his new friends and helps himself to a portion of everything. One of his associates pulls him aside, appalled, and asks him why he is 1) breaking his fast, and 2) eating pork, to which the elder simply responds, "Better to commit a thousand forgivable crimes than the sin of offending our host".

Eh.

A good friend of mine recently broke a 28 year stretch of vegetarianism by eating goat's blood soaked rice that was offered in her honor by a tribal elder in Uganda.

Eat the brownies.

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I went to my local Indian grocer this weekend. Next door was an Indian bakery. I'm always on the look out for new sweets and new flavors. Last week was Halva, and I'm now officially an addict. The bakery had all kinds of interesting looking cookies. Shortbread was a common theme, they had 5 or 6 kinds. The charming woman behind the counter kept giving my friend and I a cookie from each kind, so we could taste. I ended up getting some scrumptious almond merengue cookies, some kind of sand tart, and what may have been a lemon/almond/poppyseed cookie. Divine. My friend and I both really were intrigued by two shortbreads labled "salt". One had cumin seeds in it. I HAD to try that. She gave us one of each kind and we split them. Each of us took a bite of the cumin/salt/shortbread. My poor american mind just couldn't get around the salty shortbread I'm afraid. Very salty, and sweetish. But distinctly more salty than anything else. It reminded me a little of that time when I was young when I age some bakers dough against all maternal caution. I wanted to gag and spit it out but I gamely chewed and swallowed. I smiled. The lady indicated that I should try the pure one, with no cumin. I did. Worse. We smiled, thanked her, picked out cookies and then left. As we got out of the store I covertly dropped the rest of the cookie that was clutched in my sweaty little fist into the outside trash can.

I will be back for more of the merengues and the lemony almond things though.

I must say that I like other Indian desserts far more than Indian cookies. But I'm glad I tried them. Maybe I'll experiment and make a sweet cumin shortbread.

After I work off the halva, that is.

edited to add: I adore rutabegas and kale. I hardly make a vegetable soup that doesnt have both in there. I have not met a cheese that I did not like.

Edited by nessa (log)
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I brought a tried and true Greek salad to a pot luck made up of ranchers and rural types. (I'm talking about real cowboys and cowgirls). I used mixed baby greens, artichoke hearts, Feta, red onion, cherry tomatoes, pepperincini and Kalamata olives. I always dress it with EVOO ans balsamic vinegar. My huge wooden bowl stayed full and there were many requests for ranch dressing. One woman confided in me she was afraid to eat weeds because dogs and animals..."you know..."

You gotta know your crowd.

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I'm amazed at the things many American folks won't eat. Often the best bits:........

.......and, of course, Cuban cigars...

It's just that tobacco is damned tough. You chew and chew and chew... :laugh:

(sorry, I couldn't resist myself)

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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My roommate is a freelance photographer who occasionally goes on these student exchange programs where he travels to a foreign country, takes pictures and stays with a host family. One year it was New Zealand, another year it was India and a third it was Brazil. On one particular instance, he went to China for a three month extended visit. The first evening of his arrival, he was served a multi-course dinner....and one of the entrees was a boiled grasshopper (or maybe it was a cicada). Not wanting to offend his hosts, he took a bite. All went well until later in the evening when he retched and threw a vomiting fit.

Of course, the host mom figured what was wrong and proceeded to mother him for three days on a diet of congee and porridge. No, it's not Ellen's Mongolian foodblog, but it comes a tad close. :biggrin:

Soba

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I had mentioned this in another thread, but the US military is introducing a new flavor of MRE's, Dirty Rice. Only problem was they had to change the name to something like "Cajun Rice and Sausage" so the non Louisianians would eat it. They were fine with it after the name change, even though it made several of them nauseous to think about it with the original name.

I get that same sort of reaction to a lot of things that I'll cook. I was cooking gumbo for friends one night (they're from Kentucky), and I was in the middle of making the roux. One of them comes running into the kitchen asking what was burning... That will instill confidence in a cook.

Edited by FistFullaRoux (log)
Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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I guess the same can be said for menudo, vegemite or even pigs feet. People that haven't grown up on certain items or traditions just can't fathom eating something that they don't readily recognize. Good example...kids that won't eat pasta that has bits of parsley in it....... :raz:

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The big hit of the pot luck? A "Mexican" casserole made with shredded American cheese, canned green chilis, and cream of mushroom soup.

Each to his own taste.

Marcia.

Did they use cream cheese in it too?

I thought it was an "only in Michigan" thing.

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I dunno. The original story sounds like plain old rudeness to me. Germany is not a "foreign culture." They know what brownies are. They know what sugar is. They know what cheese is. They know what chocolate is. They may well have realized that these brownies were going to be much sweeter than what they preferred, but they could have each taken a brownie and had a few bites. But I guess all it needs is for the first person to refuse, then plain old "mob mentality" rules. (And as I re-read this I feel I have to add: that was a general "mob mentality" comment, not a reference to Germany!!)

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I guess I feel like there's nothing inherently rude in refusing food. I mean, if one is rude about the refusal -- "Ycch, I wouldn't put that disgusting-looking morsel in my mouth if you paid me!" -- that's another story. But why is one obligated to eat something, merely because it is offered? Certainly there are situations, and cultures, in which refusal of food IS considered rude, but a tray of goodies handed round in a teachers' common room doesn't strike me as one of them. Maybe the people involved were watching their weight. Maybe they don't like sweets. Maybe they had big lunches. Whatever. If the scenario is that they routinely eat goodies that are offered by other Europeans, but not by Americans, that's a different issue. But simply saying "No thanks" in this situation doesn't strike me as any ruder than saying "No thanks" to the waiter at a cocktail party who's passing around a tray of hors d'oeuvres.

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When we used to live in Florida, a few years ago, would always bring several dishes to our friends' Derby Day party (generally appetizer or finger type food).

We had a few regular offerings that would always go as soon as we put them on the table.

But then, just for fun, every year would try one or two items that we thought were delicious.

One year we made hummus. Now we eaten a lot of hummus and believe we make at least a passable version.

Arranged and cut the pita so it was easy to use. And added a spoon so people would not have to dip.

The stuff went untouched.

Had a recipe for a quite good smoked mullet spread (great with crackers); that too, was ignored.

As an aside, cannot find smoked mullet anymore, quite a pity.

And there were others.

Learned that what works in one area may just not hold up a few miles away.

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Care to post this recipe in http://www.RecipeGullet.com?

I'm pretty sure I've posted it here. I'm afraid it's not much of a "recipe", since it's more a "list of ingredients, adjust to taste", and pretty darned simple.

The big hit of the pot luck? A "Mexican" casserole made with shredded American cheese, canned green chilis, and cream of mushroom soup.

Did they use cream cheese in it too?

I believe so. I remember it being remarkably unremarkable - not really offensive because there wasn't enough flavor to offend. Yes, of course I tried some :smile:.

And I love kale (there's a lovely fresh bunch in the fridge right now) and often use rutabagas. I liked sweetbreads the one time I had a chance to try them, and the tongue in a Thai "stew" was somewhat unexpected but rather tasty, but I just don't have the opportunity to try other offal much. I'd love to try the unpasteurized, runny, stinky cheeses sometime.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Food and exchanges involving food are sacred in all parts European.  Universally, refusing to even taste something home made by a co-worker's fiance and presented along with an engagement announcement is a personal insult thinly veiled beneath a food combination aversion.   The guys must have been childish schoolboys succumbing to that kind of herd mentality. 

I have to agree with this sentiment. We aren't talking about a buffet line where unknowns didn't eat a dish amongst others -- she brought these items as a celebration of an important personal milestone, to be shared with friends or at least "social ..." I can't come up with a term. They may not be exactly "friends," especially the guy who appears to be simply an ass, but they are people she or her fella would see on a day to day basis and want to continue to be "friendly" with and certainly not antagonistic. I myself might ask for an explanation about an item I was unfamiliar with, but I would not refuse to at least sample an item someone offered me in good faith in this context, no matter what it was. Other than by virtue of a religious dietary code, there's no reason not to just pretend to eat and enjoy an item no matter how vile you find it, and I think even a citable code still requires that you explain and apologize for not indulging. In that situation, you aren't making apologies for your religion or code, you are simply showing that the refusal has nothing to do with the food or the host.

We're talking sugar, chocolate, and, yes, cheese of a sort. The folks described in the original post were simply being rude.

Edited by Dignan (log)
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I agree--it was pretty rude to refuse the brownies, even if the combination sounded unusual to them.

I still remember going to my kindergarten open house (I think I was only 4 years old at that point) and the teacher served us "ants on a log"--peanut butter spread on raw celery, with raisins on top. I had never had raw celery at this point. It was disgusting to me, and I just couldn't bring myself to swallow it. I felt sick. Still, I waited until the open house was over, and ran into the kitchen at home to spit it out. (I was always a shy kid so my mom didn't really notice that I hadn't said much during the whole afternoon). My mom was shocked that I had kept the half-chewed celery in my mouth for so long (probably at least an hour or two!) but she was proud that I wasn't rude enough to spit it out in front of the teacher.

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