If you know me well, you know that I’m a pretty picky eater… my allergies (mild soy allergy, violent peanut allergy), my vegetarianism, and my dislike of spicy foods all limit my diet. I also generally dislike unhealthy foods… most of my peers seem to enjoy junk food, highly processed foods, and foods which provide no nutrition except for empty calories, but I find almost all junk foods to be unappetizing. Perhaps this is psychological, but I know plenty of people who enjoy junk food despite knowing full well that it is bad for them, so if it is a psychological distaste it is at least consistent 🙂
Upon arriving in California, I vowed to be more adventurous… I wanted to try new and nutritious foods to expand my diet and improve my health. I think I’ve been mildly successful so far, although there is plenty of room for future growth. However, there have been some failed experiments, and I’d like to share those with you before I get to the good stuff (hopefully in the next few days).
== Foods I did NOT enjoy ==
* Millet – It’s entirely possible that I simply don’t know how to cook millet. I’ve made it in my rice cooker several times, sometimes by itself and sometimes mixed with other grains, sometimes with many other flavorful ingredients (vegetables, spices, broth) and sometimes just with bananas (my traditional lunch being bananas and brown rice). No matter how I cook the millet, I find that it makes my meal significantly less enjoyable. Millet has little to no flavor, but I’m not a huge fan of whatever flavor it has. The real problem is that I find it hard to chew, and it feels very heavy in my stomach. (Contrast this with quinoa or amaranth, which is very light and leaves you wondering whether you really ate as much as you thought you did.) I just cooked a meal with only a half cup of millet, mixed in with 1 cup rice, 1/2 cup quinoa and 1/2 cup amaranth, and millet still had a negative impact on the result. (The day before I enjoyed mixing the other 3 ingredients together, without the millet.)
Part of the problem I must concede is that millet has a much faster cooking time than rice or other grains… my rice cooker finishes my rice in 45-60 minutes, and when cooked by itself millet only took about 35 minutes. It seems that the result when I mix millet in with longer-cooking ingredients like rice is that the other ingredients get undercooked and the millet gets overcooked, making the rice harder and chewier and the millet feeling deader. Perhaps if I cooked the millet by itself and mixed it in later, I’d enjoy the result more. However, I simply didn’t like the millet by itself, that’s why I was experimenting with mixing it in with other grains in the first place. I don’t mind that much, the millet was actually the cheapest grain I’ve purchased recently by a small margin, at only 90-something cents per pound in bulk. Still, cheap food that I don’t like and won’t eat is still a waste of money.
As far as I’m concerned, a little millet goes a long way towards making a meal suck. F.
* Kamut puffs – As a child I enjoyed corn puffs greatly, although I no longer seem to eat them. When I saw kamut puffs in the health food store, I thought that this would be a great opportunity to try kamut. I have no idea whether kamut prepared in a different way would be any good, but I found that these kamut puffs for whatever reason had an slightly odd flavor/consistency that left my throat feeling a little funny, and after eating a handful or two I had no desire to continue eating the bag. I’d give it another shot or two to be fair, but why continue eating something that you don’t like? D-.
* Baby bananas – My parents have pushed baby bananas on me in the past, and I’ve been forced to try them a few more times when the nearby hispanic grocery store ran out of normal bananas. I’ve decided that I like normal bananas better.
Baby bananas are more flavorful in seems, but I think the flavor is qualitatively different from normal bananas. When baby bananas are sweet and ripe, they are sickeningly sweet, beyond any normal bananas I’ve had (except possibly a couple which were totally brown and mushy and really should have been thrown out anyway). When they’re not ripe, they seem to be harder and have more inedibly tough spots that can’t be chewed and have to be spit out. I’m not swearing off baby bananas completely, because sometimes they can be good (more frequently when purchased from places that sell quality groceries), and it never hurts to have some variety in your life, but I will generally avoid buying them in the future. C-.
* Sweet brown rice – Sweet brown rice is not sweet. Don’t believe the name. This page implies that sweet brown rice is called that because it is used in sticky sweets and treats, not because it is inherently sweet itself. I found this to be disappointing.
With that said, it probably wouldn’t be significantly tastier if it were sweet. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor (its alternate names, including “waxy rice” and “glutinous rice” might give some hints as to why I wouldn’t like it). I can eat it, but I’d much rather have some other variety of brown rice. D+.
Nelson, I have to recommend a healthy new taste to you: water. I know you normally only drink orange juice, but I’m sure you get all the vitamins you need in one or two glasses of that a day — you don’t need eight. That’s an awful lot of sugar. Water is delicious, nutritious (well — there’s nothing bad in it), and it costs next to nothing. Mmm.
But since I’ve ragged you enough about having the staple diet of a Vietnamese peasant, here are some actual suggestions. I am not a terribly picky eater, but I am a notoriously lazy cook, so I guarantee these do not take much effort to prepare:
For a snack or a lunch side, try raw carrots with hummus for dipping and a honey drizzle.
For dinner, try a sautee of whole green beans, bell peppers, and zucchini with a hearty mix of seasonings (e.g. black pepper, paprika, coarse salt, and red pepper flakes) in olive oil. I like to pair this with fish, but if you don’t eat fish, use it as an entree with a bed of rice or pearl pasta.
your peers (at least here) are mostly all dealing with the “choice” between eating healthy and consuming the temporarily satisfactory bounty of college-campus all-you-can-eat buffets while stressed and tired. and those of us who can find a grocery store within walking distance can’t always afford the expensive health food without steady incomes. not exactly a good recipe for healthy eating!
As somebody also severely limited in dietary options (I can eat very few grains anyone has ever heard of), and knowing that starches and sugars are a fun recipe for diabetes, I’m slowly learning to enjoy other foods. You can definately make eggplant and cauliflower tasty with the right additives, and I’ve finally taught myself to like polenta (it can make a nice, healthy quasi-pizza). Hummus is a wonderful addition to plain vegetables, as is pesto. I dont remember if you eat cheese, but a little bit of it can add flavor to almost anything. You seem to have a different set of pleasant-taste receptors than many people, but dont assume everything you dont like is unhealthy, or that your friends are less aware of health!
🙂 good luck finding more tasty foods! I’ve had some of the same problems with baby bananans as you- I think you have to get them at EXACTLY the right time. Do you eat amaranth? After I stopped eating all conventional cereals, I found that I actually liked that stuff.
I do really like amaranth! I love the flavor. Although I think it goes best with quinoa rather than by itself… at least if you cook it in the rice cooker, since the grains are so tiny it comes out the same consistency as mud, which is kind of weird to chew. If you mix it with quinoa, you get the pleasant amaranth flavor without the odd consistency, making it more fun to eat in my opinion. I understand that there are other ways to eat amaranth, e.g. popping it like corn, and that’s something I definitely want to try sometime. Amaranth will go in the “new foods I like” post if I ever get around to making it 🙂 How do you eat amaranth?
I think it’s also interesting that you mention additives to make some foods tasty… the problem with that for me is that implies learning to cook. Most everything I make is very simple, with 2-3 ingredients, and I don’t really have experience cooking actual recipes with many additives for flavor. (Annoyingly, when Karen cooks with me, I often like Karen’s cooking when she doesn’t like her own. Sad.)
I’d also like to note that I was wondering why people enjoy junk food, not why they are not health conscious. I’m aware that many people who enjoy junk food also care about their health, I just think it’s odd that people find really nasty stuff that’s just calories and chemicals to be tasty. I don’t find most candy, for instance, to be appetizing at all. Nature or nurture?
I’m allergic to soy, and I’m not a huge fan of cow milk.
I’ve actually come to be interested in almond milk, b/c the coffeeshop “The Motley” here at Scripps provides that as a milk substitute in chai lattes and I like it alot that way, but it seems to be difficult/expensive to buy almond milk that is mostly almonds.
So no, I did not have any milk (or milk substitutes) on hand, and I probably wouldn’t have put it in my kamut puffs if I did.