Friday, February 16, 2024

Insight: A whisk I’m not willing to take

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I must confess that I have never tasted or eaten a corn dog and at this point in my life, I probably never will. And while we’re at it, it’s safe to say that seaweed salad, hummus, crab rangoon, sushi, sheep brains, and silkworm larvae will never appear on my dinner plate either.

I’m rather traditional when it comes to eating and even though I’m trying to eat healthier these days, my apprehension for experiencing new foods remains constant. So far this year my wife and I have made several different meals for dinner that we haven’t cooked before and for the most part, we have enjoyed them, but there are some recipes we’ve tried that didn’t cut the mustard.

Not being very adventurous when it comes to food, I recently found it fascinating to watch others trying new foods and new tastes on YouTube. There are a series of videos uploaded to YouTube of high school students and their headmaster in England trying popular American foods for the first time and their immediate reaction to what they just sampled.

The first video I watched was of British boys in prep school wearing suits and ties tasting flavors of American soft drinks not sold in the United Kingdom. They tried Grape Crush, Big Red, Mountain Dew, Arizona Iced Tea, Fanta Berry, Clamato, and Warheads Sour Blueberry Soda.

It was hilarious to see their facial expressions after swallowing some of those drinks. One student said Grape Crush tasted like a mixture of candy and medicine, while another remarked that the Arizona Iced Tea plastic jug and the liquid inside resembled a can of petrol. The headmaster said Clamato was perhaps the worst thing that he’d ever tasted in his life.

Another video featured some of the same British prep school students trying Wendy’s “Baconator” hamburgers for the first time. They were more approving this time around, saying they were impressed and that the burgers were juicy and very filling. They also wondered why Wendy’s burgers were square, yet the hamburger buns were round.

The next video I watched was of British prep school students trying Taco Bell menu items for the first time. They sampled crunchy and Supreme Tacos, Crunchwrap Supremes, Gorditas, Chalupa Supremes, and Baja Blast drinks. One student said the Crunchwrap Supreme was like eating a fat pancake, another mentioned that nearly every single item he sampled tasted the same as the previous item. The headmaster said he felt that tacos were a great way to get young people to eat salads as half of his Supreme Taco was lettuce and sliced tomatoes.

There was another video of British students sampling a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for the first time. They tasted roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and pecan pie. None of these students could say when Thanksgiving is celebrated in America, guessing July 4 or May 30. Of all the Thanksgiving dishes they tried, they praised the unique tastes of cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie but said they enjoyed sweet potatoes topped with melted marshmallow the most.

The video of British students tasting American breakfast cereals was eye-opening. They sampled Trix, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Reeses. The students found it odd that Trix turned milk in the cereal bowl into a rainbow of colors. And they found it amazing that little squares could taste like cinnamon toast. Several students said that the best cereal was Cap’n Crunch because it had a unique taste that did not overpower them and they liked the amount of crunch the cereal possessed, even when in milk.

There are other YouTube videos of British students sampling Popeyes fried chicken, cajun crawfish, and American barbecue, but I passed on those.

To see if there was a significant difference across the pond, I also watched a YouTube video of American high school students trying British comfort foods for the first time. This video showed U.S. students eating beans on toast, melted cheese on bread topped with Branston pickle sauce, and bread slices with butter topped with Marmite yeast extract. Of all of these, the Americans students preferred the Branston pickle sauce, which is sort of like a relish. It was pointed out to the students that British pickles are called “gherkins” and Branston pickle sauce is really a ground-up spicy vegetable condiment blend.

One American student said that beans on toast didn’t look appetizing to him but once he had tasted it, he thought that it grew on him after a while. Another American student asked if he could take home the jar of Branston pickle sauce when the filming was completed for the day. All eight of the American students said they hoped to never eat Marmite again.

In looking back, some of my own food apprehension stems from a Christmas party that my family attended in the 1960s. The host insisted that I try some of what looked like chow mein noodles. I ate it but was freaked out to discover it was crispy fried octopus and my stomach immediately soured. From then on, I made it a point to know what I was eating before chewing. <

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