Eating Experiment No. 5: Preliminary Findings

Outrageous experiments in sensible eating.
Feb. 6 2011 4:29 PM

Eating Experiment No. 5: Preliminary Findings

Ellen Tarlin Ellen Tarlin

Ellen Tarlin is a former Slate copy chief and writer of the "Clean Plate" blog. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBrooklyn Bridge, Bark, and  the RISK storytelling podcast. Follow her on Twitter.

To buy and try foods I've either never eaten or don't normally eat.


This week's experiment was the most fun because it cultivated an exploratory approach to food, rather than a restrictive or punitive one. Each day I fell in love with something: artichoke hearts, wild rice and cranberry salad, and pepitas on Monday ; apple butter and roasted corn pudding in acorn squash on Tuesday ; wheat berries on Wednesday ; barley for breakfast and Siggi's yogurt on Thursday ; curried black-eyed peas on Friday ; and strawberry butter on Saturday . I managed to incorporate about one-third of the foods on my " Foods I Don't Normally Eat " List (with more to come: Some are still ripening and/or waiting in the fridge). I made some new discoveries and several rediscoveries.

Hated: The exotic fruits were for the most part disappointing. I am not a squeamish person, but some of them wigged me out a little bit. Of the 10 I tried, I'd only willingly eat two of them again. I don't blame the fruit. In some cases I think I bought a poor specimen or let it get too ripe before trying it. I'm sure they are amazing in their native countries. This week took a lot of work: a lot of research and shopping and money and lugging and cooking. I went shopping at least three times in addition to getting groceries delivered. Too much! My dishwasher also took a beating this week.

Learned: My culinary repertoire is limited and repetitive. Trying new foods and new recipes is fun, even though it takes a lot of work. Obviously it's crazy to try to eat all new foods at every meal, but I think trying one new recipe a week would be great and would broaden my world. Emu eggs are green and gorgeous and enormous. Duck eggs are not as good as chicken eggs. I do like acorn and butternut squash; I just don't like cooking them. It's a completely different experience to approach food with apprehension than anticipation. I also realized a lot of the foods on my "Don't Normally Eat" list are there because I don't like them (cabbage and radicchio, I'm talking to you). Almond milk isn't gross. Neither is unsugared cereal.


Surprises: My picky husband told me he loves tofu. We've been together for 19 years; I knew he would eat tofu but I had no idea he loves it. My husband was also pretty excited about trying new dishes and he liked almost all of them. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this week. I thought it would be a lot of work and not a lot of fun and that I'd feel weird physically. Gluten-free products aren't bad.

Funny Things: Twice I bought fruits I couldn't identify and the cashiers couldn't either. But neither of them asked me why I would buy something when I didn't even know what it was.

Conclusion: Trying new foods is something I should incorporate into my life regularly. It creates a positive exploratory approach to food and broadens my repertoire--and my mind. Plus, it's fun. I subscribed to Vegetarian Times , as a reader suggested.


Next Up: Tomorrow I begin my final week when I try to put together everything I've learned.




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