For those who will grow up with Facebook as their virtual companion, they’ll have, if they want, a handy history of their dining habits and how their tastes have evolved. Those of us who came to Facebook as middle-aged farts will have to rely on a less-reliable tool called Densebook. You might know it better as “memory.”
Perhaps you think cataloging your food history sounds too precious by half. Maybe, but I think there’s a natural human curiosity to understand your evolution as an eater. How many times have you sat in some restaurant, devouring a bowl of Vietnamese soup sprinkled with bible tripe or eating raw slices of fish draped over seasoned rice, and told your dining companion, “You know, I could never have imagined myself eating this when I was young”?
My own evolution as a diner has been substantial. I was the ultimate picky eater as a child, a constant source of frustration to my Midwestern parents who struggled to find foods that I’d like. My palate made a dramatic shift in my late teens — perhaps because I’d starve in college if I didn’t start to eat the cafeteria food? — and developed even more in my twenties.
There have been many watershed moments in my eating life. I still remember when I first tasted Kansas City barbecue. I believe I uttered something to the effect of, “I’m never eating another food again for the rest of my life.” (Dramatic much?)
Then I discovered Texas barbecue and wondered what was so great about those overly sauced plates of K.C. ’cue.
There are foods I crave now that would have dumbfounded that 9-year-old boy who shuddered at so many adult dishes. Some days I wake up thinking of pho, hankering for Peruvian chicken, pining for Szechwan ma-la tofu, jonesing for Indian curries, slobbering for a taste of dim sum or wishing a platter of charcuterie would magically appear right in front of me.
Just as important, my philosophies on food have changed, too. I eat less beef and red meat in general, because of all the negative impacts of meat production. I eat more fruit and vegetables not only because they’re better for my body but because, if I listen, my body actually craves them. (Though, I must admit, the voice screaming for a juicy, medium-rare burger can be a bully.) I shop more at farmers markets and pay more attention to where products originate when I don’t.
What’s the point of retracing one’s food history? For starters, I think it categorically proves one thing: People do change, and sometimes for the better. Second, and more important, I think that tracing your food history shows how quickly and easily cultural barriers fall when something delicious is presented on a plate. There’s hope in that.
So what’s your own food timeline and how has your palate changed over the years?