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S6 E10 –Can food help to define our identities?

A gastrosexual is someone who would potentially change they socialise around food. So this week we’re looking at the prospect of certain diets/ attitudes/ cuisines changing who you are as a person. For the better or worse.

Best soundbite: “I like to put vegetables in places they don’t usually belong. ” – Jamie Spafford

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  1. dottleddolly

    I’m a foodie and a chef. I will try most foods and love exploring different cultures of food. Every weekend (my days off are my weekend) I try a dish I have never try tried before, I usually make it myself and does involve research. So ye I consider myself as food curious and the same as Ben, gastrosexual, although when I googled that to look it up, it said it was usually used to describe men and not women which I thought very odd.

    I agree that labels in life in general can be dangerous, not food related but growing up my sister was known as the smart one and I was known as the pretty one, so she didnt think she was pretty (she is a beautiful woman) and I didnt think I was smart so I didn’t try. Even my dad once told me that he knew I wasn’t as smart as my sister and that I could only do my best. At that I didn’t study because I thought what was the point. Now I know that I am smart and wish I had tried harder to get the qualifications. My point is I think any label should be applied by yourself if you want it, and not someone else.

  2. tjmarskbb

    I’m a wannabe food curious living with three people who have no desire to try anything new.

  3. alm477

    I’m afraid I do have a label, assigned when I was a child and carried into adulthood: Picky. Which has a nasty emotional weight, since with it comes assumptions/judgements that I am a spoiled/selfish/difficult/high-maintenance/provincial child. That I am a boring person. That I am a Bad Person.

    Growing up the food choices in my household were very limited by my parent’s skill, knowledge, and taste. Many fruits and vegetables never even entered the house (I’ve never had eggplant or brussel sprouts, I did not try asparagus until my last year of high school) and most forms of seafood were functionally forbidden by my mother (who HATES fish). Spices were/are rarely used, garlic and onion put in recipes only when they could not be avoided entirely, only a limited number of dried herbs used sparingly. Spicy food nixed because I am hilariously sensitive–I literally have to be careful how much black pepper is added to something. Needless to say, aside from the fact I live in a rural area, there were limits on what restaurants I went to as a child.
    Adventurousness was often punished–if I picked something I didn’t like I would have to choke down as much as I could and/or go hungry. Even now, if I pick the wrong thing for lunch I might not have the time/money to go and get something else. Facing a long, hungry afternoon at your desk changes the cost/benefit analysis of trying something too new. Having an opportunity to try things from multiple small plates or family style dining where there are multiple dishes to share is honestly the best way to get me to try something. It takes off the pressure, increases the likelihood that there will be something(s) that most or all people will like with little risk of people leaving the table hungry. Also gives you something to talk about while choosing what to eat.

    Part of being an adult and eating has been trying to figure out why I do or don’t like something and picking away at the edges of my tolerance and finding exceptions or workarounds. I hate beans, unless they are in a strong and pleasantly flavored sauce that gets me past the texture. I loathe cabbage, unless it is raw, has a strong dressing, and is served with something fried (where the bitterness of the cabbage is obscured and the crispness is a delicious relief). Tamarind is too fibrous for me to just peel-and-eat without gagging, but chopped fine in a dish or made into a sauce or even candy it is bliss. Foods that were NEVER become Maybe, become Well If It’s Served Like That Yum. Also realizing that food my parents prepared was made with love, but sometimes little skill. Discovering that a steak can actually taste nice, so long as you season it, was a revelation. I still have hard limits though–spice level is a serious problem that can ruin a meal for me or seeing a particular collection of textures and ingredients on a plate can mean “I have been presented a new level of Food Hell, thank you kindly, but NO.”

    Eventually you get used to explaining yourself (if you can–as a kid I couldn’t always express why a food was BAD, only that I couldn’t stand it). Like, I don’t drink because I can’t stand the sensation, rather than than taste (most of the time). The body gets rid of a little bit of consumed alcohol via the breath (why breathalyzers work) and I must be hyper-sensitive to that or something because it’s REALLY unpleasant. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to take a deep breath of acetone fumes or strong antiseptic, you get a nasty, hot, burning sensation and that’s what it feels like to me to breathe after taking a drink. Mind you the burn going down is equally unpleasant. But I quite like the flavor many alcoholic beverages add to food so long as enough of the alcohol has been burned off that I don’t get the “OHGOSH it’s like a mouthful of hospital grade antiseptic!” feeling. I couldn’t stand a sip of beer or red wine, but would be delighted if you put either in a beef stew or braising liquid. I am an utter fool for a white wine sauce so long as you don’t ask me to taste the wine before it goes in the pan.

    Sorry about being long-winded. Again. :/

    …Also, if Barry wants a label but not a box, does that mean we should call him Free Range?

    • Luik

      http://www.sporkful.com/in-defense-of-picky-eaters/ I recommend this podcast episode for you. It’s unfortunately behind a paywall by now (but you can get a free trial I think). It’s about 2 sisters who grew up in an environment that caused picky eating, one of them decided to overcome it later in life due to, similar to you perhaps, being tired of the limitations and negative emotions it caused in her life, the other one accepts and embraces it instead. Both are valid choices. There’s a lot of judgment picky eaters face, so I thought perhaps that show will make you feel less alone and judged. : )
      Additionally there’s apparently a thing called super-tasters, where people are categorized based on the amount of taste receptors they have. I’m not at all familiar with the science, apparently you can do a self-test for it: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/super-tasting-science-find-out-if-youre-a-supertaster/
      I’m not sure how useful it is to take on this label for yourself (psychologically), but whether you are or are not a super-taster, you can claim to be one and say that a thing just tastes too bitter for you or whatever to get them to shut up if they’re pushing you to eat something, you don’t owe everyone your life story to be left to eat in peace.

  4. ste_critch91

    I tried listening to this episode on the podcast addict app, but for some reason it’s playing the sugar addiction episode instead? Not the end of the world because it gives me an excuse to listen to it in work instead!

  5. Annie1962

    Baz! Good news, you’re trying to eat more ethically regarding the environment, so would it help you knowing that environmental scientists (supergeeks) are testing feeding cows with seaweed to reduce bovine methane output? Beef farts are a big problem so this could help …


    I’m trying to figure out what I am but if I could afford it, I’d love to classify myself as ‘Flexitarian’ like Benneth – as I am not shy about trying new dishes. Tapas excites me as it’s a bit like that – smaller plates more frequently in order to taste a better range of the restaurant’s fare.

    A great idea for all restaurants to adopt would be to have a taster’s menu – samples of the dishes in order to find a preference and return at a later date (or the same day if you’re Jamie 😉 ) to enjoy the dish you preferred as a mains. Too many restaurants have menus which show so many different meals and too many don’t describe the dish at all which restricts the choice and it seems the more posh, trendy restaurants will describe a dish as “Lamb, potato rosti, tomato’
    Tomato what???? Be more specific.

    That’s a good topic for the future re restaurants – price , trends, DESCRIPTION OF THE MENU ITEMS – are they too vague or artsy fartsy? Should they be more descriptive? Is that affecting your choice of meal or even the venue?

    And if I were at that restaurant in Italy where you got married Jamie, I would definitely order a risotto with the fish.
    Boyz, quit picking on Benneth. Don’t make me come to you in London to give you a stern talking to like a mama would – I’m old enough to be your mums.

    Love Annie from blustery, stormy, rainy , COLD Perth.. brrrr (Come to WA in Spring for the lovely wine festivals down South in Margaret River x)

  6. cathio

    I would love to learn more about Baz going vegetarian at home, which is actually something I’m moving towards as well.

  7. Emalor1

    My Dad was a butcher and baker before I was born so food has always been a huge part of my life and I started baking to have something to bond with him over but now it is a passion of mine that has arguably overtaken that of his. When people ask me what I do I say “I bake and listen to music” because those are two things that are most important to me and that I get huge pride from when I share and people like it. I’m not sure I could get particularly close to anyone who was adverse to either of those things so I guess they are part of my identity and I’d just never considered it like that before – so thanks.

  8. SammiJMB

    This was very interesting – I’ve considered myself a foodie for a few years now, and jokingly refer to myself as a ‘feeder’ because I get so much happiness out of sharing food with people. I bring homemade treats into the office, or if it’s been a bad morning I’ll bring everyone something nice when I get back from lunch to raise morale. Socially I would much rather go for a meal than to the pub because it’s so much nicer to catch up over food.

    I’m not quite at the level of “Oh, this place just opened up, let’s try it!” but I watch enough of those shows on Food Network like ‘Diners Drive Ins and Dives’ that I do get excited to try somewhere new when the chance arises.

  9. suebarnes

    I don’t know if being born in or around London is an advantage when it comes to defining yourself by your eating habits or not cos as you say it is, and always has been, very cosmopolitan. I come from up t’north, from a small mining/cotton town. My nan taught me to cook, she wasted nothing, she couldn’t afford to. Many people had allotments and would regularly share their wealth and so season by season she made chutneys and jams and pickles and fruit pies. The farms were small, the animals lived in the fields, the chickens lived in coops, the abattoir was local, their produce sold at the local shops and the market. Choice was a bit limited but it tasted good and it’s carbon footprint was all but nil. That was my inheritance, my food identity. We moved to Blackpool, everything came prepackaged from supermarkets (apart from the tomatoes) agribusiness was king, you don’t know where the food comes from, it doesn’t taste the same, it’s carbon footprint is huge. That is my kid’s inheritance, their food identity. These days grass fed meat, free range eggs and chickens, farmer’s markets are a thing again, but the food is uber expensive. Where does that leave me? I shop by and large at my local butchers and greengrocers, they know I care about where my food comes from and they let me know when new local produce is in. (My butcher even told me what farms his meat came from – I googled them – they were ok lol) I have turned into my nan- I make a lot of my own stuff when I can – my own jams and chutneys and pickles, my own butter, and yogurt,in no short measure thanks to you for I have been following you for years, I grow a bit of food myself and my kids and grand-kids now come round and eat everything i make much like I did when I was young. Can you put a label on that sort of life journey? I am no angel cos I do make a lot of your recipes and you often use ingredients from far flung places, I hope that doesn’t make me into a hypocrite. Excellent series of feast your ears long may you continue xx

  10. Luik

    I think something about lad culture or the specifics of the stag thing are escaping me because surely it’s weirder to order exactly the same thing as your friends and have a burger in Italy than it is to have risotto and wine? Or were you in a hurry and risotto takes longer? I don’t get it. Did you go to bathroom all at the same time as well? Just curious.

  11. Nettan_Juni

    Oh I hate labels. I always have, but even more since I got diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. Straight away people tried to put that label on me, even though I’m so much more than my syndrome.

    Yes it’s a part of me, but not all of me. I would have so many labels, like gamer, computer geek, technology nerd, book worm, crafter, autistic, picky eater, daughter, sister, daughter etc and they all describe me, but they’re not who I am.
    I am me!

    When it comes to food I have to admit I’m a bit of a picky eater, but that sounds a bit unfair, since I have problems with consistency and taste, I suspect I’m a supertaster. I have a really bad sense of smell, so I miss out on the whole aroma thing you’ve talked about.

    I’m a lot better now and I’ve been working on that for so many years, because it’s no fun to be a picky eater, others consider me to be a spoiled brat who always got food I wanted at home and that’s not true at all!
    As a child there were days I chose not to eat dinner because I couldn’t stand something with it and the option I had was to eat and starve. Not that drastic, we always ate evening meals, so I got something before bed, but before that I would not get any food if I didn’t eat the dinner.

    I tend to not feel hunger most of the time, so I have to be reminded to eat as a child and I’m still like that. I am however very good at knowing how much I can eat to be full, but not too full. I can stop eating even if there’s food I like or even love, left on the plate.

    So back to the topic, I really dislike labels and I don’t put labels on people. I tend to see people as individuals. Like Barry is Barry, Jamie is Jamie (even though we do love to call him the Steak Man ;P ), etc.
    If other people want to put a label on themself, then fine with me, I just don’t want to do it.

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