Thinking about the history of food sometimes freaks me out and I go down a bit of a rabbit hole. Some things, like an apple, are just plain meant to be eaten: thin skin, plump, juicy looking… who wouldn’t smack their lips and take a big ol’ bite out of an apple? Other things seem like they took some more ingenuity to figure out… that or an abiding belief that anything – anything – can be eaten if you just try hard enough.
Maybe I’m just kind of ignoring the centuries of culinary experimentation that went into discovering how delicious certain fruits and vegetables are, but just at face value – who looks at these things and thinks: yep, edible!
This was the thought that struck me the other day when I was eating marinated artichoke hearts that my mother made from scratch (humblebrag). It got me thinking: who looked at that spiny, bulbous, floral plant that looks like Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors and decided, “This – this is going to be something delicious… but only once it is cooked for a specific time period, after all the leaves have been first chopped, then scraped clean with one’s teeth, and then the middle of it is drenched in olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices.”
Check out this Creamy Artichoke soup recipe
Maybe it was some hallucinating cowboy or lost explorer who was dragging his way through the rocky, baked landscapes of Arizona, Mexico, or Nevada who blearily made the decision to try to chop off the swollen, red tip of a cactus and try eating it – because chowing down on a cactus certainly doesn’t seem like a particularly rational decision. Not that I’m complaining, of course, prickly pears aren’t just delicious, but they’re also used for all sorts of different things like biofuel, plastics, animal fodder, and dyes.
To be completely fair to the people who enjoy durians, I have never eaten it, but I have heard of its existence and – my god – it sounds like a nightmare. Not only does a durian have an outer shell that is as sharp and spiny as an iron maiden, but apparently it smells horrible. “Like turpentine and onions garnished with a gym sock” is how actual scientists describe how it smells – with all of the odds stacked against the durian, it’s a wonder that anyone even attempted to eat it, much less got through the process without hurling.
Okay, pineapples don’t take much work to get to the good stuff – but just on face value: intimidating. They’re freaky looking. If you gave someone a pineapple who had never seen one before, wouldn’t they think it looks like a weapon? A pineapple has enough spikes on it that Peter Jackson could have put it on the end of the Witch-King’s mace in Return of the King and it wouldn’t look any less imposing (y’all thought I couldn’t get another Lord of the Rings reference into my blogs about vegetables but look who’s laughing now, hobbits).
I’m just going for a catch-all here – as you know, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and pretty much anything that you can pull out of the earth and cook are veggies that I dig (pun intended). However, I very much think it is weird that human beings looked at what would have amounted to a dirty old root and thought that they would be fine to eat? It’s covered in dirt!
Check out this Creamy Vegan Parsnip, Carrot soup recipe
I never have an opportunity to talk about dragon fruit, so here’s my shot. I’ll never understand the process that went into deciding that eating what is essentially an anime fireball that’s filled with what looks like gravelly snow, but my goodness do I thank them for doing the hard work in discovering one of the most delicious fruits on the whole planet.
So…what else do you wonder about? The guy who first milked a cow? Let me know!