Variety…It’s What’s For Dinner

Variety Misunderstood

That’s not variety, that’s just a lot of different ways to cook potatoes.  Now, my Dad is a man who understands variety at the dinner table.  Cornish game hen, swordfish, lamb, venison…you name it and he has probably cooked it or eaten it.  He was served duck eyes at a formal dinner in China…they’re chewy.  Plus, he keeps a garden so, fresh herbs and vegetables abound.  Asparagus, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, snow peas, beans, tomatoes, onions, and a multitude of peppers are just a few of the things that he pulls out of the garden.  By the way, if my Dad offers you one of his special peppers be afraid…be very afraid.

The Twin traps of Convenience And Habit

It’s not easy to say this, but it’s true.  Compared to the variety of foods that my father fed his family, I am very nearly a complete failure.  I blame myself for falling into the twin traps of convenience and habit.  The grocery store is convenient and with year round produce, it is easy to form habits that lock you into shopping for and eating the same foods continuously.

As if that realization wasn’t bad enough, I recently read Food for thought: Cooking in human evolution a fascinating essay by Greg Downey on the Neuroanthropology blog.  Downey explains: One of the many interesting wrinkles in the evolutionary story of our species is that hominins went from being largely, perhaps almost entirely, herbivorous, to being staggeringly versatile eaters. Our hunting and foraging ancestors (and our contemporaries) found their calories all over the place, from sources that far exceed the variety that we can find today in a well-stocked grocery store. As I remind my undergraduate students, with their often chicken-beef-pork urban diet of constant repetition, our ancestors were getting their animal protein from such a variety of species that we can scarcely imagine the selection.

After reading that, I wasn’t entirely shocked, when I came across this passage in Dan John’s book Never Let Go:  Years ago at a workshop we were asked to keep a food journal for a few days and list foods we ate.  Not the volume, calories, protein, or anything like that, we were merely to make a column of the foods we ate during that time.  The point was simple: Most people eat about ten to twenty foods a week.  Don’t believe me? Keep the journal.

Oddball Item of the Week

I am going to keep the journal.  And, I am going to go one better.  I promise that each week, I will root around in the grocery store for one oddball item and try it.  This week’s oddball item of the week is parsnips.

For those wishing to take a break from their grass fed beef and experiment with getting their animal protein from…a variety of species I recommend the fantastic River Road Recipes Cookbook put out by the Junior League of Baton Rouge.  These ladies from Louisiana will have you cooking and eating deer, rabbit, squirrel, opossum, ‘coon, frog, ‘gator, turtle, etc. in no time.

Variety – It’s What’s For Dinner!

9 responses to “Variety…It’s What’s For Dinner

  1. Very interesting idea. Thinking about it, I probably don’t eat all that many different foods myself (I seem to concentrate much more on quality than variety).

    And if you get adventurous, there’s always Marcel Dicke’s invitation to eat insects :

    (Actually, it’s quite a rational argument – good talk).

    • Scott, thanks for the link. You certainly keep me checking out interesting ideas. I know I’ll be lucky if I hit the 20 different foods mark. Beauty of a garden is you control quality and variety.

  2. we were just looking for parsnips, could,’t find any so we will have to grow them next year

  3. I had Snapper Soup last night at a local restaurant. I can cross turtle off my list now.

  4. I’m also not big on variety. I tend to focus on greens more than anything else. But I love seeing new ones and giving them a go. Last week at the market I bought some other leafy green that I didn’t even know the name of. None of the stalls had the name of it. It turned out yummy!

    Love parsnips! They are soooo sweet when roasted

  5. Chop em up into slightly larger than bite sized (they will shrink), and roast with olive oil, some sea salt, and rosemary from the garden. That’s what I do! I also add other stuff like (slightly larger than) bite sized pieces of eggplant, zucchini, onion and whole cherry tomatoes. Most people would like whole garlic cloves in there too, but I can’t eat much of that.

    Also, parsnip chips are good – http://www.cuisine.com.au/recipe/Parsnip-chips

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