Recently an old friend of mine, who is admittedly still in the Kraft Singles market, asked me for some advice on what cheese she should buy. I thought it was an odd question, for a variety of reasons, most of which boiled down to my taste is not the same as her taste. My reticence in answering had little to do with her perfectly worthwhile question, and more about my own neuroses surrounding taste.
I get that way whenever people ask my advice. I know what I like, and what my preferences are. But I have no idea if my preferences will fall in line with others. After reflecting upon this dilemma, I figured that what it boiled down to was simply a matter of expectations. Some people demand a lot from their food, others not so much.
So how does a person, who used to demand very little from their food, begin to change those expectations? Here is a list of things that I came up with that will slowly, but most assuredly, change your perceptions surrounding food.
1. Take responsibility for everything you eat. In other words, don’t eat or purchase food mindlessly, without knowing what could happen with that food. This could mean everything from knowing how it should taste, to how your body will process it, to even knowing that new foods will provide new sensory experiences. This leads to the next point.
2. Be curious. Every once in a while, you have to upset the apple cart and try something new. The only way know if one cheese is better than another is to eat both cheeses. The only way to know if you like Ethiopian food is to try Ethiopian food. If you never try, you’ll never know.
3. Know your likes, dislikes, unknowns, and foods to which you are indifferent. This relates to item 1 in many ways, with the additional feature of you actually categorizing food. You have no idea how much my life became easier when I realized that I was indifferent to most wines(I’m more of a spirits/beer kinda person).
4. Learn to cook. I’m not saying you have to be Todd English. But a basic rudimentary understanding of how to make your own food will allow you to understand, and even respect dishes that you may have previously taken for granted. Plus, food is far more satisfying when you’ve made it yourself, double-so when a loved one compliments you for it.
5. When in doubt, buy fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables from the produce section will, for the most part, always taste better than frozen, and most certainly taste better than canned. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between.
6. Be suspicious of any food institution. Mostly because they are trying to sell you something you don’t need, via means that are meant to let them do the thinking for you (read, advertising). Frosted Flakes aren’t great, Coke isn’t the real thing, you’ll often cook a Rachel Ray dinner recipe in more than thirty minutes, and there are many cookbooks out there that are simply not worth your time.
7. Be proud of the food you like, regardless of where or how it was made. Julia Child loved McDonald French Fries, people on this site have proudly extolled the virtues of Pabst Blue Ribbon, I have an unabashed passion for Oreos, Kit Kat Bars, and certain sodas. None of us could give one whit about what others think or thought about these products.
8. Simplicity is a pro, not a con. The complexity of a meal doesn’t make it a better option, it simply means one needs more skill to make it. Some of the best food moments are the simplest – fresh bread with butter, strawberries and balsamic, even a hot dog on a toasted bun with brown mustard and onions, all have their place in the food world.
9. Be in awe of those who produce great food. I’m not just referring to chefs here, but also farmers and artisans. It takes a great deal of time, effort, and passion to make something exceptional. People who do so deserve to be lauded.
10. Treat yourself whenever you can. Life’s too short to do otherwise. It can be a night out at a restaurant, or buying the ingredients to make your favorite cookie. Whatever allows you to enjoy your life just a little bit more.