A Happier Place

Gourmand: 1) person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminatingly and to excess (dictionary.com); 2) a person who enjoys eating and drinking in large amounts (collinsdictionary.com); 3) one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking (merriam-webster.com).

I plead guilty on all counts.

The difference between a gourmand and a gourmet is that a gourmet is a connoisseur, an epicure, a refined and highly discriminating sampler of fine food, often paired with a side of pretention. Another difference, I think, is that a gourmand isn’t obsessed with food, though he may sometimes seem like he is; he just enjoys the hell out of it. A gourmet, on the other hand, in my view, is obsessive. He (or she) flaunts his discriminating palate as if it were a piece of fine jewelry he created from diamonds and gold he ripped from the earth with his own hands. Is my chauvinism showing?

All this is a prelude to my desire to express my desire to eat devilled kidney. I would prefer for it to be served to me at breakfast and for the kidney to have belonged to a lamb, but in a pinch I would accept a mid-afternoon snack crafted from organ meat previously owned by an adult sheep. Actually, I would be willing not to have it served to me but created by me and snatched off a freshly-plated  tray intended for dinner guests.

This afternoon diversion began early this morning as I read about and plotted to create and eat a certain Korean street food, Korean Breakfast Toast. The path between that earlier exploration and my temporary fixation on devilled lamb kidney is long and convoluted. I won’t go into it here for fear of never reaching the end of this post. Suffice it to say I wandered through a number of rabbit warrens, setting free dozens, if not hundreds, of bunnies in the process. The fact of the matter is this: I ended (at least for now) the process by reading about devilled kidneys and their popularity during the 19th and 20th centuries. I suspect, but am not sure, that their popularity has diminished during the first part of the 21st century, courtesy of a reduction in gustatory boldness and audacity.

Why is it that many people (dare I say most people?) seem unwilling to risk exposing unfamiliar flavors to their taste buds? Why are certain textures unappealing or even repelling? Does it not make sense that, if people in other cultures can tolerate and even enjoy “strange” foods, that we, too, can at least tolerate them? No? It’s “no” only if one subscribes to the erroneous belief that different “races” have different physical traits. Which is, in my obviously biased view, patently absurd. Such an idea is ugly and appalling and should be corrected by forced exposure to some of the “offending” culture’s more problematic differences. Here, I’m thinking of things like requiring a person to slay, skin, and cook a guinea pig; assuming, of course, this person found the idea objectionable. Peruvians eat guinnea pigs; cuyos is the word used by some indigenous people.

I think I’m veering off course again, though.

My intent, when I began this post, was to lament the fact that I find it so hard to identify other people who are willing to try unusual (to us) foods. I’m not looking for people who are obsessive about it; only for people who have a spirit of adventure and who are willing to try new things. Those people seem to be few and far between. We know a few. And we love them. But there should be more. Many more.

The world needs more gourmands. It would be a happier place.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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