Expand Your Palette

f27264de0d0f4393dd6ed53c7a497cf4_330I am a self-confessed foodie. Thank God there are no 12-step programs to rid me of my co-dependencies! I’m blissfully addicted to my epicurean ways and shameless in love with discovering the emerging food trends and new flavors that will become the mainstream of tomorrow’s menus.

My roots, however, could not be farther away. Not a childhood meal strayed too far from the standard equation of “protein + vegetable + starch = dinner.” A world of uninspiring shades of grays, browns and greens smothered in gravies and sauces right out of Betty Crocker, and prepared in 60 minutes or less. A seriously big yawn, indeed.

No disrespect to my mother, but my Baby Boomer childhood, like others of my generation, lacked the explosive colors, flavors and textures that abound in today’s global, digital society.  Pity anyone who chooses to lock themselves into the uninspired experiences of my dining youth.

“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”  –Harriet Van Horne

Meals today are more than just sustenance: they should be experiences of the senses!  If you are not romancing your soul with great conversation, exhilarating your sense of smell with incredible aromas, teasing your ears with the sizzles, snaps and pops that awaken your taste buds; you need to step out and find your inspiration!  They await you in the halls of the farmers markets and on the aisles of your grocer’s meat, cheese and produce departments! If what you eat, cook and serve does not explode with vibrant colors and distinct, exotic flavors; I implore you to expand your palette and set out on a journey of epicurean discovery.

“Pounding fragrant things — particularly garlic, basil, parsley — is a tremendous antidote to depression. But it applies also to juniper berries, coriander seeds and the grilled fruits of the chili pepper. Pounding these things produces an alteration in one’s being — from sighing with fatigue to inhaling with pleasure. The cheering effects of herbs and alliums cannot be too often reiterated.”  — Patience Gray

I’ve spent the past three days emerged in a cacophony of gourmet and specialty food products from around the globe. From the most humble of ambitious entrepreneurs to some of the most well-renown global food producers, I’ve explored and sampled the inspiring, the obscure and been treated to glimpses into the future flavors that will create new dining experiences in five-star establishments and across family dining rooms worldwide.  I can tell you, that the future ahead is wonderfully exotic!

Truffles are everywhere: in butter, in chocolate, infused in olive oils, vinegars, pastas, cheeses and pre-made sauces. The explosion of international flavors are brought to the forefront as far-flung cultures like authentic Peruvian, Korean, and Moroccan dishes finally get their due. Look for marriages between the unexpected: violets and chocolate, lavender and olive oil, Greek yogurt and humus. Get out there and explore the awakening that is happening in the world of food. The movements of fresh, raw, natural, organic and healthy eating are bringing an explosion of new options for making meals theater and magic in ways no one could have dared to imagine even five years ago!

Despite the struggling economy, consumers know that there is no excuse to settle for boring, unimaginative meals.  Fresh reins king and the world is awakening to incredible logistic and packaging technologies that make the once unaffordable or simply unavailable now within the reach of foodies everywhere.

Don’t limit yourself to the tried and true! Move beyond the corner Italian, the local Chinese takeout or the occasional sushi bento box you have convinced yourself is imaginative eating. Mexican is passé and there is no excuse for one more night of boring meatloaf and potatoes — unless the meatloaf is made with buffalo, venison or crossbred waygu and you’ve roasted the potatoes in something exotic like saffron threads and pink Himalayan Sea salt or drizzled it with black truffle butter.  Explore!  Expand that food palette!

“Food is our common ground, our universal experience.”  –James Beard

Our world is becoming more multi-cultural everyday…isn’t it time your dining experiences did too? This year, open up your dining repertoire to more experiences. Make your dinner table the cultural epicenter of a broadened world of awareness and acceptance. I promise, your senses will thank you!

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