The Displaced Nation

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THE DISPLACED Q: Expats & other globetrotters, what foods do you inflict on visitors from home?

I was a very finicky eater when I was growing up.

I would only eat beans on toast or fish-fingers.

Not beans with fish-fingers! Oh, no. In fact if beans touched the fish-fingers, the whole lot was all for the bin.

My poor mother must have been in despair.

Flash forward to the present day, and not much has changed…

Okay, so it has! Honest. I’m now prepared to try anything and everything — although my regular eating habits are not substantially more sophisticated. Well, I’ve added pizza to the mix, which I guess counts as Italian food.

So my question for you today, is this: what do you do when the roles are reversed, and your parents come to see you in a foreign land and rely on you for food? Do you inflict the local cuisine or look for a McDonald’s to tide them over?

The adventuresome Slater women

Now, my Mum has spent half her life trying to inflict a healthier diet on me, and I’d love to pay her back for that. Unfortunately she still has an infinitely more varied diet than I do, so there’s not much I can honestly try to inflict that would phase her.

As explained in my last Displaced Q, I once ate a peculiar insect dipped in soy sauce in Thailand, just to prove a point about my iron stomach. That may be why, when living in Thailand, I sometimes fantasized about getting my mother to try one of the deep-fried locusts they sell on the streets. First I would convince her it was a staple part of my new, healthier diet. And then I would watch carefully while she munched on it, seeing if she could keep it down. Just, you know, to get her back for all those times the beans touched the fish-fingers…

My only sibling, Gillian, has been traveling almost as long as I have, and is far more experimental when it comes to cooking and eating. Although I’ve never seen her eat insects either… But then, I can’t really blame her for all the horrible vegetables I was forced to consume as a young man.

Instead I’ll take revenge on my Dad.

The stick-in-the-mud Slater men

Because whilst it’s not his fault either, he is a very easy target.

He is not big on travel.

He is not big on foreign food.

Anytime he’s left to his own devices he invariably buys fish and chips wrapped up in a newspaper and eats it on his knee in front on the telly.

Sometimes for weeks at a time!

Bless him, he’s even more set in his ways in terms of food that I am. It took me a year to inflict pizza on him for the first time, and I’ve still never managed to convince him to try a nice pad thai.

The thing is, we both know what we like, and we’re both happy to stick with them.

It’s not the most exciting way to live, and certainly not the healthiest.

We’re both firm believers in this saying of Mark Twain’s:

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”

So, our combined intake of junk food is worryingly high.

But just for a change, I’d like to inflict on him — and on all my family, given half a chance — the one thing I’ve eaten that might prove too much for all of them: guinea pig (cuy) in South America. Or possibly baby octopus in Thailand.

Just to see the looks on their faces… And to hear my Dad announce in no uncertain terms: “I’m not bloody eating that!”

* * *

So, now it’s your turn! What foods would you inflict on a visiting relative, and why? Or have you already inflicted some — and with what results?

Answers on a postcard to — no, wait! Stick ‘em in the comments section below. We’re not in our childhoods any more; it’s the future!

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an interview with a Random Nomad who has eaten cuy and loved it! (She was one of the winners of yesterday’s Food Alices…)

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img: The Slater women chowing down at a Medieval banquet; stomachs of iron indeed!

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8 responses to “THE DISPLACED Q: Expats & other globetrotters, what foods do you inflict on visitors from home?

  1. ML Awanohara September 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    While reading your post, I kept thinking about the time when my mum and her husband came to visit me in Tokyo. It wasn’t so much the food they found a trial; it was the eating utensils. They were pretty brave about trying raw fish (though at one point my mum ODed on wasabi, poor dear), but they simply couldn’t get the hang of chopsticks. I always used to be insulted when Japanese people would compliment me on how well I used chopsticks (of course I can, you nit!). But thanks to my mum and stepfather, I came to realize that not everyone, particularly older people, can wield them so easily…and so was nicer about procuring forks for my visitors. :)

    Actually, I was pretty hard on most of my guests in Japan. I said, you haven’t come all this way to eat Western food — and then issued detailed instructions about what to order in restaurants, insisting that, if all else failed, they could point at the plastic food. I remember being very disparaging when one of my guests reported he’d eaten at McDonald’s. He responded meekly: “But I did order the teriyaki burger!”

    That said, I never tried to get them to eat live fish or any of the more gruesome stuff like fugu. (And yes, I did eat these things myself by the time I left.) I allowed that Western people would probably prefer sukiyaki or some such — in fact, I ate so much sukiyaki with guests in Japan that I could happily go without eating it ever again!

    • Tony James Slater September 28, 2012 at 1:13 am

      Well, I don’t think it’ll come as much of a surprise that I’d have gone for the Teriyaki Burger myself! I’m of the opinion that visiting Macdonalds in every place I go to is part of the cultural experience… so there! You’d be surprised at all the different stuff they do. The Aussie burger, for example… and… yeah, okay, I’m reaching. But the thought of eating live fish – live ANYTHING – has me retching instead! *Shudder!* I’m sure given the opportunity I’d try it, but I very much doubt I’d be keeping it down for long! :0)

      • ML Awanohara September 28, 2012 at 9:46 pm

        well, you don’t actually eat the live part. The fish is arranged on a stick and it’s flapping around (b/c a couple of its muscles are still working?) — this is to show you that it’s fresh. Anyway, you eat the “meat” (sashimi) that’s been filleted by the chef. At first, I refused to eat it. But then I realized how hypocritical it was. The practice is called ikizukuri. I believe the Aussies have outlawed it! :)

  2. Katja September 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    It’s not exactly *inflicting* for most people (apart from the lactose-intolerant), but everyone has to eat a lot of gelato when they come to visit. And granita. And cannoli.

    Fresh seafood is another one that’s really worth eating when you’re here in Sicily, which is more of a stumbling point for some people. My poor BFF, who’s been vegetarian for years but will, on occasions of desperation, eat fish, plumped for a seafood risotto when she came to visit me in Calabria. What she hadn’t realised (and neither, to be fair, had I) was that there would be whole fish and polpi (baby octopi) in there. It was the giant prawn that was the real killer for her, though. She just couldn’t manage the shelling of it – and even after I’d done the dirty work for her, she turned a bit green and quietly said, “No, you eat it …”

    What I haven’t managed yet is to get any visitors to eat horse, a particularly Sicilian (and delicious) speciality. I think I’m going to have to start lying about the meaning of the word ‘cavallo’ …

    • Tony James Slater September 28, 2012 at 1:18 am

      I’d eat horse! I’m not a fan of seafood at all, though I have been known to scoff the odd baby octopus! But land animals I feel are all fair game. I mean, why one and not another? I don’t fancy carnivorous animals as they’re supposed to be much tougher, but I can’t see why anyone would eat a cow and not a horse! Vegetarians do have it hard when they travel though, especially if they head to the developing world. I have a simple solution to that: don’t be a vegetarian! Come to think of it, there’s another herbivorous land animal that I haven’t eaten yet – vegetarian… :0)

      • Katja September 28, 2012 at 11:21 am

        Could NOT agree more! If you’re going to eat any meat, you should eat all of it. None of this squeamishness about it being just like your pet, FrouFrou, from when you were growing up. Either be a vegetarian or don’t – I don’t care either way – but be consistent about it.

        Vegetarianism is actually very easy here in Italy. I’m a meat-eater, but I don’t eat an awful lot of it here because the veg is so fresh and so good. When there are dishes like parmigiana alla melanzana or caponata on the menu that have depth and richness and utter deliciousness automatically built into them by virtue of long, slow cooking and melding together of flavours, who needs meat?

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