By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.
I got to thinking about our diets, both east and west coasts as well as what others around the world eat.
East Coast vs. West Coast: Food trends can start anywhere in the U.S.. California comes to mind when one thinks of new and odd diets.
For example, in Woody Allen’s great movie "Annie Hall," Woody’s character travels from his home in New York to visit his former girlfriend, Annie (remarkably played by Diane Keaton) in Los Angeles. They meet up at a Sunset Strip restaurant, which somewhat tongue in cheek, Woody savages. Alvie Singer (Woody) in Los Angeles.
This is the 1970’s when new “healthy food” took on a whole new meaning. Alvie sits down at an outdoor table. Annie arrives and he says to the waiter: “I’ll have Alfalfa Sprouts and a plate of mashed yeast.” He delivers this line absolutely straight supporting the idea that West Coast eating trends have “gone off the reservation.”
In another of his classic movies, "Broadway Danny Rose," a group of comedians meet in a famous Manhattan Deli. As I recall, it was the Carnegie Deli. Does not really matter as if you ventured into any popular Manhattan Deli and order a Corned Beef Sandwich, you will get something that looks like one of these images. Look at the top left images. That’s an actual sandwich. I think I once attempted to eat one and could not even get through the first half.
What is my point? Unlike the “mashed yeast” in the California Health Food restaurant, just one of these sandwiches probably has enough cholesterol to give you a cardiac event.
Other examples of East Coast (primarily Manhattan and/or Boca Raton Florida) fare include the Knish. If you get an original one such as at the Stage Deli, each one weighs about a pound and a half. It is dough stuffed with cooked potato, sometimes onions. Again, I guarantee if you eat a whole one, you will not be hungry for at least a couple of days. But boy is it good.
I now will venture across the “pond” (what East Coasters call the Atlantic Ocean) to Europe. First country that comes to mind is Germany. To a German, beer is consumed much as we consume bottled water here in the U.S.. It is simply unthinkable to have any serious meal without some outstanding locally brewed German beer. The stuff on tap is not pasteurized which gives it a much richer flavor.
When I was a graduate student, I had a summer job in Kiel on the Baltic Sea. Located in Schleswig-Holstein, beer along with extremely rich dark bread and any of the local cheeses made up most of our diet for the entire summer.
Other great stops in Europe would have to include Scotland, where they eat a dish called Haggis. This odor of this dish, made of sheep’s intestines and other “great” stuff, is a test of your ability to keep food down. But it is a “traditional” dish there. (As far as I’m concerned, I could never be hungry enough to consume this dish).
Okay, let’s venture to the Far East. On our visit there about five years ago, I recall that in many restaurants, you enter the establishment and there is a table set up just as you walk in. On the table they display the most popular dishes. There were live turtles swimming around in a tank, Scorpions also moving around in a container, and lots of other “stuff.” What you’re supposed to do is pick out whatever “creature” you wish to have cooked for you as dinner. I guarantee your reaction (as a Westerner) to most of these “delicacies” will be revulsion and a sharp “gag reflex.” But who am I to discount feeding over a billion people. If it works, don’t discount it.
Our last example is eating Chinese Food in Israel. Chinese food is one of the most revered (order out) foods there. I was at the home of a senior editor of their leading newspaper in the country, Maariv. They ordered Chinese food. It arrived and I noticed what clearly looked like pork in many of the dishes. As pork is not Kosher (not to be eaten by Jewish people), I asked our host what that meat was. He replied, “White steak.”
Oh well, I guess if we have six billion people to feed on planet Earth, we can forgive some of the odd choices you see in these places.