05 September 2007

Random Musings

When it comes to eating, as with many other aspects of human behavior, we are driven by two conflicting urges: neophobia versus neophilia.

Neophobia is a fear of that which is new. When it comes to food, people who are dominated by neophobia tend to stick to a handful of "safe" dishes and beverages, which are consumed on a regular and sometimes static routine basis. "If it's Thursday this pale lump must be chicken." While not exciting, the urge of neophobia has kept the human species alive for eons. If all of us had the switch in our brains that caused us to say "Ooh! Yummy!" every time we saw a bright red mushroom or a deadly insect, then I doubt we would have come down from the trees in the first place.

Neophilia is the love and embrace of that which is new. Food-wise, this is the constant search for something new and different, or the next hottest chile, etc. The neophile can suffer from boredom, will frequently experience stomach upset in all of its colorful forms, and may even die in the pursuit, but the neophile urge helps drive humanity forward. Jonathan Swift famously quipped "He was a bold man that first eat an oyster." And honestly, there's nothing about the outside of an oyster that looks appetizing. In fact, it's hard to distinguish from a rock. But the treasure inside is so worth it, and we should all thank that bold man every time we enjoy a dozen on the half shell. Especially in months without an R.

While I've always been willing to try something new if offered, a few years ago I found myself in a rut when it came to my own dining: drinking the same two or three wines, eating the same meat and potatoes meals. I was spurred on by a quote from Internet legend and accordionist Joey deVilla:

In the infinite set of universes, there had to exist a particular universe in which the events in our lives were being watched as a TV show. We then made a solemn vow to live the kind of life that got high ratings.

With the world (or the 5,000 unique visitors a month) reading, I forced myself to broaden my horizons, almost never drinking the same wine twice, only repeating dishes when I needed to hone a skill or found a great recipe that I wanted to share with different groups of friends.

So thanks to all of you who have found the site interesting, amusing, helpful, or appetizing. I do this not for fame or fortune, but out of the sheer joy I get from writing a couple of articles a week and the adventure of exploring new tastes. I've barely scratched the surface of all the various gustatory delights that exist on this pale blue dot: there's sure to be many more surprises in the months and years to come.


Barbara said...

Great post Ben. Perhaps those people that don't like the word foodie could call themselves neophillies.

Fredric Koeppel said...

a bit of fame and fortune wouldn't be bad.
i always enjoy reading your explorations of food and wine and especially your bold experiements in ingredients and cooking.

Big Mike said...


I must echo Fredric’s view. I truly enjoy your posts and love for running in and making anything and everything. Then your willingness to share, with the rest of us, the good and bad is special. Thanks for giving me a couple of minutes away from this grid and enjoying your escapades!!

Live From Alaska said...

Ben, you are driving this Alaska girl to drink! And, that's not such a bad thing! I may even start cooking if this keeps up! Thanks so much for a great blog. My boyfriend is the head of a Meetup group here for wine lovers, and I've turned him on to your site. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

Allen said...

Having shared your reviews and cooking with people around the world, I want to say Thank You. As your father, parents are sometimes graded by how our children turn out. Because you and your brother we get A+. Keep exploring the world of wine and food.