12 December 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

Recently (i.e. months ago) various blogs have been posting about the The Omnivore's Hundred, a list of foods you ought to try before they start measuring you for the last suit you'll ever wear. You can go to the link to see all of them, and at the bottom of this post you can see the ones I haven't tried yet. Between my first draft and this entry, I knocked two easy ones off the list:

2. Nettle tea
Nettle tea smells exactly like cleaning off the blade on your lawnmower. It's that fermented Bermuda grass smell that lasts on your hands for days afterward. As a Southerner who first mowed the yard at the age of six (approximately two hours after growing tall enough to grasp the handle bar of Dad's beloved Snapper), this scent evokes pleasant memories. Others may not have the same reaction. I like the flavor as well, which is pretty mild considering there's no caffeine or tannins.

It is also supposed to help with gout and menstrual cramps, but never having suffered from either I can't make any claims regarding its efficacy as a natural medicine.

You can find this nettle tea at my Amazon Store or in the Memphis area at Whole Foods.

79. Lapsang souchong
This is a smoked tea from southeast China. The tea leaves are placed on mats or mesh and smoked over pine logs. Supposedly this is one of those binary foods: you either hate it or you love it. I picked up a tin of loose leaves (hence the need for a metal tea ball) and went two weeks before trying a cup. When you peel back the foil seal, you are hit with a powerful smoke aroma. Leave a pile of this in someone's house and they'll swear that something is on fire.

When I mustered up the courage to brew a pot, I followed the instructions and steeped the leaves in my little tea ball and poured myself a cup--straight, no sugar or lemon. The aroma was still powerful and smoky, but this time I got to appreciate it better. And as we all know, scent is the most powerful connection to old memories.

When I was in Scouts, we packed our gear and clothes into Army surplus duffel bags. Clean clothes would be carefully packed in plastic bags and layered, and later dirty clothes would be crammed in however possible. Upon returning home, I'd normally grab a shower and get something to eat before tackling the laundry, and after getting clean and breathing fresh air, I would be overwhelmed by the strong aromas of wood smoke, earth, and various other scents. A cup of lapsang souchong smells exactly like that.

Here's a word of thanks to my dear mother who frequently had to handle laundry after such camping trips, and out of respect for those horrors I will keep this tea far away from her. And while she would only have negative associations from this aroma, it dredges up a hundred wonderful memories for me, and I found myself able to remember the crisp smells of winter in Missouri and the steamy humidity of an Arkansas summer and dozens of other campsites around the country.

Despite the strong smell, this tea doesn't taste smoky. It's not any more bitter than standard black tea, and is actually quite mild. I can't imagine drinking it iced, and I never tried it sweetened, but I've really enjoyed a cup late in the afternoon or evening where I can sit and be whisked back to my youth.

Twinings is the most commonly available version in the states. I got it at Kroger, and you can also purchase lapsang souchong from my Amazon Store. Teabag styles are available as well.

And now, the 21 things I haven't tried... Though rest assured, I'll find a way to grind through most of this list in an effort to broaden the palate. Local readers: recommend some places to find some of these!

6. Black pudding
8. Carp
16. Epoisses
25. Brawn, or head cheese
30. Bagna cauda
37. Clotted cream tea
43. Phaal
46. Fugu
50. Sea urchin
52. Umeboshi
59. Poutine
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
89. Horse
93. Rose harissa
100. Snake


Samantha Dugan said...

I remember seeing that list earlier this year, don't know if I ever checked anything off but I know for a fact I have never tried either of those teas, (coffee girl) but I will put those on my must try before the end of the year list. After laying in a pile of nettles in Normandy 5 years ago I have avoided anything with them in it....bumpy, rash that stung like crazy!!

Number 16 and 25 are two of my favorite foods on the planet and let me know if 16 proves hard to find, (I may not be able to ship wine to your state but I can ship cheese, a fact that has saved my son in Kentucky...number 16 is also one of his favorite foods). Now roadkill...do not think I could do it!

The Wine Commonsewer said...

My father in law gets at least one roadkill deer every couple of years. He says the key is getting it immediately after it is hit by the 3/4 ton 4WD.

I saw him in action once. Never seen anybody move quite that fast.

I would think that there would be quite a bit of ruined meat myself.

Benito said...

Yeah, I'm probably going to skip the roadkill and the horse (though one could probably accomplish both of those at once with a strong enough vehicle). You need to live in an area with tasty yet stupid game that's cold enough to prevent spoilage. Here in Memphis I've got bloated armadillo carcasses and the odd skunk or possum.

Samantha, thanks for the offer on the cheese--I've found some online sources for it, and I haven't really looked for it locally yet.

D J R-S said...

I have an unfinished post in my blogspot queue...& one of the elements is the sadness & temptation of passing a pretty doe on my afternoon run, apparently just collapsed on the side of the road curving North out of Lakeport...in Buddhism, there is the attitude that while intentionally killing an animal is always dubious, a roadkill situ is actually a gift that should *not* be passed up!