adventures in food

When I was young, I wanted to be an anthropologist. This was probably influenced in part by the first Indiana Jones movie, I have to admit, but I do believe the groundwork was there from watching public television shows on ancient cultures and the origins of the human species….as well as total crap like “In Search of!”   I told my mother that I wanted to drive a motorcycle (which she forbade) ok, a jeep….and live in Australia.  I pictured myself dressed in shades of brown and red, a hat (I have ALWAYS liked hats, since I can remember), and carrying an excellently worn leather satchel.

Because I planned to spend a lot of time in exotic locales, I knew I would have to be willing to eat things that were off the typical American menu.  Perhaps not insects if I could help it, but I planned to need to be able to eat mushy things with a leaf while crouching in dark, clay-walled dwellings.

photo of Bixa orellana fruit, used in food additive "annatto".  spikey pods with pink berries inside.

Annatto. Made with 100% natural, not from earth ingredients!

And so I approached food with a sense of “ok, I’ll try it”.  I didn’t seek out strange shit, but I did try it if it was presented to me.  Of course, the “strange shit” I was likely to encounter as a child was limited to things like broccoli and my mother’s attempt at tuna casserole (which we ate while watching NOVA’s “Mircacle of Life“, a good way to turn the kids off of both sex and tuna casserole).  This orientation served me well when as an older child, I was confronted with cold berry soup and caviar, and later when a friend in high school invited me to a big Cambodian New Year party.

I abandoned my plans to be an anthropologist in college, although I did pick up a minor in it.  And as my gut has become increasingly unruly, I am starting to find I need to impose some unhappy limits on my palate.  I’ve been diagnosed with lactose intolerance since I was about….erg, 12 or 13?  But I cheated routinely.  No more.  Onions were one of the first things to go as an adult, and garlic  that is not very well cooked.  I miss them terribly but they do horrible things to the reflux.  I have already discovered that there are foods that I am, if not outright allergic to, then at least unpleasantly sensitive to…pineapple and strawberry being on that list.  Certain additives, like annatto, are also out.  That one is tough since it isn’t always listed as an ingredient but is lumped under “natural coloring” or “natural flavor”.

Yesterday, I bought some coconut milk non-dairy ice cream.  Why not?  It doesn’t have milk, and it’s all natural!  I ate it tentatively, making sure my mouth didn’t react.  Nope, and it was yummy, so I ate it.  And I am paying today.  What might I have reacted to?  Perhaps the “natural flavor” that was added.  Maybe an actual listed ingredient that I just don’t often eat and which would be  tough to isolate.  And so I think I’m just going to have to restrict my food to things I know I can eat without upsetting the gut or stomach.

Photo credit:, by Arria Belli, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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