In Praise of the Pathetic Palate

In light of yesterday’s post on hunger and my incessant urge to eat, I feel compelled to continue in the “foodie” vein today and share the ugly truth about my pathetic palate.

Lest there be any confusion, allow me to be perfectly clear, I do not have sophisticated taste—at least not where food is concerned.

So—my dear friends—fans of “Top Chef” and all things Food Network—please know, I’m not one of you.

I respect you.  I may even admire from a distance—but always from a distance—and with Twinkie firmly in fist.

My tongue loves simple—craves country kitchen.

My palate is far from adventuresome.

Yes, I’ve eaten in exotic locations like Thailand and India, but in those places I have tried, as often as possible, to consume the most American of foods.  In Hanoi I begged for burgers.  In Delhi I ate Pizza Hut as frequently as those I traveled with would tolerate.

Yes, I’ve eaten sushi.  I’ve tried really hard to like it.  I pretended to love it even on my first date with Sara, who does indeed love food, regularly reads Gourmet Magazine, and admires men like Anthony Bourdain.  But “fake it till you make it” doesn’t translate into loving ceviche or any kind of raw fish, for that matter.

The closest I come to sophisticated palate involves my love of crème brulee.  But mostly that’s about craving the caramelized sugar crusting the top.  Yes, I may rave about rosemary a bit too much to qualify as a complete culinary klutz, but really, what’s not to adore about any herb used in Italian cooking.  America’s eaten spaghetti for decades.

My partner Sara mocks my culinary habits, claiming (rightly so, I might add) that left on my own, I would eat only bread and butter—and both in huge quantities.  I’m indeed a fan of the baguette and adore beignets, but I love them, not because of their relationship to French cuisine, but because they’re both basically bread.  I love flour.  I crave yeast.  Bagels, biscuits, baguettes, beignets—I’m all about bread.

But the bottom line is this—

There’s too much hunger on the planet to praise the pampered palate.  I’d rather ridicule molecular gastronomy.  Who wants their food deconstructed, anyway?

That I live in a culture with an entire television network dedicated to all things food-related nauseates me. I come from a country with an obesity epidemic but have lived in one like Haiti—a place that’s plagued by not enough to eat—people too poor to feed themselves.  This is a painful irony to swallow.

graphic from

When will America’s “biggest losers” step up to the plate (or away from it, for that matter) long enough to feed their malnourished neighbors in places like Port-au-Prince or Bangladesh?

My palate may not be as sophisticated as Ruth Reichl’s, but do foodies like Rachael Ray respect hunger enough to know that morning in America does not mean breakfast in Haiti?

30 thoughts on “In Praise of the Pathetic Palate

  1. Thank you for the reminder that we are so complete spoiled in this country that we have completely lost touch with the reality of food. Yes, food tastes good, but its main purpose should be to nurture us. When we lose sight of that, we become vain, egotistical greed monsters. I think I would enjoy a simple bowl of rice more if I could share it with a person who needs it more than I do.


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  3. “but always from a distance—and with Twinkie firmly in fist”… Sister, I’d be right there beside you, clutching a Snickers.

    I love the perspective you have, an American who’s seen the outside. I can’t imagine how skewed and strange our culture seems after having lived in places much less cushioned and spoiled.


    • Amen–I’ll have a Ho-Ho in the other hand! I’ll admit–it is kind of weird looking in from the outside and then looking out again from the belly of foodie beast, so to speak. Thanks for joining me, Tori!


  4. Reminds me of a cartoon I once saw that I love. On one side is a picture of an American mom saying to her child: “Eat it all, there are starving children in Africa!” On the other side is an African mom saying to HER child “Don’t eat so much, do you want to be fat like those Americans?”

    We take so much for granted here! It is always good to have a reminder of what we truly have. Thanks again 🙂


  5. It is ironic, when you think about it, that there is an excess of food (and abuses of this excess) in America while other countries have life threatening food shortages. Isn’t it dead simple we need to share the wealth (and the food supply)? Isn’t that the only humane answer?
    Great thoughts and great post.


  6. Not everyone in America is doing so well when it comes to food: “One in seven, or 14.7 percent, of American households suffered from food insecurity in 2009, according to the most recent data on hunger released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the numbers remain unchanged since 2008, they are still the highest recorded levels since the USDA first began publishing figures on food insecurity.” Note we call it ‘food insecurity’ to cover up the fact that we have Americans going hungrey in a country of such wealth. ;-(


  7. Beautiful, and sad, food for thought, Kathy. My family and I try to be conscious of the hunger crisis not just all over the world, but in our own community. However, this posts reminds me that taking food to church for the homeless shelter once a month is not enough. Thank you for the wake-up call! I think this summer, my kids and I are going to find a way to incorporate some “hunger fighting” activities into our fun.


  8. What bugs me is not only how spoiled for choice people in “first world” countries are, but the amount of food which is wasted.

    Although I love trying new exotic foods, my favourites are simple. I can eat bacon and eggs for any meal of the day! 🙂 And bread, of course.


    • Gosh, Lisa, this is an excellent point–the waste! It’s almost criminal!

      And I’m with you about bacon and eggs–I love breakfast food–period–just love it!

      And, my friend, congrats on Freshly Pressed yesterday! How fun was that! It was really a great post!


  9. Way to zoom right out from your own, personal food issues to the much larger food issues on the world scale!

    There was an e-mail circulating around a year or so back– one that showed pictures of families from around the world posing with a week’s worth of their groceries. Each family had their weekly grocery budget printed on top of their photo as well. What a difference! The US family had the highest grocery budget but also A TON of processed food in their picture– it was practically all pizza pops, Coke, and microwaved dinners. A couple of token bananas were thrown in the shot for good measure. As you scrolled down the photos, the bills went down and the amount of fresh foods went up. By the end of the message, there was a very poor family in Africa sitting next to two sacs of lentils and grains. Their weekly food budget was around $2 US. WOW!!

    Thanks for the perspective this morning, Kathy– always appreciated! 🙂


    • Fascinating, Dana! I would have loved to see those photos!

      (I may have zoomed a little too quickly and without enough thought. Sara says I may offend people, as I did her. But that was not my aim, really!)

      Glad you got this one!


  10. I wrote a post similar to this back in 2008. It was not nearly as well written, though, and not as thorough.

    Breads are something I might be able to buckle down and write odes to. lol! I go gluten-free for a while every now and then, and it always amazes me how bad the cravings are for flour and yeast, and then how those cravings disappear after a week or two. All it takes is one bite to bring me right back to the cravings. Who knew bread could be like crack? 😉

    Thank you for another great, thought-provoking post.


    • Oh, I’m sure your post was as fabulous as they always are, Robin! Great to hear that this one spoke to you. Though I’m sorry to hear about your struggle, in some strange way, I’m relieved to know I’m not the only one! Good God–I guess misery loves company! Thank you!


  11. Loved your post, Kathy and will probably feel quilty when next watching food network. I hadn’t even considered having an entire channel devoted to food. But in defence of Anthony Boudain (your partner has wonderful taste), he normally highlights exotic foods in, oftentimes, impoverished places…more irony i guess. Often it’s the quantity (greed) that shocks me the most, though. Until I lived in the USA, I’d never seen such huge plates of unhealthy food, and sooo much wastage.
    Thanks for pointing out such injustice in, as always, such an entertaining way. Is it true that twinkies last forever???


    • Hey, Nikki, great to hear from you! We need to have coffee one day soon!

      At any rate–don’t feel guilty for watchingthe food network. We all have our places to escape. Mine is HGTV. I think it’s just good to sometimes put things into perspective. I suppose one could argue against HGTV since there are homeless people or folks living in substandard housing!

      But about Anthony Bourdain–his show I like but then it’s on the travel channel. I enjoy his irreverence!


  12. Great post Kathy! AMEN! My trip to South America last summer was a real wake-up call. I just wish I had been able to take my son with me. It would have given him a whole new perspective on his favorite morning gripe of “There’s nothing to eat….”


    • So true! My Sara is a big time foodie and she loves Ho Ho’s–so, yes,! I just don’t take food seriously enough to be a foodie. I eat what’s quick and easy–unless Sara is cooking–and OMG she is an amazing cook!


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  14. Even though I’m one of those Food Network fans, I’m not adventurous either when it comes to food…I’d never even had pizza that wasn’t Chef Boy-R-Dee before moving to Canada in 1969! I generally hate spicy food…I don’t like pain! I don’t eat sushi either, if I can help it! I do love perogies…you’d probably like those too.

    Thought-provoking post, Kathy!



  15. Pingback: Hunger (2008) | All Films Blog

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