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thegist

10

October 2011

Of e t s a T an e c O The

THINGS

Every Know Person Sho uld Ho Dont b e the o w To D o ne stu ck the roa

d this

Find out where you are on the mediterranean food pyramid

Pg.29

on the winter side of

DONT STOP HERE LOOK INSIDE!

Pg 48

Pg.94

Pg.41 Pg.81

KEEP MOVING!

THERE’S EVEN MORE!

Pg.34

nwdn a B t a h T Name his list of unkno ut t ink Check o o you th h w e e s d bands an ht make it mig

Pg.11

Pg.73

Pg.56

Do I DARE To Eat A Peach! What would you be willing to eat? Read this mans story


THE INSIDE DEPARTMENTS The Listener Have You Heard.... Pg 11 Whats in a Name.... Pg 18 The Visualizor Movie Spoofs of the year.... Pg 22 Becoming a Pinster.... Pg 26 The Taster Taste the Flavors of the Sea.... Pg 29 Cruises and curves.... Pg 34 The Sweetner Best sweet shops in town.... Pg 41 Floating away.... Pg 45 The Doer 10 things you should know how to do.... Pg 48 How to make it wrong.... Pg 52

FEATURES Whats In a Name.... Pg 56 Do I Dare To Eat A Peach?.... Pg 73 Becoming a Pinster.... Pg 81 Where it all went right.... Pg 94

COVER STORY DO I DARE TO EAT A PEACH?

Pg 73


the LISTENER

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the TASTER

TASTE THE

FLAVORS OF THE SEA

Living the Mediterranean diet can not only be healthy but delicious as well, and with such a variety of flavors you’ll vever be bored with what to eat.

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sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dol magna. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

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the DOER

10

THINGS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW HOW TO DO

You could be that person who doesn’t panic when the tire blows and youre stuck on the side of the road

1

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3

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DO I DARE TO EAT A PEACH? Because as a

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ve never eaten a pickle, at least not on purpose. It’s not a claim I make with pride, though it comes up somewhat often, especially in the summer months. Backyard-beer-andburger-flip season. For much of my life, such occasions were actually harrowing affairs, hardly conducive to the relaxation for which they were purposed. The stress typically kicked in at the end of hour one, just as the congregants moved to the fixings table. Plates stacked with onions, tomatoes, and lettuce, items that, to my mind, had no more business on a burger than peanut butter. Bowls filled with potato salad and coleslaw, two concoctions whose very names I preferred not to let pass my lips. For dessert, the dreaded watermelon. My only solace would come when the chef called, “Who wants cheese on their burger?” at which point, if I was lucky, I’d spot a five-year-old wearing my same look of disgust. A compatriot. We’d get our burgers first—less time was spent in their construction—then go eat at the swing set. “You know,” I’d explain, “I’ve never eaten a pickle, at least not on purpose.” On one such occasion a friend’s son

y eate k c i p a h c u s e I used to b

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by Bill Magrity

got curious. Does that mean you’ve had one on accident?” he asked. Actually, your father once snuck four pickle slices and some mustard on a hamburger he fixed for me. It was at a cookout shortly after we got out of college, an engagement party for him and your mother. What did you do? I took one bite and spit it all over the table.” I grew up the worst eater I’d ever heard of, the kid that my friends’ parents always sent home at suppertime, a sufferer of bizarre food phobias that were absolutely nonnegotiable. I’d refuse to eat cheese, except on pizza, and then only with pepperoni. Mac and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches were out. By a similar logic, french fries were in but mashed potatoes were out. Those few foods I did eat could never be allowed to touch on the plate; “casserole” was the dirtiest word I could think of. I would eat a peanut butter sandwich but had no use for jelly and would refuse to take a bite within an inch of the crust. Essentially, all I ate willingly was plain-and-dry hot dogs and burgers, breakfast cereal with “sugar” in bold letters.


“My mom served dinner on steel cafeteria trays purchased at an Army surplus store. That allowed her to segregate my food. She’d sprinkle Jell-O mix on banana slices to make them seem closer to candy.” 1

6 Such proclivities came at a cost. In elementary school, I was regularly disciplined for not eating enough of my lunch, sequestered to the “baby table,” where talking was forbidden and cafeteria monitors would loom overhead, pushing me to eat. When summer came, my parents would have loved to ship me off to camp but didn’t out of a legitimate fear that I’dstarve. That was fine by me. I was similarly terrified that some camp counselor would force me to drink iced tea. Meals became a combination of accommodation and subterfuge. My mom served dinner on steel cafeteria trays purchased at an Army surplus store. That allowed her to segregate my food. She’d sprinkle Jell-O mix on banana slices to make them seem closer to candy. She’d even turn a blind eye—occasionally—when I’d slide objectionable items to my two younger brothers, neither of whom suffered from finickiness. One of them actually ate crayons and cigarettes. My palate did broaden as I got older, though none of these victories were won at my parents’ table. And so ingrained were the food phobias that I can clearly remember each time I branched out. I first tried ketchup as a tenth grader, at the old Holiday House on Austin’s Ben White Boulevard, in an effort to look sophisticated in front of two much cooler upperclassmen. I was a University of Texas sophomore standing on the corner of Speedway and what is now Dean Keeton when I became an acknowledged fan of caramelized onions. A friend argued that they were the primary attraction in the $1.50 fajitas we’d just bought from a campus vendor, then opened one up to prove it. I was shocked. At that point I’d been enjoying them unwittingly

for more than a year. And then there were tomatoes. I’d long heard that garden-fresh tomatoes were nothing like the canned ones I’d picked out of my mom’s spaghetti. I could even recite the lyrics to Guy Clark’s celebratory hymn “Homegrown Tomatoes.” But I’d never been willing to try one until an afternoon twelve years ago at the home of the writer Jan Reid. The occasion was a reunion of sorts. Four months earlier some friends and I had been with Jan in Mexico City. Our cab had been hijacked by two pistoleros, and Jan had fought back, ending up with a gunshot wound in his belly and a bullet near his spine. While rehabbing in Houston, he had asked me to water his cherished tomato plants. When he finally got home, the Gang of Four, as he called us, met at his house for dinner. As we sat down, he announced he was serving BLTs, casually mentioning how good it had felt to have been able to pick the tomatoes that afternoon. He thanked me for keeping them alive while he’d been in the hospital. It didn’t seem an appropriate time to say, “I don’t eat those.” They tasted as great as food served by someone who’s saved your life should. And the affinity held up; the next time I encountered a homegrown tomato I bit into it as if it were an apple. By then I was 33 years old. And though nowadays I’ll eat just about anything—and have never really wondered what my life would have been like if only I’d met tomatoes sooner—a new concern has arisen. At 44, I’ve finally gotten married, and my wife and I are talking about starting a family. We’ve seen enough friends have children to know that wearing regurgitated yams.

with everything on it

i’ve grown into it

7 FOOD PHOBIA!

DARING EATER!

8

3

just a bun

2

5 4

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can’t decide

here are you in the web of pickiness???

1 When asked what you want on a ham- 4

consectetur adipisicing elit, sed 7 When asking for a burger just a bun burger you say everything and more. Ut do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut and ketchup will consectetur adipisiclabore et dolore magna aliqua. con- ing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor inenim ad minim veniam, quis nos. sectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eius. cididunt ut labore et dolore magna 2 consectetur adipisicing elit, sed aliqua. do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut 5 Tried to get consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor in- 8 Pickiest of picky eaters consectetur labore et dolore magna aliqua. cididunt ut labore et dolore magna adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod 3 when you taste something that at first aliqua. tempor incididunt ut labore et doloscares you consectetur adipisicing elit, re magna aliqua that he can’t go inside sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt 6 Is very interesting to me but consecte- until he finishes. tur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. tempor incididunt ut labore et dolo. tigation.”


“There are major

categories of things that affect how

much pleasure we take from food. One is But we’d like to by the sensory, and that’s where the supertasters identifiable find a way to make pair of Ray-Bans that stop somefit in. We don’t all taste things the same way. folded next to his time before the plate.) His relaThat’s hardwired. The other is experience, kids go to college. tionship with the Since my genes will burger will be much the pathologies you have encountered. get the credit for any more complicated. Giv-

That is all learned.”

picky eaters produced, the burden of learning why they happen and how best to deal with them has fallen to me. So I started doing some research. Imagine a caveman is eyeballing a hamburger. His reaction will be as instinctual as going to the bathroom or looking for love. With the first bite, chemical reactions between the burger’s ingredients and taste receptors in his tongue will send messages through his nervous system, primarily the chorda tympani nerve, which stretches around his eardrum to the stem of his brain. If there’s a tomato on it, or maybe some ketchup, he’ll get a sweet taste, which upon arrival upstairs will trigger a small dopamine release. His body will read that as good news. The same will happen with the salty fat in the meat and cheese. But if by chance there’s some arugula onboard, a bitter taste will register, signifier of potential poison. He’ll likely spit that out and pick it off the rest of the burger. This information will be more detailed than that from the tongue, which can read only the five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and the newly discovered, ever-nebulous umami. The news will combine in the brain and be read as distinct flavors. He’ll go about the rest of his day with a good supply of energy and remember that meal as a fine thing. Now picture the caveman eating at Austin’s Counter Cafe, rightfully considered home to the city’s best burger. Sitting next to him and regarding an identical lunch is a member of that class of Austinite that considers itself the town’s most evolved: the trendy hipster. (Though the hipster will be

en all the variables, if the hipster chooses to leave everything off his meat patty but the bun, there’d be plenty of potential reasons why. “When we talk about picky eating, we are talking about pleasure and people who don’t get the same hit from eating that others do,” instructs Linda Bartoshuk, the director of human research at the University of Florida’s Center for Smell and Taste. She was one of the first experts I called, a legend in the tight circle of neuroscientists, psychologists, and nutritionists who study the way people eat. She’s researched taste for 45 years, and among her discoveries is the supertasting phenomenon. “There are major categories of things that affect how much pleasure we take from food. One is sensory, and that’s where the supertasters fit in. We don’t all taste things the same way. That’s hardwired. The other is experience, the pathologies you have encountered. That is all learned.” Those lessons come early. When Bartoshuk explained the fundamental nature of conditioned food preferences and aversions, she pointed to baby rats, who sniff their mother’s breath to learn what is safe to eat. In finicky humans, the primary pathology is gastrointestinal problems. If a person of any age throws up shortly after eating, he’ll automatically develop an aversion to whatever he just ate, regardless of any causal connection between it and getting sick. “When I see a picky kid, the first thing I try to find out is his medical history. If the parents say he threw up a lot when he was young, I’ve got a pretty good idea why he finds many foods disgusting. It’s a brain mechanism he can’t

help.” As the experts ticked off the things that typically go wrong, they sounded as if they had had access to my childhood scrapbooks. My first extended hospital stay came shortly before I turned three, during a frightful bout with epiglottitis. Because of a virus, my throat was closing shut, producing the kind of prolonged, painful eating trauma that the shrinks and neuroscientists said could lead a kid to reject a whole host of foods. The hospital stay had been cut short because I wouldn’t eat the food. As my teen years approached, every meal became a battle of wills. My parents would tell me to eat, I would refuse, and they’d wait me out. My brothers would finish dinner and be excused to their rooms before I could sneak them my green beans. The family dog, a supremely overfed basset hound named Bobo who was my greatest ally in such matters, would be shooed to the garage. While Mom cleaned the kitchen, I’d remain at the table. Eventually she’d sit and watch me, sometimes for as long as an hour. She never turned cruel. One doctor I talked to described parents who tell their children, “If you don’t want it for dinner, you’ll have it for breakfast,” then put the plate in the fridge to serve it again in the morning. That sounds like torture. Instead, I’d ultimately give in, choke down my two green beans, and wash off my plate. But those wars were fought just once a week. My dad worked days and my mom worked nights; Thursdays were the only time we assembled for what we called “sit-

down meals.” On weekends we’d occasionally hit the McDonald’s drive-through as a full unit. I was, of course, unwilling to eat any of the already prepared items that give fast food its name. The burgers under the heat lamp sported mustard, pickles, and onions, and I wouldn’t touch one, even with everything scraped off. Instead I’d insist on one specially made. The cashier at the window would direct us to a corner of the parking lot, where we would sit in the station wagon and wait. My mom didn’t believe in air-conditioning, and my dad didn’t believe in bickering, so the interludes were quiet and uncomfortable. He might fiddle with the radio; she might comment that the car needed washing. My brothers and I would turn around to stare out the back window at the McDonald’s front door. Eventually an employee would emerge and bring out our order, then wait by the car while I inspected my burger. If so much as a hint of yellow mustard showed up on the outside of the wrapper, I’d send it back. Chef Andrew Zimmern is the co-creator and star of a program on the Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern. For six seasons, he’s played the part of the cheerfully daring food tourist, landing each week in a new spot on the globe to sample local staples, always something that would shock any eater back at his Minneapolis home. He’s become a devotee, for instance, of spoiled foods. “Whether it’s fermented skate wing in Japan, or hákarl [fermented shark] in Iceland. He’s had bat


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