I’m going to be honest. Before opening the Celtic Cavern, I was the guy who didn’t like to try new foods. There were certain things I remembered eating as a kid that simply made me cringe … soggy spinach, overcooked pork chops, kielbasa served with a mysterious mustard sauce … just thinking about the tastes and textures of these foods would terrify my tastebuds.
When I partnered with Chef Bill in 2015, I didn’t realize my palate was about to be completely transformed. It all started with a split pea soup he had prepared for a community tasting event. For starters, I was completely baffled as to why the hell he would serve pea soup at an event like this. Was he crazy? Pea soup is one of the most unappetizing things on the planet! I had to talk him out of it. So I approached him and stated my concerns. His response to me was basically “don’t knock it until you try it.” And then he somehow convinced me to try it…
After taking the smallest sip of hot soup off the spoon, my response was (if I’m recalling this correctly), “Holy f#$king shit!” I kid you not, it was the best damn soup I had ever tasted. The peas were pureed to perfection and the chunks of spicy tasso ham gave the soup an incredibly manageable kick. It was in that moment I realized, it’s all in the preparation! And so my tasting adventure truly began.
Over the past year, I’ve been making a conscious effort to experiment with new foods … which has led me to writing this blog post. For all the self-proclaimed picky-eaters out there, I’m hoping to bring you over to the other side with me. In this post, I’m going to share some of the foods that I downright hated as a kid but have since come to love!
1. Split Pea Soup
As I mentioned above, Chef Bill’s pea soup … “Holy f#$king shit!” It’s immensely flavorful and it completely fits the definition of a comfort food. Peas by themself are kind of boring. But when they’re transformed into a thick soup, combined with savory seasonings, and balanced by the Cajun heat of tasso ham … GAME ON!
BTW...if you’re wondering, the split pea soup was a smash hit at the tasting event. We served it in little shot cups and people were downing it like Jameson on St. Patrick’s Day.
2. Brussels Sprouts
Stinky and flavorless … yup, that’s how I remember them. I definitely put brussels sprouts into my basket of deplorables as a kid. And then I discovered Chef Bill’s brussels sprouts. Again, it’s all in the preparation. Brussels sprouts have become a staple on Celtic Cavern’s menu. Flash fried, seasoned, and served with a tangy Cajun sauce, they’re heavenly little morsels for sure! Sort of like Pringles ... once you pop you seriously just can’t stop.
So I never actually tried hummus as a kid. But seeing it as an adult, I was put off. The color seemed odd and the thought of mushed up chickpeas really didn’t excite me at all. What I didn’t realize is that hummus comes in all different varieties and is packed with flavor. My favorites so far have been the Roasted Red Pepper and the Caramelized Onion. Served with warm pita bites and crisp veggies, the Hummus Plate at the Celtic is one of my main go-to’s when I’m looking for something light and healthy.
4. Pork Chops
Blunt force trauma could have been caused by the pork chops I was served as a kid. Dry as a bone with zero flavor. Clearly I was given the very-well-done version. And understandably so. You obviously wouldn’t want to serve undercooked pork for health safety reasons. However, just like any other meat, there are different temperature ranges for preparing pork. Here’s a reference from FoodNetwork.com of ranges and ideal internal temperatures:
- Medium rare: 145 + 3 minute rest
- Medium 150
- Well done 160
The Big Pig is the colossal chop we serve at the Celtic. This thick cut is seared and served with its savory pan gravy. It usually takes about 20-25 to cook (as perfection takes time).
The only time I enjoyed seeing spinach as a kid was during an episode of Popeye The Sailor. I have to give my girlfriend Jamie credit for duping me into trying it as an adult. After only a few short months of dating, she quickly learned of my picky-eating. Being the ultimate foodie, she was bound and determined to get me to try new things. One night she prepared a summer salad. It had strawberries, creamy chunks of gorgonzola cheese, red onion, candied walnuts, and a poppy seed dressing. I ate two large helpings and was basically licking the salad bowl as I asked her, “what kind of lettuce was that?” After an outburst of laughter she broke the news. It was baby spinach!
The lesson in all of this? If I could do it, so can you! There are so many amazing foods out there … you’re truly doing yourself a disservice by not at least sampling new things. What’s there to lose? If you truly don’t like it, you can always just secretly spit it out in your napkin. No harm, no foul. And obviously you’re not going to enjoy everything … for me, it’s olives (and that’s counting the juice, too … I consider it poison and cannot eat or drink anything it touches). At least be willing to not knock something before you try it.
Photo Credit: SteamyKitchen.com