Experimenting With Food

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Once upon a time, many years ago, I packed myself a peanut butter and broccoli sandwich for lunch and brought it to work. Peanuts are legumes, just like chickpeas, I reasoned, so I had a reasonable basis for thinking that swapping out hummus for peanut butter would taste good. Not only was I wrong, but the sandwich was horrendous and bordered on inedible.

When I recently reminded Joanne about my experiment gone wrong, she was unsympathetic, insinuating that I was nuts for inventing such a strange combination of foods. Some of her own food experiments have turned out poorly as well, but she defended them by explaining that she has generally gotten her ideas from TikTok and elsewhere on social media. But someone out there was the first person to try each of those ideas, I explained, and they had to have the flexibility and imagination to try something new before discovering that they liked the result enough to post about it for others to see. If my peanut butter and broccoli combination had turned out great, I would have told other people about it, and maybe it would have become a thing.

Just as the results of experimenting with food are all over the place, so are the reasons for trying new combinations in the first place. Out of mayo earlier this month, Joanne made tuna salad with yogurt, and the tangy result was terrible. Unsure what to do with leftover Halloween candy corns a couple of decades ago, I put some on top of mint Oreo ice cream, and I loved the weird combination so much that I have made it every fall for the last 20 years. After finding that her breakfasts were not holding her for very long, Joanne tried adding Orgain powder to her coffee and cottage cheese to her eggs, and the increased protein leaves her satiated for a longer duration. Because I wanted to increase my fiber intake, I tried marinara sauce on chickpeas and found that I like it just as much, if not better, than on pasta. On paper, drinking soda during endurance events is a questionable choice, but after some experimentation with different hydration options, I set my marathon personal record on Coca-Cola Classic. Without allowing her to experiment, we never would have learned that one of our daughter’s favorite drinks is pickle juice.

While necessity sometimes leads to new creations, imagination is often a driving force, but creativity means little without the freedom to experiment. If you have food rules, consider how they are affecting your ability to experiment with food. While I am not advocating for food rules, I do acknowledge that they can have some upside. For example, someone who feels that they must have a vegetable with dinner may feel inspired to try a wide array of vegetables for the sake of variety and keeping things fresh within the limitations that their food rule demands. On the other hand, one of the many downsides of food rules is that they limit the scope of creativity. For example, the aforementioned individual who insists on having a vegetable with dinner has fewer options than someone who is flexible regarding a vegetable’s inclusion. Given that, if you have food rules, consider downgrading them to food guidelines in order to give yourself more freedom.

If you put food rules and norms to the side and give yourself permission to put your creativity to work, what might you try?

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