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The New Food

There is a new food movement afoot out there. Tired of the same old cuisines and choices, people are experimenting as never before, inventing playful, nutritious ways to eat. There is even a song about it (sung to the tune of “Dancing in the Streets”):

Everyone around the world, are you ready for a big red beet?
Dinner’s here and the time is right for trying some new meat!

According to Neatorama, a website I stumbled across at random, there are people called Invasivors who advocate “curbing the growth of invasive species by eating them. Invasivors prey upon species that are taking over the established habitats of other animals.” Seems to me their number one target species should be human beings. The piece in Neatorama also mentions “freegans— people who dine on wasted food.”

Cannibalism and dumpster diving aside, there are some interesting new food ideas in the world today. These advances in food science and preparation scare the devil out of me. I am a food coward. I never met a new food I couldn’t run away from screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I have been ordering the same three dinners: hamburgers, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken fried rice—for decades. When I hit on something I like, I stay with it. For instance, two years ago a fellow HarperOne employee, Dwight Been, introduced me to an exciting new lunch place up the street called Subway. Feeling adventuresome, I ordered a turkey sandwich. I have now ordered that same sandwich 347 consecutive times.

Meanwhile, when lunchtime rolls around my other work colleagues are always standing outside the building debating where to go for lunch.

“We could go to that Vegan Mongolian soup shop.”

“No, not that again! Let’s order something from the Brazilian Rainforest salad place.”

“Oh come on, that’s so boring. Let’s go to Polar Provisions for penguin and lichen sandwiches.”

As you can tell, my colleagues are more adventuresome than me, and San Francisco is a great place to be a foodie. For instance, there is a restaurant here called Coi. Just visit their website and you immediately know these people are on the cutting edge of victuals. Certainly they know more about food than you. At first I couldn’t even figure out how to navigate the Coi website, which reminded me of one of those video games where your avatar wanders around aimlessly looking for a secret key to get to the next level, until eventually (if you’re me) you give up and head to the refrigerator to eat slices of Swiss cheese and peanut butter scooped directly out of the jar.

I finally found the Coi menu and here are some of the items I discovered:

CLAM:
geoduck and manila, bull kelp, meyer lemon, wild fennel

PASTURE
beets roasted in hay, fresh cheese, wild sprouts and flowers

SPRING ALLIUM SOUP
wild onion flowers, smoke, almond

ASPARAGUS COOKED IN THEIR OWN JUICE
seaweed powder, lemon sabayon

CARROTS COOKED ON COFFEE BEAN
creme fraiche, green olive oil, cilantro

What’s a “bull kelp”? Does that soup actually contain “smoke”? Was cooking the carrot on the coffee beans a mistake? “We could throw these carrots away—I mean, you spilled a bunch of coffee beans in there.”

I shouldn’t really be judging Coi, since I’ve never been there and would probably be frightened to even walk in the door. However, three people I know and trust, Laina Adler, Gideon Weil, and David Golia, told me the food at Coi is truly amazing. Still, I can’t help imagining me mother’s reaction if she were alive to witness food like that offered at Coi. My mother came from Dust Bowl Nebraska, and my guess is if she heard that a restaurant was charging serious money for people to eat beets roasted in hay, she’d be laughing all the way to the Italian place down the street that serves lasagna.

Now I’m hungry. Can you pass the chicken fried rice?