Posted by Peter D'Adamo for Sante_J.
I won't mince words: I'm on a junk jag. I'm feeling lazy and choose to order in or go for quick meals. I'll touch upon four "avoid" foods I've tasted -- truly tasted -- recently.
The first is popcorn. I've gone many years in a row with no popcorn. I don't miss it. But now that I've had some, I've discovered that it has a powerful taste with which I'm no longer familiar: It's CORNY! There's just no other way to describe it. The interesting thing about popcorn is: It's easy to eat without tasting it. You can focus on your movie or TV show. You can perceive it mostly texturally (a sensual marvel in itself). You can enjoy the butter or the salt or the herb-sprinkle. You can mindlessly scarf it down by the handful. But if you stop and focus, there's just no way around its sheer corniness. It's quite miraculous, really, that corn, burst from its kernel, tastes the way corn on the cob tastes, the way ground corn in chips tastes: Corny. And nothing else in the world does, or comes close.
The second is root beer. This is a subject worthy of its very own blog. I "discovered" root beer this spring. I'm sipping one right now. It's rather a delicacy for me, as an "avoid", and I relish it. A good root beer (this one is "Barq's Famous Olde Tyme...Since 1898")(it also contains corn syrup - I know - and it doesn't taste corny) brings out my inner perfumer. It has a dark, musty patchouli-like base, the requisite hint of birch, a vanilla roundness, and a spiking of clove. A sophisticated cordial, if well blended and properly appreciated. A top-notch root beer syrup could be a cocktail ingredient, extended, perhaps, with rum or certain whiskies.
Third is arabbiata or "fra diavolo" tomato sauce. The "diavolo" is in the peppers, and they're essential to complexifying a good marinara base, especially if undergirded by such suitable foils as crustaceans or a beneficial ocean fish such as halibut. Linguine marinara is fine, but just as easy is a jar of Rao's Arabbiata or Classico Spicy Pepper tomato sauce. Another way to add interest is to do as my Nana so masterfully did: Go Garlicky.
Fourth is vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. No: I don't like them lately. Haagen-Dasz vanilla frozen yogurt, Breyer's vanilla ice cream. Taste: Sugar, sugar, sugar (and probably corn syrup too, again!). A single note with no complexity. These might silkily enrich a fine root beer (as a "float") or take a brandy- or rum-based saucing, but alone they are no longer (Hooray!) a temptation. They'd do well to take on a textural garnish component, such as particularly raspy walnuts, with that rum sauce, or to be founded upon a spiced cake. Of the four recent avoids, solitary vanilla ice cream is the low scorer, by a wide margin (Then again, I'm not exactly advocating solitary tomato sauce!).
I could easily have hidden from you my little vices. But what I wanted to share was the art of fully experiencing one's food. Avoids are foods we may be better qualified to truly taste, for their being relative rarities in our long-term programs. And if you're going to "cheat", make it good!
Dr. D'Adamo says he waits all year for his wife Martha's stuffed cabbage, an avoid for him. I'll bet he really tastes it, too.
Once upon a time in Oriental climes, there languished huge populations of exhausted progeny of migrants and nomads. Now largely settled in China, Korea, SE Asia, Siam, and India, they received travelers from the West hungry for their silks and spices, curious about their ancient and enigmatic ways. The West was in temporary ascendancy, crossing the high seas using largely eastern technologies.
In their lust for routes to the East, Europeans sailed westward to the Americas, bringing to these virgin cultures their bacteria and sugar cane, dogs and horses, trading these for gold, silver, emeralds, cacao, vanilla, potatoes, tomatoes, and hot peppers. Their hosts were decimated.
You see, the Western Hemisphere, certainly South of the Rio Grande, was populated exclusively by those of bloodtype O, with no immunity to the yellow fever and malaria carried relatively easily by their A "discoverers". Surely it baffled the Europeans that these natives were so strangely fragile and short-lived.
Arriving back in Europe, the New World's bounty was appreciated. "Che bello frutta!" exclaimed the Italians over the pomodoro/tomato. "OLaLa! Les pommes--de terre!" marvelled the French over potatoes. Dessert was certainly never the same after chocolate's and vanilla's arrival. But --- What to do with this succulent spicy vegetable? "Too hot!" gasped alarmed Europeans, choking on peppers large and small.
In Europe's fringe areas of North Africa andHungary/Balkans, however, where Oriental/Arab/Black influence was stronger, the flavor was found intriguing, even marvelous. Turks, Persians, all were excited, but the Great Awakening took place in Goa, South India, when the Portuguese for the first time brought the new discovery for trade in the early 16th century. The Indians bought America's hot peppers from these Europeans, and the cuisines of south India, of Siam, Burma and China were forever changed. A fire was lit under an introspective culture in preparation for its re-emergence on the world -- global -- scene.
Peppers. The B bloodgroup, of specifically Asian provenance, though represented moderately in Africa, Western Russia and the Balkans via westward migrations, began to thrive on them, but had lived for thousands of years without them. European A's, finding themselves in possession of a food item so nourishing to the native O population whence it had come, found that they themselves simply could not stomach it! Probably recognizing that the Easterners in their midst seemed to have no problems digesting peppers, these A's cannily carried them to the Asian market as a (hot) novelty item. (And how many Spaniards and Portuguese died of scurvy on their return voyages in the 15th-17th centuries because this amazing vitamin C source burned their throats!)
As a B myself, I'm quite grateful to the O's and A's who gave their lives, whether on their own soil or on the high seas, that I and my outlying people might be delightfully energized.
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You may not (yet) understand the role of the hot pepper in the inevitable Asian/B-allele's ascendancy. That's fine with us. We don't mind a cloak of mystique; we can see over the next dune.
As a child growing up in New York and eating often in restaurants, I was exposed to a surprisingly small variety of cuisines as, during that era, there was simply not yet the wide spectrum of immigrant cultures thriving in the restaurant trade, even in the Meltingest-Pot metropolis of 'em all.
It was therefore at the New York World's Fair (1964) that I tasted of many cuisines for the first time, my absolute favorite being Indian. As a towhead schoolgirl, I dug into curries and licked ghee from my finger "just like the child Krishna!" exclaimed our waiter, who'd earlier been sure my parents might want to take a look at the Children's Menu most customers' kids favored..."just in case".
By the late 1960's my favorite cuisine was Mexican, as it was plenty hot and beginning to be available here and there in New York. The spices didn't "agree with" my parents, but I busied myself conducting contests such as "Best Cuppa Chili in NYC", and salsa fresca was a favorite vehicle for the delivery of jalapenos. It would be but a short time before Chinese restaurants would veer blissfully Szechwanward from the ubiquitous and bland Cantonese, about which I was rather indifferent.
Dr. D'Adamo rates all peppers "avoid" for those of blood types A and AB which, it seems, everyone else in my family was. Hence, what a blessing to have been born at a time and place so ripe for the ethnic restaurant explosion! The latter put me in touch with genetic roots tinged with lands, attributes, and tendencies so different from those expressed by the rest of my family.
Today I sometimes unwittingly omit peppers for long or short periods, forgetting how terrific I feel when I eat them. While I admit to preferring my curries, chutneys and (tomato-free) salsa on the mild side, it's clear that I, as a B, can scratch a certain itch only with chilis. And it's not their TASTE; it's whatever's so -- how do I put it -- strengthening, invigorating, regularizing, normalizing -- about them. They realign the whole organism. Whereas, as a child, I sought out hot peppers because they tasted good to me, now as an...elder I enjoy the positive effect they have on my metabolism. They make me think "Wow! I needed that."
The herbals say cayenne stimulates gastric juices and "improves metabolism", and that chilis are loaded with vitamins C and, yes, B's. Earl Mindell writes, unwittingly I suppose of B's and O's, "A meal rich in cayenne will have a mildly stimulating effect on the body". He writes that hot peppers "can trim cholesterol and triglyceride levels". "Stimulant", "Tonic", writes another author. "Improves circulation" "Aids digestion"...
As for me personally, I'd go so far as to say that the omission of hot peppers from my diet over too long a time will lower my stress threshhold and lead to a sense of sluggishness. And maybe my exposure to, and enjoyment of, hot peppers as a child was something of a gift from God, keeping me hardy amongst the aliens.
Hear ye, all B's! I've recently discovered Calzone: A great home delivery dinner order (for B's, that is: Cheese-filled dough is a compliant O's nightmare). A thin pizza dough shell encloses ricotta and mozzarella cheeses (both beneficial) and no tomato sauce! You can add beneficial vegetables such as broccoli or bell peppers, or such neutrals as zucchini, onions, mushrooms or even beef. What a discovery: A great way to enjoy those dairy bennies.
Other take-out food can be tricky.
From Italian restaurants, tomatoes and tomato sauces, olives and anchovies must be dodged, but pasta alfredo primavera is safe, as are some "white" pizzas and, of course, various veal dishes and salads.
Chinese food is generally not-the-best for us, unless cornstarch, MSG, sesame oil, black beans and soy sauce can be avoided. Most dishes include at least one of these, I find. Potstickers, cabbage salad, steamed fishes or sizzling scallops, beef and vegetables are generally good, however, at the right restaurant.
Japanese food can be safer, especially when it comes to suitable sushi-rolls. Miso shiru and dressing can be avoided, and grilled steak or salmon is usually available.
Thai food is an option if you watch out for: Tomatoes, peanuts, baby corns, and tofu/soy. Those chili pastes are B-friendly, but oils may not be. Charbroiled steak or pork is usually a staple, however, and can be enjoyed sliced over a salad, too, usually with mint, lime and red onion.
Indian food entices with lamb, paneer, eggplant, cauliflower and curry -- all beneficial - but tomatoes lurk in many sauces (curries, masalas, et al), and chickpeas and lentils are also staples (papadums, pakora batter, dahl, etc.). Kurma, a favorite mild Punjabi sauce, is based upon ground nuts that might be almonds (fine) but just as likely could be cashews (avoid). Go for Lamb Kebobs and a fragrant rice or naan. Dress it with a yogurt-based cilantro/mint chutney and onions and green peppers, often provided.
Those are the most prevalent cuisines delivered in San Francisco. If health permits and these deliveries aren't frequent, you can spring for "borderline" favorites (and even pick out what offends, if you like: My garbage disposal eats many a tomato, peanut and olive).
Remember: You can also wipe or wash off unwanted sauces. And: Ask for special orders. Often I ask that baby corn be omitted. I've also asked that the cook "do his/her best" to omit more painstakingly removed items such as chickpeas, when plating or boxing. You'd be surprised how many are willing to make the effort.
You can also invent dishes (especially if you're a regular customer and are willing to pay a bit extra and wait a bit longer). Ask for a sauce you like on an item you like, even if it's not printed on the menu. Where appropriate, order dressing/sauce "on the side", so you're not obliged.
As for calzone: I don't know what I imagined it'd be, but to me it's basically a thin-crusted pizza LOADED with melted, fresh and beneficial cheeses: Yummy!
I've got a beef: Ever hear that red meat -- its industry and those who enjoy it -- is sexist? We're not talking about responsible vs. irresponsible industry standards, my friends; I've even read that Real Women Shouldn't Eat Meat! Such political correctness, were it to become epidemic, would kill off more O's than did cholera! Great: Massive population control, Peace on earth, and the-repletion-of-the-ozone-layer, once those hunters are out of the way; save the cute little calves, but skewer thy neighbor!
Vegetarian Times? Yoga Journal? How about Responsible Beefetarian and Omnivore Report? Equal time! Any venture publishers out there?
Some ask why vegetarians can be judgmental versus those who don't eat as they do. I say it's only the ones who have no greater faith. Those who make of dietary choice a religion are the freaks, no? In the end their flesh-eating maggots'll push up the same daisies as will mine (even tiny carnivores have the last word, ladies).
Meanwhile, this babe takes hers Prime, Aged, and Medium-Rare. Take it up with my lawyer (or doctor).
Let us close with a hymn: "Mary had a little lamb, a little beef, a little ham..."