Monday, July 30, 2012

Try Something New

It was the banana leaves that did it for me. I tell my kids all the time, “Don’t tell me you don’t like it if you’ve never tried it.” I’m talking about food, of course, and in this case, banana leaves have the starring role. They’re an essential ingredient of kalua pork, a traditional Hawaiian dish that’s usually cooked in the ground. Mind you, I didn’t cook mine in the ground; I used a wood fired grill. But it’s true about those banana leaves. It ain’t kalua pork without ‘em.

And that has caused me to come over all philosophical. Because truly, how often do we really try new things? (If you’re jet set or single, ignore this). For those like me, who actually thrive on routine occasionally, trying something new can be daunting. Like a kid with a plate of sushi in front him and a look of horrified anxiety on his face. Or like a grown man trying to bring off homemade kalua pork for the first time in his life.

Sometimes there are a lot of elements that have to come together in order for the New Thing to be a success. For instance, there might be a need to find where in the hell to buy banana leaves in Boise, Idaho. Or Hawaiian red salt. Or there could be a wood fired grill that refuses to cooperate and just stay at around 300 degrees all day long, necessitating the native blowgun method of cooking (don’t ask, but it involves a disused metal broom handle aimed at hot coals and the lungs of an old trumpet player). That New Thing might cost you, in other words.

You may not even like it, and that’s okay. But at least you can say you’ve tried it. Or that you’ve had it, which puts me in mind of my mother telling me, “I have had it with you!” as a kid—or was that a Bill Cosby sketch? And anyway there might be the lingering aftertaste of regret commingled with be-bafflyfuddle-wildering victory. One might ask the question “why” one was so stupid as to try Spam and seaweed. Look at it as a notch on your belt, then. And try something new. Really. Try it. You’ll like it. Or not. But just try it. It may or may not be fun or even remotely enjoyable or even perhaps a total and complete waste of time and energy, but in the end you can at least brag about it. I know I will.

And you know what else? My homemade kalua pork was so good I’m going to try beef brisket the same way. I’m told I can’t (HA!) call it kalua beef, but critics aren’t even human. Now, before I begin a new tangent I must end this blog post.

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