Perspective: The Re-Branding of Food Ideas

Your perception dictates your reality. It’s absolutely true that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and you very much find this concept at play when it comes to the kinds of things that people eat. Some folks love sushi, while others cringe at the idea of consuming raw fish.

Part of this has to do with personal preference and cultural differences, of course, but there’s another major factor in play: the branding and approach that the food vendors take. Let’s have a look at a few such examples.

The Offal Truth

I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations a while back and he was trying out the cuisine somewhere in the United Kingdom (the exact city escapes me at the moment). The key here was the focus on offal.

In case you’re not familiar, offal includes the various entrails and other internal organs of an animal when used as a food product. Eating liver is pretty common, but offal enthusiasts also dine on bone marrow, kidneys, intestines, gonads, and so on. Interestingly, offal used to be “reserved” for poorer people who could not afford to buy “real” meat. That has changed. Now, offal is used more extensively in fine dining establishments, partly as novelty, partly as a luxury item.

From what I can remember, I haven’t tried much offal when prepared in a “western” style, but I am no stranger to eating Asian-style organs and innards. I enjoy tripe, beef tongue, chicken giblets. Most Chinese restaurants will sell an “assorted beef” soup noodle and that’s one of my favorites.

From Pests to Palatable

It wouldn’t exactly be accurate for me to say that I’m an expert on the matter, but it seems that the French are particularly good at this particular trend. They take something that is otherwise undesirable and turn it into something everyone wants (and is willing to pay a pretty penny to get).

Take frog legs as an example. When you look at a frog, it doesn’t look very appetizing. Frogs can also be pests to farmers and landowners. So, what do you? Chop them up and fry them in lemon butter, of course! Caviar is another great example. Not too many people would think about eating fish eggs, but that has become a delicacy. You could say the same about several different sushi and sashimi items from Japan too.

Falling Out of Favor

Perspective is a two-way street. Just as you can take something that is undesirable and make it desirable, the reverse is also true. For the longest time, shark fin soup was very popular in Chinese restaurants (and it remains popular). Part of this has to do with superstition, but shark fin has become quite expensive over the years.

However, there is a growing trend to eschew shark fin due to the practices involved in acquiring it. Shark fin soup has taken on a bad name in many circles, despite being a “high class” food item for so long. You could say that the same thing happened to foie gras too.

So, what’s your take? Do you like offal? How do you feel about frog legs and caviar? Shark fin and foie gras?