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The virtues of eating everything

By Katie Arnold-Ratliff, O, The Oprah Magazine
From poached goat to the thymus gland of a cow fried, one writer tries eating it all.
From poached goat to the thymus gland of a cow fried, one writer tries eating it all.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • One writer discusses the joys of eating everything
  • Writer tries pulled-pork tacos with pickled onions, blindingly spicy Korean noodles
  • She'd rather have curves than agonize over dessert, she says

(OPRAH.com) -- In the past month I've eaten poached goat, grilled octopus, the breaded and fried thymus gland of a cow, tagliatelle with rabbit ragu, and the seared liver of a fatted goose.

In the past 24 hours, I've had pulled-pork tacos with pickled onions, blindingly spicy Korean noodles, caramelized Brussels sprouts, and a deep-fried candy bar.

For dinner I'll be grilling a molasses-brined pork loin --unless I simmer a garlicky cellini bean soup topped with a poached egg. Whatever ends up on my plate, I know I'll enjoy it. That's what I do with food.

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I'm from a region -- between the San Francisco Bay Area and Napa Valley -- that's riddled with farmers' markets, an area where Ethiopian or Cambodian cuisine is as plentiful as burgers, and where culinary legends (Alice Waters, the Kellers Hubert and Thomas) and hidden-gem restaurants (Oakland's Doña Tomás, St. Helena's Meadowood) abound.

All that foodie culture leaves its mark: I learned to love frisée and arugula before my training wheels came off.

But if the area's epicurean quotient is steep, so is its cost of living. When I was growing up, my parents struggled, and to supplement the high-end delicacies, we did what most broke people do: ate junk food. I still love it. Whenever I fly home from New York, I head to In-N-Out straight from the airport. I covet Long John Silver's chicken planks. And God help me if I spot a Krispy Kreme.

In my cabinets you'll find Oreos, boxed mac and cheese (best served studded with hot dog chunks), and six flavors of potato chips -- none of them low fat.

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Now seems a good time to mention my butt, boobs, and stomach, which are ample. I don't mind. I'd rather have curves than agonize over whether I deserve dessert. Plus, I look great in vintage dresses, and, according to at least one small child, my hugs are pleasantly "squishy."

My trunk is not so junk-filled that it can't fit into an airplane seat -- which is lucky, since one of my goals in life is to eat everywhere I can.

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I prep for vacations by slavering over restaurant websites (I call it menu porn). Last fall, for instance, long before landing in New Orleans, I knew I'd be ordering the white truffle risotto at Domenica and the Goody cocktail at the Hotel Monteleone.

But I welcome serendipity, too. The best moment of that trip came at Sugar Shack, a funky French Quarter watering hole.

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My husband and I bit into our soft-shell-crab po'boys and gasped. The sandwiches were perfect -- crunchy, crabby, drenched in piquant mayonnaise. That bite had everything I love about food: the joy, the hedonism (it was a lot of mayo), and the makings of a story (it's ridiculous how often we discuss those damn po'boys).

I'd never want to miss out on any of that -- or the dessert of Ding Dongs we served ourselves later.

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