While much of the initial grocery scarcity caused by people needing to stock up a bit has leveled out, the shelves don’t quite look normal yet. Some items we all love are harder to find. The white space throws a spotlight on the items that are less popular in each of our stores. In my store, located in central Maine, the thing that jumped out at me was hominy. It’s just not the most popular ingredient in my corner of the world. I am confident of this because two fulls rows of it stood alone on a shelf that had been emptied of canned and dried beans and grains. Personally, I know of exactly one (very delicious) dish that uses hominy.
The need to shop less often has also led me to try to use up the odd ingredients in the cupboard I bought for one recipe and never got fully comfortable with. I can’t say I like having to put in the extra work in adopting new cooking skills as frequently as I have recently. I do, however, like learning to love new foods. If you’re struggling with this, I’ve got tips.
This instruction is obvious, maybe, but here’s a key point: don’t make the first recipe you find. Consider whether you trust the source. Are they popular? Well known? Have you had success with their recipes in the past? Does the site look professional? What are the food credentials of the folks producing it?
I’m biased, of course, but I always start with the Guiding Stars recipe database. It lets me know how nutritious a recipe is, for one thing, and for another thing, I’ve been deeply involved in the development, so chances are good I’ve already tasted, edited, and maybe forgotten about any recipe I’m going to try. You can type in the ingredient you’re working with in our site search and select “Only search recipes” to see what we’ve got rated.
If you find a dish that looks promising, find recipes for that dish from a few sources. If they have reviews, read a few. How do they stack up in the court of popular opinion? Do you have the ingredients on hand? Can you take the time to execute the recipe as written without taking shortcuts? Do you understand the techniques involved? Pick the most well-reviewed recipe that you’re also most likely to succeed in making.
Try different dishes.
It can take a few exposures to a new food to come around to it. Consider trying a new item prepared three different ways. Choose all of your recipes with the care and intention described above. Make the smallest reasonable quantity for the number of people you’re feeding. Nothing can kill joy in a new food discovery like having to eat a week’s worth of leftovers for one dish that doesn’t suit your tastes.
Moderate your expectations.
This goes for both your own enjoyment of the dish and the enjoyment of those you’re feeding. It’s okay if kids are more resistant to new foods. Introduce a new dish as a side so they can eat it as a small part of a bigger. If you’ve invested a lot of enthusiasm in a dish that goes over poorly, rejection will be disheartening. If you go into a meal remembering that new things are hard to adjust to, rejection of one dish isn’t a big deal.