Probably my second-favorite thing about food (my favorite thing being the eating part), is the learning about food part. In particular, realizing the nuances, a fuller range of possibilities, to an ordinary food you thought you thought you had pegged.
This happened for me recently with the lowly bagel. I’ve never been totally wild about bagels: Too hard, too dry, too much bread. When I do get the stray craving for a bagel, it’s got to be fresh from a first-class bagel shop — such as Murray’s Bagels on Sixth Avenue — and stacked high with cream cheese, lox, red onion, capers, a squeeze of lemon. Preferably the bagel is toasted, not to revive freshness but to just to give it that thin layer of crisp, toast-like crunch inside.
I’ve been bemoaning the lack (more accurately, my ignorance) of a good bagel shop in Midtown West, which lead me on an Internet quest, where I discovered that there is, in fact, a whole lexicon to describe bagels: “Doughy” and “large” are the opposite of “chewier,” “small” and “dense.”
Two good things came of this discovery: First, the light-bulb went off and I realized of the types of bagels that I’ve ever had, I have a preference and there’s even words for it. The other discovery is that now that I know the typical words used, I can use that establishment as a launching point into my own creative ethos. Standing feet firmly planted on “doughy” and “large,” I can start to play. And, as a bonus, I’ll never have to order a small, dense thing again.