“Weird” Meat and Tomato Metaphors

Josh leaned in closer to the food truck window, trying to get his mike up by the owner. “You didn’t try the duck?”

The man was already shaking his head. “No. No.” He went on, spinning a hypothetical: “You’re 26, so your age, you never eat tomatoes. Are you ready to eat tomatoes?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “No. You will avoid – your stomach will refuse it.”

This from a man who had immigrated to America from Baghdad after the Iraq War. His wife had just told us how she sometimes cooked lasagna for their family at home, a dish they certainly didn’t eat back home. Here laid bare was the contradiction many of our research participants embraced.

You see, my little design research team of three has been looking into people’s experiences with meat off-cuts and exotic meat. After interviewing consumers, butchers, chefs, and subject matter experts, we had begun to see that just about everyone viewed some animal part or species as disgusting, and they often thought this new food item would make them physically sick. Nevertheless, upon questioning, these same people often had tried a wide array of meats and meat cuts other than the ones you would most commonly find in the grocery aisle. These conversations have shown my team that you can never really take people’s assessments at face value when they say they just eat the normal stuff. Normal in Baghdad was camel. Normal in Florida was gator and frog legs. As a consequence, whereas before I sometimes never got to it, after the first few interviews I have definitely always worked in an activity in which I give people a piece of paper listing (with images) different animals. This has become a great tool for getting people to remember and relate stories about which animals they have tried out. This gives us much more rich data about which animals and animal parts are “clean” or “healthy” and why or how those attitudes change. So maybe we will be able to entice the 26 year-old Josh’s of the world to down some metaphorical tomatoes someday.