It’s restaurant week in DC—more on that in a later post—and I’m reminded of a few years ago during restaurant week when I was dining at Zaytina, Jose Andres Eastern Mediterranean restaurant, with two old friends. One of them was describing a recent trip to East Africa. He was very animated in describing it as the most “exotic” place he had been. He said the food was exotic, the people were exotic, and the scenery was, yes, exotic and so on. We then started talking about another part of the world and he started describing some people and beautiful and exotic. I found this quite frustrating to hear ad nauseam. Then it struck me: exotic was just all too frequent euphemism for bizarre and alien. Above all, this casual method of colonization requires a mantel of acceptable elitism. The unconscious condescension that takes place requires putting down a culture, country or cuisine as bizarre; a politically correct form of “barbarian.” So, I reject the word exotic in order to embrace food that new and foreign, rather than imagine them to be quizzical. So, yes whether Amazonian fly larvae or Roman tripe stew, the atypical is special and to appreciate in a genuine and natural sense rather than treated as "exotic." It's all in the mind of the beholder, rather than the eye or taste buds of the beholder.