Neophobia is something that has, or should I say had afflicted me for a good fifteen years of my life. It was rarely brought up outside of my own home, however, it had prevented me from wanting to go out as much as I would like. For those who aren’t aware Neophobia is a fear of anything new, in my case particularly – a fear of new food. Brought on by a nasty bout of Food Poisoning on a holiday in Spain when I was young, I gradually became accustomed to eating very little in fear that what I don’t know would hurt me. Holidays abroad would result in the local McDonalds, a safe haven, failing that a plate of chips would be the usual palate of a meal. Living with it was incredibly difficult.
In 2006 I picked up a copy of Yakitate!! Japan, an ongoing series about baking bread. Initially picked up as a curious oddity as the concept looked unique to state the difference. A series about baking bread? What followed opened the door to a long road of recovery. While I only picked up a handful of volumes the series was enough to get me interested in baking bread, hardly surprising as Eyeshield 21 had also managed to get me interested in American Football. Yakitate!! Japan made me recall my time in America, one of the most enjoyable food I’d tried out there were breaded Pretzels while in Disneyland, a delicacy that was unheard of in the United Kingdom for some time. The Manga inspired me to try my own Pretzel because, hey, if someone was going to Poison me it might as well be me.
So began my on-off love of baking, a small passion that I try to indulge myself in from time to time if work and other commitments allow it. But still the Neophobia was pretty strong, I’d almost come to a stalemate when it had come to home food and I wasn’t yet daring enough to try anything new outside. It wasn’t until 2013 when looking through some new Jump series did one catch my eye. Shokugeki no Soma, a series initially being hounded for the amount of ecchi being thrown upon the reader. So, of course, I had to pick it up, throwing myself into a world governed by fierce cooking battles.
The first chapter was simply the Protagonist: Soma Yukihira cooking up a ‘Joke Roast Pork’ in order to save his family business. The chapter then explained how it was created from Potatoes, with diced up Mushrooms wrapped in thick cut Bacon, the way it had been drawn looked absolutely divine. Not only did the Roast look scrumptious but the pages that followed added to it all. It’s not uncommon for anime and manga to depict people’s reaction to food as heavenly, however, in this manga, the food was so divine it would blast the clothes off characters. It was stupid but this was a way for the series to show just how good the food is. It was the first time in a long time that I really wanted to try the food and something a local restaurant attempted to mimic. Of course, it wasn’t until I tried to cook it myself that I got the true taste (thanks to the Shokugeki no Soma wiki).
As the series progresses all kinds of foods are introduced, not just Japanese cuisine but from all kinds of the world. Later chapters would include Eggs Benedict, Chaliapin Steak Don and Lemon Curd along with others. Each would look mouth watering, and the reaction to each of the foods would be over the top. I recall a Medabots episode that revolved around a battle between Ikki, the main character and a Takoyaki salesman who would distract Ikki with Takoyaki as their Medabots (they’re a kind of Robot thing for those of you who didn’t catch the series) battled. Each bite would send Ikki drooling and satisfied with want of more.
It was thanks to mouth watering scenes like this that I began to eat out more often, moving from the safety of Fast Food and Greggs Sausage Rolls to more exciting ventures, I moved from being reluctant to try Steaks or Pizza to enjoying them, some a lot more than others. Although I still hold the mentality of ‘do I try it and potentially waste money.’ I know I’ve managed to take some strides in the right direction.
I may not be over my Neophobia but I feel I can control it a lot better, enjoying frequent meals out and while at home a more varied diet. I know that soon I’ll be able to eat more varied foods and taste things I wouldn’t otherwise. On a side note. I have yet to have my clothes explode from me after eating food. Yet.