Hungry to Know: What cuisine could you eat for the rest of your life? (poll)

by | Aug 26, 2009
Making Sushi

Making Sushi

After a fantastic food-filled weekend, I woke up Monday morning with mountains of amazing leftovers.

I therefore did what any self-respecting grad student would do: I ate leftover Romano (Italian) food for breakfast, tupperware Moroccan soup for lunch and a hodge-podge of Greek spreads for dinner.

Each dish was distinct, yet all were Mediterranean. And they were delicious, even days later. That got me thinking:

If I had to choose only one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life would it be Mediterranean?

Definitely, I concluded. (Though I was admittedly cheating by lumping together Italian, Greek and North African).

Problem is, just 2 weeks ago I had decided 100% for sure that Southeast Asian foods–specifically Thai and Vietnamese–would be the best choice for a lifetime of dining. There was also a time in college when Japanese cuisine was the unequivocal champion. And strange as it sounds, when I lived in Italy all I could dream of was Mexican food.

Keep in mind, I am not talking about my favorite food. Favorite is a term I associate with a single meal or dish. And it almost exclusively considers flavors and taste, with a slant toward indulgence.

Instead, choosing a single regional cuisine for the rest of your life requires careful balance of taste, variety and health.

I did this as a thought experiment, and my conclusions (which seem to change quarterly) reflect my own personal tastes. To get a better idea of how others might deal with this question I asked my Twitter followers.


I got a flood of responses ranging from brilliant to hilarious. Here are some of my favorites:


Interestingly, some people clearly chose health over all else:



Some picked taste:



Others found conflict between health and taste:



Variety was also a big factor for many people, while others seemed to be influenced by the cuisine they grew up on:



Some people asked if “American” counted and I think it certainly does, though only when American originality is clear as in the unique dishes created in the South.

For me a harder question is whether or not “California cuisine” counts. I decided it does not, but would love your opinion. The way I see it food in California is defined by fresh, seasonal ingredients and brilliant cutting-edge chefs–things that cannot be exported easily. I might give California credit for the burrito, but that hardly represents an entire cuisine.

Now tell me what you think.

What cuisine would you choose if you had to eat it for the rest of your life? Please tell us your answer in the poll then expand on your reasoning in the comments.

Would health be a factor? Variety? Taste? Tradition? How does your choice fit your healthstyle and what other ethnic cuisines would you consider?

To make it a little easier, I’m going to unfairly lump vast regions under single blanket terms such as Latin or Southeast Asian. This is not meant to stereotype but to help make a single choice more diverse and appealing. Trust me, I feel awful about the amazing cuisines getting lumped into “Other.” If yours is there please elaborate on your choice in the comments.

On a final note, the most common complaint I got when running this experiment was the difficulty of making a choice.

Needless to say, I completely agree.


[poll id=”5″]

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19 Responses to “Hungry to Know: What cuisine could you eat for the rest of your life? (poll)”

  1. Pankaj says:

    Hi Darya,

    Love you blog.

    I am highly disappointed to see that you did not include Indian in any category (I had to choose “other”). But on second thoughts, I think as most Americans, you probably think of Indian food as unidentifiable vegetables and red chicken in that greasy, spicy and hot curry.

    India is a vast country with a diversity of cuisine. This Wikipedia entry gives a decent overview–

    Its a shame that most Indian restaurants here serve very monotonous and stereotypical food as label it as Indian. I hope that someday you are able to taste the real Indian (read homemade) food, in India. Perhaps, then you will provide a separate option for Indian and not club it under “other”.



  2. Abhishek says:

    I voted Indian food due to it’s diversity. You have the choice of a range of foods from the rich and heavy north Indian cuisine to the simple and tasty Bengali food. There is spicy foods from Maharashtran towns and some South indian ones (particularly where Arvind comes from). moreover, I have seen Indian recipes for every fruit, vegetable and meat available, even for the leafy bud of a banana tree. Coconut is widely used across many south Indian, maharashtrian and Bengali cuisines and is a personal favourite ingredient. Heck, they even make bitter melon (karela) edible.

  3. mojgan says:

    persian food 🙂
    I grew up on it, I can cook it, I love eating out with it. There are just such a range of soups, stews, rice dishes, desserts, and best of all it is mostly gluten-free, so I can eat it all I want!
    Its one of the few cuisines that will use whole herbs as vegetables (like when you have a ‘fresh herb stew’, using cups and cups of cilantro, parsley, tarragon, fenugreek, etc). Everything is made from simple, fresh, awesome ingredients. Persians make terrible coffee, but thankfully I’m caffeine-free and not into coffee all that much.. 😛
    Persian food and greek food/Mediterranean have a lot in common, thanks to the spread of the persian empire. I love persian dolmehs more than greek ones — especially since you can make the dolmehs in any vegetable you want – tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, cabbage, and the traditional grape leaf. The stuffing also contains ground meat and fresh herbs, so its very satisfying for a whole meal. Unfortunately, even when you go to persian restaurants, there is a lot of focus on the kababs and heavier dishes, but there is so much variety in the food. Where else can you find a stew recipe for artichokes? For quince? For carrots? I <3 my iranian cookbook!
    The desserts are always amazing, and in small portions because they are super flavorful, and are always with a cup of bergamot tea. Good for me, too, that a lot of the deserts are naturally gluten/wheat free (using chickpea flour, almond flour, rice flour, etc.).

    • Darya Pino says:

      OMG you are making me hungry!! Thanks for sharing! Your opinion on best Persian food in SF?

      • mojgan says:

        my house, duh!
        I haven’t actually gone to any of the persian restaurants in SF. I’ve been to the one in Berkeley near the downtown Berkeley BART station, and they were OK. Although, I make better fesenjoon myself (fesenjoon is a stew made with walnuts, pomegranates, onion, and chicken/other meat). I have yet to make the excursion, but I recommend the cookbook “New Food For Life”, (found here: ) because it has an *amazing* amount of different kinds of persian food.

  4. averagebetty says:

    Fun poll! So hard to answer… I chose Latin. I do believe I could eat their cuisine and date their men forever. 😉

  5. Austen says:

    I’m off to New York for the first big move I’ve made in almost a decade. My farewell dinner is tonight and I’ve invited my friends to an izakaya for some yakitori, sashimi, miso soup, and a nice warm sake. I’ve always been of the opinion that when asked for a preference, your first impulse is usually the right one. It took about 0.3 seconds for me to answer ‘Japanese food, please’. Heavy on the protein, not afraid of the more ‘exotic’ parts of the animal, clean, bright tastes, equal amounts savory, sweet, and spicy. For crying out loud, I’ll be having asparagus wrapped in bacon tonight!

    Man o man, would I miss feta cheese and marinara sauce and meat pies and curries and kimchi. Why do you ask such hard questions?

  6. Oooh. I didn’t think about Mediterranean food. Greek food has roast meats, fresh fish, shellfish, veggies. Hmm. Something to ponder. Along with what’s for dinner…

  7. Matt Shook says:

    Incredible post, impossible decision…but I could narrow it down to two: Indian or Central/Northern-South American.

    I voted Indian so that my representation wouldn’t be lost amongst the “others”…plus, I really could eat Indian every day…such great flavors and diversity.

    Central and the northern part of South American (northern Peru and up) have distinctly different cuisines than in Mexico, southern Peru, Chile and Argentina. Central/N-SA is big on the black beans and rice combos (and plantains) and is actually delectable for herbivores.

    Damn, I just remembered how much I love Cuban food…back to square one…

  8. Madison says:

    I finished reading your post 20 mins ago and have been sitting here thinking of a single cuisine that I would want to eat everyday for the rest of my life and I could not settle on one. I love so many things about so many different cuisines…I am tore between Italian and Vietnamese.

  9. Wendy says:

    Hands down I’ve got to pick Thai. Love the flavors and textures, love that so much of it is rice-based (I’m gluten sensitive). Plus it just feels light to me. I never feel bogged down afterward like I do with other cuisines (or maybe it’s because sometimes it’s so good I just eat too much!).

    Fun question, thanks!

  10. Terence says:

    I knew I’d fall into “other” !

    My family is odd – Chinese immigrants to Dutch Guyana (Suriname). Suriname used to be a Dutch colony that had slaves from Indonesia. So the food my family ate was a mash-up of Chinese, Dutch, Indonesian (aka Javanese) and local Surinamese food (slave food, lots of roots and local plants). Common meals included:

    (links are to my flickr, if they work)

    Stir-fry and rice

    Boiled roots (casava, plantain bananas are like potatoes when they’re green and boiled)

    Boiled long beans with spicy tamarind peanut sauce

    Bakkeljauw – Dutch salted cod

    Krokets (coquettes)

    Roti (Indonesian flat bread) with masala curried chicken and potatoes

    Saoto Soup – I don’t know why this isn’t popular worldwide with regional touches. A big pot of hot broth is left to simmer on the stove and a dozen+ bowls of ingredients like chicken, bean sprouts, caramelized onions, green onions, julianed potatoes, long beans, chopped herbs, and sambal (soy sauce with peppers, onions, and sugar) are next to the broth. You grab a bowl and buffet-style your soup ingredients to your liking and ladle some hot broth over it.

    I know this doesn’t fit into any mold but this is the food I grew up eating. It’s my comfort food and reminds me of good times with my family!

  11. I am so surprised to see that people think Italian food is not healthy. What a misunderstanding. I would most definitely pick Italian…it’s very vegetarian, vegan friendly. There is seafood, lamb, amazing meat and cheese. And, olive oil and pecorino cheese. Could not live without. You could eat Italian food for months and not eat pasta, but then why would you leave it out. Italians are very picky about freshness, whole food, local and that is why such a small country has so many dishes specific to its region. Also, Italy is where the slow food movement began.

  12. sian says:

    this is a very interesting post-the last meal? a question I have thought about alot-it would have to be sushi-healthy but so good-BUT hey if its your last meal-who cares about health??!!

  13. SergioM says:

    When we talk about healthy food I think in Mediterranean food aaaaand it’s also Spanish food! Anyway, I understand that we are separeted from the other M.F. because our cuisine is well-know around the world…Kidding! I’m the only one who voted Spanish so far…

  14. Anibal says:

    French of course. Its the Best cuisine in the World. Top chefs and restaurants are French or run by French. No cuisine is even close to French one.

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