Pomegranate. Acai berries. Quinoa. Marketers have started calling these “superfoods” because they supposedly pack dense nutrition or have special properties. They’re also kind of hard to sell. That’s even more true of camel milk, which has been called “the next superfood”. Camel milk reminds me of that old joke about cow milk: Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, “I think I’ll squeeze those dangly things and drink whatever comes out”? Actually drinking cow milk, camel milk, goat milk, or even yak milk doesn’t seem that strange to me. All mammals produce milk, and if you’re living a subsistence existence drinking the milk of an animal you use for other things—like plowing or getting from one oasis to another—makes a lot more sense than eating it. The real question in my mind is, what else will we milk?
It’s also been said that the first person to eat an oyster must have been very hungry or very brave. Maybe they’d just been doing taste testing around the tide pools and found that starfish and anemones just don’t taste that good. I think the bravest person ever was the second person to try a mushroom after the first one ate a poisonous one and died a horrible death.
In nature bright vivid colors also tend to be an organism’s way of saying “Don’t eat me! I’m deadly!” Think of poison dart frogs, monarch butterflies, or other bright insects. They can afford to advertise because no one wants to eat them.
Now think strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers. Did I mention pomegranate?
Kale is also sold as a superfood, which never ceases to surprise me. One summer when I was in college I had a job stocking a restaurant salad bar. Kale was the garnish that covered up the ugly metal around the tubs of shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, and bean sprouts. The most super thing about it is that the same kale would last a week.
For me a superfood is coconut cream pie. Maybe it doesn’t have any special nutritive properties, but think about how hungry the first person to break open a coconut must have been. And I feel super while eating it. That’s good enough, right?