Sure, arugula had to grow on you. Radicchio was a slow sell.
Bitter is an acquired taste. But for humans—the only species to tolerate it—it's also an endorphin rush. And what if you could use your taste for bitter to change the world?
Meet husband-and-wife team Jeremy Chi-Ming Liu and Hiroko Kikuchi, performance artists and activists who are using bitter melon, one of Asia's most "challenging" vegetables, to bring East and West into pucker-mouthed harmony.
The couple didn't set out to found the National Bitter Melon Council. But when a gentrification tussle in Boston's South End pitted wealthy, mostly white people against longtime Asian residents and gardeners, Liu and Kikuchi decided to turn a turf war into a vegetable peace. Their idea: cultural exchange through bitter melon.
Thus the council, through which Liu and Kikuchi are spreading the good word about their favorite bitter, encouraging people of all stripes and gustatory inclinations to take their taste buds on a journey East. And now you, too can get involved—just by taking a bite out of culinary provincialism.
Start at the NBMC's website, where you can read up on this warty, gnarly relative of the cucumber—how to grow it, where to find it, how to prepare it, and what it's called around the world. (With a name like Wunderbalsampfel, it has to be good.)
Then head to a Chinatown near you and get some for your very own self. Gather your friends and taste test pilots for a Bitter Party, and cook up the good gourd in your manner of choice. It's all in the name of world peace.