I like radishes all right, but I live with timprov
, who loves them.
But that's not actually why they're there.
With food in SF stories, I feel like there are...bands of alienation?...for the dominant English-speaking audience. When I'm creating a food culture, I don't want to be serving an alien society pepperoni pizza all the time, but I also don't want to do the "Oooh, exoootic" thing--at least not accidentally. Radishes are a food that almost everyone will have heard of, but they do vary a lot (living with timprov
, I know this!), and their preparation also varies. And a lot of people just don't eat much of them, without there being a default "brussels sprouts are yucky/no wait they're gourmet" reaction. So the pickled radishes in "Surfacing" are because the planet they're on was settled by a lot of Japanese and Korean people--the pattern of rice and pickled vegetables will be one that the settlers reached for, especially when their ongoing food preservation and shipping power was/is limited.
In another story in this universe, but further out from these stories than they are from each other, the characters eat jerk krill, because they have weird ocean protein sources and they don't know why (but I know why! it's the undersea people affecting the ecosystem deliberately near that section of coast), and also because of the large number of people from the Caribbean who settled on this planet, so that jerk spicing is one of the default ways to do stuff. (That story is The Ministry of Changes
Almost everyone in this universe eats a lot of yams, but "the yam-eaters" refers to a particular social-political group because they lean very heavily on yams for the same reason the people in upland Southeast Asia do: because you can leave them in the field to store and not have them rot there, so it's easier not to interact with the government than if you have to have a storehouse for your foodstuffs.
I probably think wayyyy too much about the food these people eat.