I have a friend who hates peanut butter and says bananas are the food of the devil. Oddly, these are two of my all-time favourite foods. How can someone be repulsed by something I find delicious? You only have to look at me to know there are not many foodstuffs I wouldn’t at least have a go at. My theory is that if something is liked by someone in the world, I’ll give it a second try.
For example, the first time I went to New York I felt I had to try a bagel in a proper Jewish deli. Well, I loved the salt beef and haimisha cucumber, but how boring was the bready thing with the hole in the middle? Similarly, on the same trip I went to a clambake and was deeply disappointed with the chewy tasteless mollusc. Not worth the effort, Elvis.*
However, I gave both items another chance and I must say these days a bag of bagels lasts about a day in my house. As for mussels, clams, scallops and the like, I love ’em!
Similar culinary choices I thought I would never fancy after just one taste include beef tartare (first attempted in a motorway services in the DDR) with its raw egg languishing on top , Bombay duck (now banned in most Indian restaurants for being too smelly) and kippers (on the bone of course). Now, having worked on my repulsion, all three are in my top twenty delicacies!
One item that I really did have to spend time on was the bizarre German product called Farmer’s Wife Cheese. Having had all the dairy content beaten out of it, it looks not unlike a lump of Pears transparent soap. In one particular down to earth café it was listed as ‘kase mit musik’, or cheese with music. When I asked why, the proprietor said I’d find out later and laughed uproariously. And indeed I did.
I thought if the farmer’s wife liked it, so should I and gave it a second go. And a third. However, on my last visit much to my chagrin I couldn’t find it anywhere. No stamina those Germans.
I must admit there are one or two dining experiences in my world travels I probably would seek to avoid. Once, my Caribbean host was of the opinion that I needed more lead in my pencil. When serving fish soup, he made sure which special bits I got. I found one and hid it in my serviette. Then it dawned on me that barracudas have two eyes. Big bulging ones. I must have inadvertently swallowed the other one.
I can report no apparent improvement in my libido.
In Japan we persuaded our assistant he didn’t need to laboriously translate every restaurant menu. We’re English we said, we’ll eat anything. Next night, we enquired as to what exactly were the strong tasting postage stamp sized slivers of slimy dark substance atop our sashimi.
‘Raw horse!’ he answered with a chuckle.
*’Mama’s little baby loves clambake, clambake!’ by Elvis Presley
First published in 2019 in Bath Chronicle