I am very lucky to be able to say that I have travelled the world since I was a very tiny little girl. Before I was ten, I had lived in Malta, Cyprus and Singapore in a series of accompanied tours with my Dad who was in the Royal Marines.
My parents encouraged us to eat anything and not to be fussy eaters. Consequently I can eat anything, me. I can even eat a couple of sprouts on Christmas Day. My Dad re-framed them as little cabbages, and I like cabbage. I even love cabbage.
There are a few notable exceptions.
1. Cooked vinegary salad-y beetroot which bleeds into the rest of your plateful. I can’t eat that. Nasty childhood incident when I was a weekly boarder aged about seven or eight. The headmistress saw me putting mine onto someone else’s plate at lunchtime and then made me sit in the dining room all afternoon by myself in front of a whole big plateful of it. I cannot remember whether or not she broke my spirit and if I actually ate it. Must have blanked that bit. But I won’t eat it now. I will eat beetroot soup (borscht) and beetroot juice but even then it’s a bit earthy and needs to be blended with other more palatable juices. I consume beetroot juice because I know how good it is for me. I’m a good girl like that. And brave.
2. Peanut brittle. Another nasty childhood incident, this one at my proper grown-up boarding school when I was about 16. I ate too much of it and was sick. That’s enough of that then. Things that make you sick often take an age before you can face them again, if ever. I’ve never been able to face it again, since 1971. No bad thing. I don’t think my teeth could take it these days either.
3. Consomme. Cold jellied soup made from bouillon, gelatin and sherry. Eek! I’ve been to one embarrassing dinner party in the Eighties and a much more recent lunch (for two) when I was obliged to choke some down and smear the rest around my bowl. Today, in 2016, I would simply say “I’m sorry, I can’t eat this” as I do when people ask in advance what I won’t eat. Mostly, it’s a short list.
4. Bread and butter pudding. Yup. I know. Squeals of disbelief from you, Gentle Reader, but I dislike probably the very same features you adore. I don’t like puddings or cakes make from bread. I like my bread in sandwiches. And I dislike intensely the way the sticky-up bits get burned. Not a big fan of egg custard to begin with and hate cooked dried fruit. So this 4th one encompasses all those things too – fruit cake, mince pies, Christmas pudding and currant buns. Oddly I make an exception for the Hot Cross bun, but then I’m quirky like that. So Easter good, but it makes Christmas a bit of a bust for me. A lot of “no thank-yous” from moi to home made goodies people have slaved over since October.
You will notice that none of these are really foreign food, they are British foods in the main, though I am sure they have travelled globally too. My mother certainly tried to smuggle in a Christmas pudding to New York once for my brother, much to the amusement of the customs officer who had no idea what it was. Plum pudding was the closest we could come, although obvs there are no plums in it. Did he let us take it through to my waiting brother? Memory fails me.
There are foods it took me a while to fall in love with. I didn’t eat olives until I was in my thirties but I kept trying. I wouldn’t let them beat me. I really like green ones now so long as they have been marinated in something delicious like garlic and herbs and ideally I want them fresh not brined or bottled. I can eat a browny black one, but I could not under any circumstances (except torture) consume one of those off the top of a pizza, inky black with a hole in it, you know the ones? They look and taste like they’ve been cut from old car tyres.
I can consume supergreens and green juices which many would balk at. Indeed my colleagues in offices over the years have suggested it looks like I have drained my sump and am drinking it – with relish!
And it took me until much later in life to learn to love and indeed prefer 90% dark chocolate. A little goes a long way and is more satisfying than Dairy Milk. I never thought I would say that. I NEVER thought I would say that.
When I lived in Oxford between 1975 and 1977 I shared a house with four students, three of whom were schoolfriends, and we shared our kitchen with two local teenagers and their baby. In order to make supper, we would descend the stairs into their open plan bedsit where they’d just had their fish fingers, and inevitably I would start to make something studenty and stewy which began with chopping and onion and some garlic.
Nicky, the teenage Dad, used to say to me memorably “Foreign food again, Judiff?” Oh how we laughed in our snooty pretentious ingorant way. Oh, how up our selves were we? Far up, so far up. But it has stuck. When friends from that era come to dinner or invite me to dine at theirs, this old joke will inevitably be resurrected at least once a year, and still bring forth a chuckle and a fond memory. It’s not even as if I don’t like fish fingers and egg and chips. I do!
I can eat all manner of things. Goat, for instance. And rabbit. My Dad drew the line at eye-balls. Fair enough. My line might come a bit sooner than those bits of the animal, frankly. And by no means are the manky bits about meat or animals though my vegetarian and vegan pals would disagree in a heartbeat.
But there is still one thing I cannot get my head around when it comes to my taste buds. Coconut water. How weird is that? It isn’t offensive. I can choke it down. But it isn’t palatable to me. I had another go this week as Ocado sent me a free litre of the stuff and I thought that given that I’ve changed my taste buds again recently, away from sugary things, I would probably find it more than bearable. But no. I’ve tried a glass and shall be pouring the rest down the drain. Yuckaboo.
I want to like coconut water. It’s another thing which is good for you and I try to lean towards those in my diet. I definitely think were I on a Caribbean beach and a hunk with a machete was presenting me one with a straw in it that I’d drink it and probably like it, especially if you popped a little bit of rum in there too. I imagine it is uniquely refreshing on a sunny beach. I’ve probably lived that experience already in my life and forgotten that one too.
But in a Tetra-Pak from the supermarket or Pret? Non merci. It is joining the ranks of the holey black olives, the consomme, the peanut brittle, bread and butter pudding and beetroot.
Do you like coconut water? How? Why? Tell me more!