As you grow up your life is full of firsts that leave their indelible mark – first kiss, first love …
But this of course is a blog about food so I am going to take you along with me on a nostalgic journey, revisiting some of the foodie firsts that have made their mark on me.
One of my very first food memories is of Ketchup, which I discovered aged 4. I have no idea why I hadn’t experienced Ketchup before then, perhaps my family were just HP junkies. Mum had rather bravely taken me on holiday to Jersey on her own for a ten-day break in a lovely hotel in St Helier. Amongst the memories of feeding orangutans in the zoo, mum contracting food poisoning, choking on an ice cube, and my beloved ‘Jersey Ted’ is the memory of my saucey discovery . I can’t really remember if I loved the taste of it back then but that is almost irrelevant – I was 4 and it was a truly wonderful thing that came in a red plastic squeeze bottle. I can take or leave tomato sauce these days, but sometimes when I dip a chip in it I see that little girl with the funny little page-boy haircut being excited about the discovery of this exotic brightly coloured condiment on (almost) foreign soil.
In common with many kids I hated vegetables. The unimaginative use of veg in the early 80’s didn’t aid the cause much, boiled to oblivion and plonked onto the plate as a necessary evil. Mum and dad being good parents would ensure I got my veg quota by employing ingenious yet devious methods such as blending them with more palatable foods. My status as committed veg hater was about to change when we attended a family wedding at the Grosvenor in Glasgow. Adorned in a straw boater and lace gloves I felt quite the thing as I took my place at the kids table. We were served tender roast beef, crisp roast potatoes and a curious green bundle which was totally unfamiliar to me. Despite my trepidation on discovering that this was indeed a vegetable, peer pressure made me taste it. It was amazing, I loved a vegetable, and that vegetable was BROCCOLI .
Zip forward to my 20’s – I once accompanied my manager in a London trip to attend a meeting, and we were taken out to a lovely Thai Restaurant for lunch. I had never tasted Thai food, seen Thai food or even considered Thai food before – I had no idea what to expect. My first thought when the Green curry arrived was that they were a bit off the mark on their rice cooking (surely it ought to be fluffy) and that their sauce could probably do with a dab of cornflour (so thin). Then I tasted it – OH MY! I was stunned by Thai food and still am. I adored the delicate yet spicy flavours, the sweetness of the rice, the creamy coconut milk. Thai became my favourite type of food there and then and I am pleased to say it is still up there.
Friends can be great for introducing you to new experiences. My mate Charlotte has taught me a lot about food over the years, and although I have caught up now, her tastes were much more sophisticated than mine when we were in our 20’s and early 30’s. She introduced me to the dark art of shelling prawns (which had always terrified me) . Over a lunch at Browns in Edinburgh a combination of wine and Charlotte gave me the courage to order a plate of the critters, which she then taught me to expertly shell. Doesn’t seem like a big thing but for me it was a revelation. I bloody love big fat juicy prawns with lemon juice squirted all over them , eating with my hands and getting acceptably messy. I can’t quite believe I was approaching 30 before I tried them.
I had always “quite” liked black pudding but Stornoway Black Pudding is something else entirely. I first tasted this on a trip home from Skye around 6 years ago. We stayed over in a tiny place called Dornie and got ridiculously drunk in a local bar. The next morning I was possibly the most hungover I have ever been in my life, but somehow made it down to breakfast. I vividly remember tasting the black pudding on the full Scottish breakfast served up to me that day – it was bloody marvellous. The slightly purple hue devoid of all these horrid little white fatty bits on other black puddings. I thought that this smooth textured delight tasted divine – onion and pepper and gorgeous black puddingy puddingness – YUM.
I could go on forever boring with you with my first tastes and experiences: why the taste of parsley transports me back to my home economics class, my first taste of sticky toffee pudding in the Breadalbane Arms in Dundee and why a scotch pie has to be served with a buttered morning roll, brown sauce and a cup of tea. But I will quit whilst I am ahead.
I would love to hear about some of your foodie memories, we all have them.
Drop me a line!