I remember as a young (chubby) teenager not being able to decide, for the ultimate DIY Sunday lunch/snack, between omelette, grilled cheese on toast, and baked beans. So some extra planning and ingenuity led me to create the following: two slices of french toast - under the griller with cheese on top - served with baked beans.
We prided ourselves at home on a selection of “sugar free” breakfast cereals (you know Weeties, Vita Brits, hippy Rice Bubbles?). My breakfast was eight Vita Brits with a half a centimetre coating of Glucodin (“pure glucose energy sports”) followed by a half a centimetre layer of Drinking Chocolate. Add milk.
Travelling, of course yields all sorts of beauties. Hot road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco entailed stopping for “fizzy drinks”, however the roadside diner had run out of ice and cleverly substituted chunks of freezer ice. Can’t drink Coke to this day. Had unusual, but very good Pizzas in India accompanied by Gins and Tonic.
Three of my best dining experiences were in Chicago. The first was a newly opened (early 1990s) Italian Restaurant (I don’t remember what it was called or where it was) where there were no menus and the Chef sat down with us and asked us what we felt like. Next was Bob Chin’s Crabhouse
, where the waiters with walkie-talkies served Mai Thai to the people waiting in the queue. Last was a private party for a renowned trombonist at his house in Joliet, where his long time colleague and Chinese Chef cooked a superb meal of Rack of Lamb and Chinese Vegetables (grown there) - also had Brown Bros Orange Muscat and Flora for the first time that day.
We were all very taken with Nigel Slater’s opus Appetite
about following instinctive food combinations. I share the stories in this Blog in a similar vein of experimentation and openness, and feel this could be more widely explored in our day to day kitchen.
Southern Fried Chicken near Manhattan, Kansas served beautiful baked potatoes with a pourer of honey. I loved that. The honey-savoury issue is polarised - I’ve always advocated honey and cheese on toast, and feel vindicated that Stefano
once served me a fruit and cheese platter with honey drizzled over the cheese.
I also love salads with peaches or pears sliced in amongst them, though I know some people find this really weird. Unusual food combinations have of course been around for ages, for example Devils on Horseback (Prunes Wrapped in Bacon)? My particular version of that in Germany (a sort of reunification of Australian and Mediterranean cuisines) was Vegemite and Feta on toast.
The staples of what I now call the “ration kitchen” were always a hit at home - Toad in the Hole
, Bread and Butter Pudding
, Lemon Sago, and of course the ubiquitous Tuna Casserole (rice, tinned pineapple chunks, tuna, “white” sauce, topped with a layer of Corn Flakes and grated Kraft processed cheddar). In a fit of originality I once requested Lamb’s Fry
as my birthday meal. No bones, no gristle. Was also cured of Instant Pudding from a young age, when I ate an entire packet during Library (War and Peas), and what’s more our lovely antique porcelain mixing bowl got broken while I was “out of the room”, though nobody owned up to it until years later.
Two more rippers from dear friends:
• croissant with M+Ms inside, accompanied by a glass of bubbly
• Snickers, a carrot, washed down with Yakult
Sometimes the mere description of foods can alter one’s perception of them for a lifetime. A certain uncle referred to Field Mushrooms Tossed in Butter once as looking like “fried dog turds”. He also routinely called (commercial/packaged) Parmesan “foreskin scrapings”. His brother still calls honey “bee shit”. And his partner has a book called Be Bold With Bananas
. Only for the courageous. Thank you also Mrs Kemp in Grade Four for your anecdote about a rat’s tail in a meatpie - never eaten one since.
I witnessed one of the smelliest dishes in the world in Sweden in 2009 - Surströmming
. Prepared with rubber gloves, the leftovers and tin were wrapped in two plastic bags and buried gravely in the garden at the conclusion of the meal.
Lastly, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful hearty Lower Saxon dish recently - Grünkohl mit Kochwurst.
This, I reckon, for me as a reformed vego was a great effort. And it tasted fabulous.
Please add anecdotes, comments, and dishes below - guten Appetit!