‘The food we like, don’t like and grow to like (whether we want to or not)’

Aug 05, 2019
Deb's minestrone soup prep on the kitchen bench, an all-round family favourite. Source: Deb Trayler

“Mum,” my daughter laughed down the phone, “I think your eight-year-old grandson is taking after you!” Somewhat perplexed I asked her in what way.

“We were about to have a quick lunch before going out and I asked him what he wanted in his sandwich. He said lettuce and I said yeah, and what else, and he said ‘no else’, just lettuce.”

Ha! I’m the only one in our family who loves lettuce sandwiches. Iceberg lettuce, buttered bread, a sprinkle of salt. Nothing else. I also love potato crisp sandwiches too, and cold roast lamb slices with tomato sauce. Oh, and good old-fashioned Anchovette paste — remember that? It was de rigueur at primary school back in the 1950s and it’s still around, I saw it on the supermarket shelves recently. My family thinks I’m weird, but when I toss their weirdness at them, they promptly shut up.

DDD (Dear Darling Daughter) loves pumpkin soup but won’t eat cooked pumpkin. She also adores my homemade steak and kidney pie, but hates kidneys. ‘Im Indoors isn’t keen on pasta but loves spinach and ricotta cannelloni. He absolutely refuses to eat nuts, but loves to eat Snickers bars and adores a hot and spicy satay. Pfft! Go figure.

Our disabled son hates mashed potato but loves chips. I can understand that, for him it’s a textural thing. He also loves cheese but hates cheesecake!

Actually, none of us have a sweet tooth. We all choose an entrée and main if we’re out instead of a main and a dessert as others would do. I can’t recall the last time we had sweet biscuits or cakes in our house, though come to think of it, I did make some hedgehog slice to take to an afternoon tea a month or two ago — does that count?

We’ve been reminiscing about foods we used to hate but now really enjoy. Broad beans were the first to pop into my head. I absolutely hated them as a kid, all pale grey, smelling foul and floury in the middle. Blergh! But of course, back then everything was boiled to buggery, lucky to even retain its shape on the plate let alone flavour.

These days I love them, double peeled, sautéed in butter and sprinkled with a good grinding of salt and pepper. No grey here, they’re brilliant green and taste wonderful! Just like Brussels sprouts! What used to be an evil watery mess is now steamed gently and flashed in a frying pan with a sprinkle of chopped bacon and sliced chilli. Brilliant!

DDD never like asparagus, probably because her grandmother only ever bought it canned. The pale-yellow spears were soft and floppy with a distinct, metallic sort of smell. These days my clever girl cooks up a fabulous chicken and fresh asparagus risotto, which is to die for!

We all hate oysters but love mussels. She loves sweet potatoes, we don’t. He adores Indian curries, the hotter the better, one where he sweats and his nose runs. I hate that. And the smell.

In winter, I love to make large pots of soup, but you can bet a safe dollar not everyone likes the same soup! Minestrone is virtually everyone’s favourite — it has so much goodness in it, you just about jump out of your skin looking at it! But my absolute favourite is lamb shank and barley soup. My husband balks at it, saying he won’t eat anything with grains in it. “Grains are for hippies and hogs,” he states.

When our daughter lived at home, she loved potato leek and bacon, a favourite with ‘Im Indoors too, but although I made it for them, I didn’t really like it that much, so I always passed. Both he and I love the rich, middle eastern spicy carrot and chickpea; DDD would turn her nose up at it, her reason was the smell of the cumin and turmeric.

Back in the ’60s, cooking never grabbed the imagination of the zeitgeist. It wasn’t until the likes of debonair, wine-swilling Graeme Kerr’s ‘radically different’ television show, the Galloping Gourmet, appeared in our living rooms did the lure of sticking gherkins and straz into a pineapple with a toothpick begin to pall.

After that, there’s a veritable list in toilet-roll proportions of television cooking shows and presenters who have embedded a style, an ingredient or an apparatus on every decade I’ve lived through. From the ’60s: Julia Child and Margaret Fulton. The ’70s: Bernard King. The ’80s: Gabriel Gate, Geoff Jansz and Peter Russell-Clarke. The ’90s: Ian Hewitson and the Iron Chefs. The 2000s: Jamie Oliver, Ben O’Donoghue and Curtis Stone, Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein, Antonio Carlucci and Genaro Contaldo, Georgio Locatelli, Sylvia Colloca, Adam Liaw, Justine Schofield, Poh Ling Yeow, Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant, the MasterChef trio … and on it goes with so many now on our screens it would be ludicrous to continue.

I find it interesting sometimes to mull over whether food preferences are hereditary, like my grandson’s lettuce sandwich, or learned. Or, now here’s a thought, have we gained them by osmosis via our stupidly large television screens and the plethora of cooking mags in our face at the supermarket checkout? One walk past and you have a sudden yearning for sous-vide pigeon thighs perchance?

What foods did you hate as a child but enjoy now? Are there meals that are ‘family favourites’, loved by all?

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