SARAH MILNE says she’s blessed with a stomach like a galvanised bucket, but when it comes to fussy eaters… ‘God give me strength’.
GROWING up a middle child, I have always considered myself the essence of tolerance and equanimity.
Crying babies on planes? No problem, I often cry myself. Seat-back slammers on same planes? Slammin’ right back at ya, mister. Queue jumpers? Please go in front, sir. Crashing bores who pin you to the wall with the intensity of a laser beam? Go ahead, I recognise myself.
But fussy eaters? God give me strength. I’m not talking about genuine food allergies or intolerances here.
It’s those folk who talk about tasting a red pepper in 1972, didn’t like it and haven’t touched one since. Or what about a dodgy curry in 1983, or sour milk in their tea on a cruise up the Yangtze river,1992, and now can’t be in the same room without heaving. They have food memories in line with the proverbial elephant’s.
As for the addition of spices, herbs, onions, garlic, the aforementioned peppers, anything in fact that makes food tasty? Forget it. In my best Italian, it all must be blando de tutti blando.
When out to dinner, the fussy eater always conducts a forensic examination of all that is on his plate. The poking and the prodding, the wrinkling of the nose, the sniffing of the food on the fork, the asking of those around them to speculate on the food’s provenance.
And finally, the pushing away of the plate with a martyred smile that says, don’t mind me. I’ll be fine with a bread roll.
I’m talking about those who refuse so many foods that you wonder how on earth they continue to exist. For a foodie like me, blessed with a stomach like a galvanised bucket, everything that goes down, stays down.
I’ve always been the “pack it away and ask questions later” sort of gourmand.
Back in the “greed-is-good” days of New York City, I shared a living space with one of Tom Wolfe’s X-ray women, Stella. A mustard crust on the roast beef, sprigs of rosemary on the lamb, chives in the mashed potato; all invoked a hissy fit.
One fierce winter, travelling long hours in search of sunshine and warmth, we finally got served a meal on a plane. I’d have eaten a crying baby if served one.
We did get served the mildest of quiches, but the chef had the temerity to put a sprig of parsley on the top. Remove the parsley you might suggest. Not so simple. According to Stella, the parsley left a lingering presence on said quiche that could not be ignored.
Several weeks and even more culinary revelations later, we travelled to Xiamen, an island off the south-east coast of China, abounding in seafood, seafood so fresh, it leapt from the buckets on to the plate.
Alas, herself would not eat it because it did not come in a yellow Birds Eye packet. The bemused waitress had to dig out a rusting tin of corned beef, so old that it looked as if it was left behind by Chiang Kai-shek when he fled to Taiwan in 1949.
But revenge is a dish best served up with a sprinkling of chopped shiitake mushrooms on top. Fussy eater friends coming to dinner turn me into a wicked alchemist, seeking to thwart them in any way possible. Powdered onion and garlic in the minced meat, finely ground black pepper in the mashed potato, no those specks are just burnt bits. Inky squid spaghetti? This kitchen is so dark, we really need to replace the bulbs. The aroma of parmesan and truffle oil, no, must be a blocked sink.
Thank God for Heston Blumenthal and his natty ideas; bacon and egg ice cream, snail porridge and mock turtle soup. Now if I could just get my hands on one of those Japanese blowfish…
Sarah Milne came to Canberra from overseas with her husband and daughter. She has lived here for the past three years.
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