Trying new foods? Forget that! How about trying some old foods again, for the first time?
Being the 12th and last of a miscellany of short posts to mark the 12 days of Christmas.
In late November, just home from a too-brief sojourn in the southern US of A, we decided to celebrate American Thanksgiving this year. Our last turkey, after all, had been almost six weeks previously: a time span representing the ‘sweet spot’ where how-good-it-tasted memory drowns out how-much-work-it-was memory. Intending to cook only a turkey breast, I discovered, not surprisingly, that Canadian grocery stores are not well stocked for cooking a turkey dinner at the end of November. Turkey-piece selection being low to non-existent at my closest store, I ignored my better judgement and bought a whole, albeit tiny, Dread Turkey. Oh well, I thought, I need the practice. Than which, truer words were never spoken.
But this time, the turkey was not to be the problem. The bakery had no stale bread for stuffing; the produce section no fresh cranberries. Bread I could make stale by my own self, but what would I do about the cranberries?
From a tender age, I had avoided tinned cranberry sauce. Something about the texture — all chewy skins and unpleasantly squishy bits — put me right off. Barely tolerating even cranberry jelly and lacking the gravy gene altogether, I ate unadorned turkey for years — decades, really. We likely need look no further for the source of my lack of motivation in mastering the black art of bringing turkey to table.
A few years ago, an American friend made one of those casual yet life-changing comments, wondering aloud why anyone bought tinned cranberry sauce when the Real Thing was so easy to make from scratch. Really? And so it proved to be — boil cranberries in equal parts water and sugar for five minutes and there you are: turkey adornment, ready to go.
Taste-testing my first-ever result before serving it to guests, I was pleasantly surprised and slightly annoyed. This was good, as well as simple! Why had no one told me before? And so the Dread Turkey dinner acquired a new tradition: home-cooked cranberry sauce. Now, I thought, I can see what that tinned glop was standing in for.
But now — with no fresh cranberries available for this off-season, appropriated Thanksgiving — I am stymied. What to do? There being no time to embark on an exhaustive search, I send the Big Guy out to buy — shudder — tinned cranberry sauce, while the Tiny Dread Turkey does its thing in my oven.
As the maligned glop comes out of the tin in a plop, I note that it looks very like the sauce I’ve been proudly making for the last few years. Odd — I’d expect it to look as different as it tastes. I snitch a small spoonful from the serving dish. Hmm. This is, well, quite good. The next taste and the next confirm that first impression — I like tinned cranberry sauce almost as much as my home-cooked version. It likely wouldn’t quite pass muster in a side-by-side comparison, but it’s at least OK. What the heck happened?
I’d like to think that advances in food processing have somehow led to a big improvement in processed cranberry sauce, but I suspect that my tastes have just changed. After all, I probably haven’t tried this stuff since I was a teenager. Why should I? I knew I didn’t like it.
But at some point in the intervening 45 years, my tastes changed. Now I wonder what other foods I might have written off as a teenager that the almost-senior me might actually enjoy. And I wonder what other ideas, music, literature, activities, places — even people — I might have written off a little cavalierly, a little, shall we say, pre-maturely.
It’s not an epiphany, exactly, but it just might be a wake-up call.
Excellent insight — I’d call it your “Cleverclogs Thought of the Day” — but I do think canned & processed foods have made great leaps forward, just in the last ten years.
As for trying new things, you gotta get kids young. I breezily told some balking tots 20 years ago, as we sat around their parents’ dining room table, that you couldn’t say you didn’t like a food until you’d tried it five (!) different times. I figured it went in and out of their heads like everything else they heard. But no! five years later, one of these kids told her friend (over for dinner and also balking at some food on the menu) the same thing I had told her. And persuaded yet another young taste-bud.
I asked them recently about it and they all agreed it was now their gospel and had stood them in great stead over the years. What I had casually thought up on the spot had enriched their lives no end.
I only wish I’d been told this when I was five years old! I HATED peas (frozen) and at 6 years old asked my mother how long I’d have to eat them. She said until I was 16. On the eve of my 16th birthday, I ate my last pea. She was shocked I’d remembered. Be careful what you say to kids, eh?
Barbara – Excellent! That’s a good rule of thumb (er, hand, I guess, there being 5 digits) for lots of things. Too easy to give up with one bad experience – and the taste buds, like the other senses, can take a while to warm up to a new sensation. And yes, one has to be careful what one says to kids.
There is debate in our family over “canned” vs “homemade” when it comes to cranberries. But with all the fuss of a turkey, I’m not making BOTH! So, it depends on the availability of cranberries. It seems some years they are scarcer than others. Regarding “canned goods” my daughter told me recently that she’d bought a can of peas, thinking “what a handy idea!” She had never HAD canned peas, and was very disappointed to find them pale and soft – just as I remember them – and why I never served them when she was a child. Does anyone remember canned bacon? or canned potatoes? those were staples in our early camping years.
Alison – I remember endless aisles of canned goods and a vanishingly small freezer section. Then, all of a sudden it seems, good food came from the freezer. Today, the only things I buy in cans are stewed tomatoes and diced green chilis. I do remember canned potatoes, but not bacon. I wonder what the next food-processing swerve will be?
A couple of years ago, I tried canned corn for the first time in, oh, let’s say 35 years. I was travelling and, with food sensitivities, unable to trust the ingredients of the food at the nearby ‘restaurant’ choices. So at the convenience store I bought some raw, washed, carrots and celery, canned potatoes (yucky), sliced deli meat, and canned corn. I heated up everything except carrots and celery (my salad) in the microwave in my room. Other than the potatoes, I quite enjoyed it. But I was surprised how much I enjoyed the corn; it was sweet and crunchy, and I have to admit, better than frozen. I always have a few cans of corn in the larder in the winter for convenience. But no, peas and potatoes are still not good, not good at all.
Marion – Oh, yes, and corn. You’re exactly right – much better canned than frozen. I wonder why?