At some point in my life, I started liking savory more than I liked sweet. A taste for custard creams and jammy dodgers was gradually superseded by humous, nuts and olives. My inner child still goes doolally for a packet of Haribo Starmix (or Gummi Bears, when I can find them), but I would much prefer a Manzanilla Pastrana with mixed nuts and olives these days.
What the hell happened?
I don’t recall choosing to develop a sophisticated palate. I do recall the day I decided that I would like coffee, then set about drinking it until I did, but I can’t place the first time I enjoyed an olive.
I still love desert. I love paté with crisp, richly sweet wine. I love bone-dry sherry with antipasto and salty treats. I just love food, these days. And wine. The way the right ones can make their counterparts sing in such glorious gastronomical harmony.
Occasionally I crave nothing more than a fish supper, although most of the time I will admit to being disappointed after. Tales have reached my ears of Chippies who have made a deliberate move away from the mundane, however. You’d think that Scotland would be at the forefront of deep fried gastronomy, but it seems that you have to go south of the border these days. Oh sure, Edinburgh still has the Disco Chippy and boasts a chip shop with a champagne list that would excite many a footballer, but if you want line-caught fish deep fried in beer batter using duck fat oil, you’d best look south of the border.
All too often, chippies up this end provide a lacklustre service which make a mockery of the joy and excitement I used to feel as a child when my parents would treat my brother and I to a fish or sausage supper. We’d drive across Aberdeen to Chattans (while I chirped along to ‘The Chatanooga Choo Choo’ in the back of the car), and the whole thing was quite the event. Now every time I go to a chippy expecting the food to remind me of that magic, and instead I am left with soggy damp chunks of potato and limp batter on something passing for meat.
Even old fast-food favourites such as Burger King and McDonalds disappoint. After eating serious burgers and making home-made sensations, thin strips of charred flesh topped with plastic cheese (along something that might have looked at a pig once) in a dry bun hold no appeal. I tried very hard to enjoy a Bacon Double Cheeseburger a few weeks ago, and all that experience did was put me off ever doing it again.
In a way, I should be happy; my palate rejects bad fast food. I have no urge to eat it and when I do, it is not an enjoyable experience. I should revel in this with a smug sense of satisfaction, yet instead I feel melancholy. I used to love the simple pleasure of a chippy, of a fast-food burger, because it felt like a naughty treat. Now, I feel like I’m chasing a memory of my first kiss, destined never to catch it.
I suppose I shall just have to stick with Foie Gras and Jurancon.