Food moments

by Sarah on May 31, 2012

olives

I would like to welcome Margit Appleton, an international traveler, polyglot and keen observer of regional differences.  Having lived in several countries, she has an in-depth understanding of the intercultural world with a discerning eye for the quirkiness of human nature. In this guest post, she describes her epiphany with ordinary food, food once unfamiliar to her but incorporated as her own.

Margit also writes Intercultural Musings, a compilation of personal anecdotes and insights from her expat and travel experiences.

Please follow Margit’s multi-lingual tweets at @margit11, which are always amusing and informative.

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There are moments in life where you try a new food, and you know instantly that something has changed. The new food has made an impact, and it will from now on be part of your life. You can’t go back, and in fact you ask yourself how you could have lived without it for so long. I don’t necessarily mean terribly exotic foods – although that can of course happen. In my case, they were mostly ordinary things – albeit picked up in foreign countries.

The first one will make you laugh, as you’ll consider it just about THE most ordinary food. Olives, however, weren’t part of my central European upbringing. When I first tasted a (green) olive in Italy, its slightly oily, pungent, salty, almost resiny flavour hit me like a thunderbolt. Totally unlike anything else I’d ever tasted – and I was hooked from then on. A bowl of olives, green, black, brown or that decadent mauve colour is one of the great treats in life!

Have you ever been to Malta? The little island with a big history south of Sicily? Its cuisine is interesting – half-way between the flavours of southern Italy and North Africa, a very tempting combination! But I would like to draw your attention to something else: A very unique lemonade called Kinnie. Originally designed as an alternative to despised American Coca Cola (Malta used to have long-standing ties with Libya), it bears no comparison to the sugary Cola concoction. It has a strong herbal, slightly bitter taste, is refreshing and not at all cloying. It might even serve as an aperitif, if you don’t fancy alcohol. There are lots of reasons to visit Malta, and as far as I’m concerned Kinnie is definitely one of them!

Walnuts are a bit of a staple, nice enough but hardly the food of your dreams. Well… I disagree: In Germany, for a very short time, mostly the first two weeks of September, you can find “Schälnüsse” on the local markets. The most accurate translation would be I suppose “green walnuts”. Walnuts that are barely ripe, difficult to peel, as ideally you have to take off the inner light-brown skin as well. And then – I promise you -you’ll have the most delicious tasting nut kernel ever! It’s nutty alright, but also fresh and green tasting, with a slightly astringent yet buttery flavour. You should team that with small piece of sourdough bread, and “Federweisser”, the first barely fermented wine of the season. It’s still sparkly, low in alcohol and has a very refreshing, almost apply flavour. Together with the barely ripe nuts it is a flavour explosion quite unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and for me a seasonal treat I look forward to every year!

My last Food Moment (although I could think of lots more!) is a bit of a joke, and came when -quite some time ago now-, I was first offered oaked Chardonnay from New Zealand. You know this caramelly, slightly cloying, fleshy yet fruity aroma? It completely blew me away. No more thin, watery, sour white wine, I thought. This is it, I love it, and I know I’ll never taste a wine like this ever again, it’s so special. Little did I suspect then, that one has to work very hard nowadays to avoid this popular wine. I still like it, though, and it remains a Food Moment.

I’d really like to hear about your Food Moments? What food did you sample – and knew instantly that this would be a passion for life?

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa May 31, 2012 at 10:44 am

A lovely post! Thanks for sharing.

cheers,

Rosa

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Yael May 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Great post, I love Margit’s writing. I think in Italy we had many food moments naturally, we gladly adopted the tiny mozzarella cheese balls wrapped in prosciutto.
Anyway, good-night and Shabbat-Shalom.

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usha May 31, 2012 at 4:32 pm

A reminder of the wonderful world of food and how in it,we are all united. Thank you Margit and Sarah for sharing .

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Eha May 31, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Love posts which make one think . . . I remember being a very little girl in N Europe and tasting salsify for the first time, and that was it!! And my paternal grandmother made beautifully spiced fresh pig blood ‘cakes’ [heaps better than plain old ‘black pudding’], and, quietly as a five year old or so, I was over the moon . . Years passed and now I was domiciled in Australia and I remember when I first tasted abalone and cuttlefish and squid and, well cooked, it was and is pure heaven . . . .

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Silvia June 1, 2012 at 2:09 am

These walnuts are one of my favourite things. When I was a kid we used to crack them open by ourselves which is quite a dirty job because of the greener peel which contains iodine and stains the hands in black. Now they sell just the kernels without the green peel everywhere beside the markets.
Candied green walnuts (picked up in may, while neither the shell nor the kernel had just formed) turned to be my lifetime passion. I had them in Greece and ever since I try to make them at home but with no significant success.

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K August 27, 2013 at 8:08 am

Silvia, my grandmother here in Bulgaria makes liqueur with those (picked up in May, while neither the shell nor the kernel has yet formed).

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Sally - My Custard Pie June 2, 2012 at 3:48 am

Fabulous post. I also remember my first olive. My aunt said that she taught herself to like them by always having one when offered at parties. She said that one day she suddenly loved the taste and that was it. I decided to do the same (and have encouraged my children too) – that olive-loving moment comes at you like a bolt from the blue. Blue cheese is something I learned to love (my Grandfather always had a really revolting piece of Danish blue in front of him which put me off for a long time) – I adore it in all forms now.

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Sarah June 2, 2012 at 11:57 am

Thanks Margit for your evocative post. My most recent food revelation was Persian dried lemon (loomi basra) which is much more aromatic and intensely flavored than fresh citrus. It imparts a tangy and, if used in abundance, a slightly bitter taste to Persian cuisine.

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Shari June 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Nice read, thanks. I don’t know if this is a food moment, since I’d eaten fish before, but it was always the frozen, overcooked kind, or gefilte. The first time I had fresh fish with garlic sauce was a perception-altering experience. And also the first time I tasted fresh cilantro as a food accent. I never imagined that the heavy, earthy taste of cooked cilantro came from something so fresh.

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Farmgirl Susan June 4, 2012 at 6:44 am

Those olives look amazing! Food moments are one of the best parts of life, aren’t they? For some reason the one I always think of first is pesto cream sauce at Mary’s Pizza Shack in Northern California over 20 years ago. Served over tortelloni, it combined two of my favorite sauces I’d never thought about turning into one. YUM. :)

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