Thursday, 19 March 2015

What The Phok?

When we are talking about likes and dislikes in food, inevitably I get called picky. I'm not actually any pickier than anyone else, it's just that the the things I won't eat tend to be very specific (I'll eat a hard boiled egg white, but no other egg white) or things that are generally very popular. To make up for this latter issue, I love many foods that are often unpopular. So for example, given the choice between liver and chocolate, I'll take the liver. So, it's not a question of me being pickier than average, I'm just non-mainstream. And nothing new there.

In fact I eat most regular foods. There are, for example, very few vegetables I don't like. In a world where some simply don't eat vegetables, or only do so because they feel they ought to, rather than enjoying them, I am far less picky there.

But in fact I don't find anything wrong with being picky about food. It isn't like I only eat a short list of food items, the type of picky I usually see. I just don't see the point of eating something I don't like. My entire philosophy about food is that if it's not delicious (i.e. not a question of being passable, I must actively enjoy it) I don't eat it. Life is too short for bad food and I don't need the calories.

I'll give you an example - burger buns. Most of them are pretty awful, actually. I'm told it doesn't matter, it's just there to hold the burger. Well, you may as well eat a napkin then, because eating a food holder is ridiculous. When I eat burgers I will either:

1. Obtain a good bun.
2. Go without a bun.

The latter is a great low carb option anyway.

Pasta on its own leaves me stone cold. It's not unpleasant, but it's just dull. Adding butter only raises it a level. Add cheese and it's good. Therefore if I eat pasta, there must be cheese.

I don't eat plain boiled rice because it's dull and sucks away flavour from other things. Fried rice, risotto, or pilaf are all just fine. I don't eat brown rice because I don't like the taste. Some say it tastes "nutty". Well, so does dirt. If I seek a nutty flavour, I eat nuts.

I love fish, never met seafood I didn't like. I love all meats except venison, and I wasn't keen on moose but it may have been the recipe. I don't like slow cooked poultry, but I do love it fried or grilled or roast.

I bet I eat, and enjoy, a longer list of foods than most people, actually.

No, my tastes issues are quite specific. Mostly to do with quality. I don't eat stale or dry food. I don't eat burned food. I don't eat overcooked food. I don't eat bland, watery food. This isn't picky this is discerning. Gourmet even. Anything wrong with gourmet?

The real problem is that the specific flavours I don't like keep cropping up these days.

There are fashions in food the same as in everything and people are discovering the wealth of foods from around the world. Being English, I grew up with curry, but it was a specifically English version of it, using a limited range of spices to suit the English palate. But now, thanks to TV chefs and people being more adventurous, a more authentic Asian cuisine is arriving in the west.

Enter a long list of flavours that I really can't stand.

You can group these into three categories:

1. Flavours that I might well enjoy in sweet items/desserts, but find completely off-putting in savoury dishes, often to the point where I simply can't eat it, depending on quantity.

This includes spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mint, ginger, and also most fruit.

Tiny amounts of cloves or ginger in a spice blend, you may get away with. But too much and I'm pushing it away. My taste buds say no, and my gag reflex wakes up ready to go if pushed.

I can tolerate raisins in SOME savoury dishes, pickled fruits in chutney is sometimes OK, and citrus is usually just fine, but if you start mixing raspberries into my salad, I am not going to eat it.

2. The aniseed family. From fennel to licorice, and even dried basil (fresh is fine), I simply don't do that flavour. I can't even bear the smell. This also means no pastis or ouzo, thank you. Can't do it.,

3. Cardamom. It gets its own category because that shit is just nasty. It tastes like furniture polish. No, I've never eaten furniture polish, so don't be difficult. Taste is mostly done in the nose - actually - block your nose and you can't taste anything. So there. Cardamom tastes the same as furniture polish smells, and I don't even understand why anyone would think to use it in food.

I've heard people say it has an "interesting" flavour. Well so does bleach.

So, last week quite by chance I learned about Pho. I've never had Pho, and after reading about it, I'm never going to.

I learned two things about it.

1. It contains several of the above mentioned spices,
2. It is pronounced "fuh".

I'm used to oriental languages being spelled in ridiculous ways when using the Roman alphabet, because I'm attempting to learn Mandarin, and it is written in pinyin using a system invented by a madman. This is why Feng Shui is actually pronounced fung shway. Because using vowels that made sense would have made it all too easy for those of us already struggling with Chinese characters and 4 effing tones. Don't even get me started.

But if it's pronounced "fuh" then I can put a k on the end, and you know what that means? Yes it means I have found another way of spelling the word that gets me into trouble.

Now I can write What the Phok?

And indeed, while I often say "WTF"? when told many things, if they are food-related, it is more appropriate to say "WTP?"

So when I hear about balsamic pears next time, you know what I'm going to say.

EDIT: This was supposed to be a humorous piece. I've already had one complaint and it was only published a few minutes ago. Please find your sense of humour and read it again.


  1. Interesting. And humorous. Actually, informative as regards your personal prefs. Let me respond by ingredient.

    Buns - some are definitely better than others. We seldom buy commercial "air-puffed" bread products, preferring something more substantial. That said, I don't think I ever rejected a bun :)

    Pasta - I'm with you. Carbs in different shapes. Give me a hearty Bolognese sauce. Raised in an Italian town, I've had some great dishes and sauces. Robust. But to get excited over pasta alone, no.

    Rice - again, I'm with you. I like fried rice (Asian restaurants) but you can have the "Spanish rice." Now, rice pudding, I'll take seconds on that.

    Herbs - I'm really surprised at you regarding nutmeg, cinnamon, mint and ginger. I know it's just a matter of palate and taste, but to me those are some essential herbs. What, no hot buttered rum? Can't make that without nutmeg. What about baked goods? Also, I could give you a KILLER pasta sauce recipe that has….nutmeg! But like chocolate in mole', it's not something that's real prevalent. Excellent sauce. Ginger is essential for a lot of Asian dishes. Love the candied stuff.

    No raspberries in salads? Oh….my wife makes a spinach salad with raspberries, walnuts and a homemade raspberry vinaigrette. It would be on the menu of my "last meal."

    Anise - yeah, you can have that. As a kid, I used to like root beer. Then I got introduced to Pepto Bismol and that was the end of that.

    There are without a doubt some very specific "acquired tastes" out there - like sashimi and kimchee - and people with the "bitter gene" (they can't eat cruciferous veggies) but just about everything is good for me. I've known a LOT of guys who were "meat & taters" and I just couldn't believe they intentionally limited their diet that much.

    Well, lunch is on. Smoked sausage on a "regular" bun, siracha potato chips, sliced apples, and a hearty beer. Cheers!

    1. No, you read it wrong. I'll highlight the bit you missed:

      "Flavours that I might well enjoy in sweet items/desserts, but find completely off-putting in savoury dishes..."

      I put DOUBLE the cinnamon in my cinnamon buns, pumpkin pie etc, and I can eat an entire packet of ginger snaps. It's these spices in with meats and sauces etc that I can't do.

    2. OK. Thank you. So, I can't interest you in a stuffing for a standing pork rib roast, with diced apricots in it and an apricot glaze?

  2. But, but…."sweet and savory." I could just eat that till I flounder.