It’s all a matter of taste

Because they were so much older than me, I thought my cousin Catherine (far left) and my sister Janet (centre) were unspeakably sophisticated. They are seen here in 1969 with my brother Andrew (and other sister Tricia just visible on the swing). 

You may recall that in November I wrote about my unimpressive history of making Yorkshire puddings, which was sparked by my dad’s column from 40 years earlier in which he mentioned the tradition of eating Yorkshires as a starter with gravy.

As a result of that article, he received a letter all the way from Canada that he mentions in his column from 10th February 1979. The writer’s ancestors hailed from Coverdale in the Dales and their family tradition was also to eat the Yorkshire pudding as a starter, but they replaced the gravy with – wait for it – milk and sugar!

Milk and sugar? Really? The thought causes me to shudder, even though I know that Yorkshires can be eaten as a dessert with sweet fillings, although I have never tried it myself. But I’ve never heard of it eaten as a sweet starter, and neither had my dad. It begs the question whether any Dales residents still eat their Yorkshires this way?

Dad goes on to recall eating foodstuffs that seemed normal to him as a child, and it was only as an adult that he realised it was not usual practice outside of his part of Yorkshire. He grew up in the area around Eskdale where it was common to eat shredded lettuce placed in a bowlful of vinegar and sprinkled with sugar. He also mentions a friend who ate sugar with green peas, tomatoes and lettuce, and another who always had marmalade on his bacon and eggs.

I remember as a child sprinkling a large lettuce leaf with sugar, then rolling it up like a cigar before gnawing my way along it. I used to love it, but can’t imagine eating it now (although I might get my boys to try it – anything to get them to eat more greens). I also used to love pouring salad cream the full length of a piece of celery before munching my way through it. I’ve tried to get my kids to try it today, but they look at me as if I’m trying to force-feed them arsenic. To them, the very notion of eating raw celery is as alien as eating their own fingers.

It’s funny how foodstuffs loved by some are innately detested by others. I cannot abide bananas in any shape or form. I hate the smell, I hate the taste, I hate the texture and I especially hate it if someone eats one noisily near me. On the other hand, one of my favourite vegetables is the humble garden pea, but my son has exactly the same kind of aversion to them as I have to bananas. I can’t fathom it, as peas are so harmless tastewise, whereas bananas, as everyone knows, are the noxious food of the devil.

My older sister Janet can’t tolerate butter, cream and other similar dairy products. This distaste for dairy runs in the family, and I remember one day having lunch at my nana’s house with my cousins and we were offered some bread and butter before the main meal. I noticed that my cousin Catherine, who was 10 years older than me, refused the butter, as did Janet, who was six years older. To me, they were both unspeakably sophisticated and obviously eating bread without butter was the utmost in unspeakable sophistication. So when my nana asked me if I was sure I didn’t want any butter, I vigorously shook my head, then spent the next 15 minutes chewing my way through the equivalent of a mouthful of sawdust. That foolish mistake was never repeated, and the bitter experience taught me that the best way to eat bread is slathered with chunks of butter so big that you can see your teeth marks after you have bitten into it.

When my children were young, we often had little guests over for tea, and some of them had some rather strange eating habits. One would put vast quantities of malt vinegar on absolutely everything he ate, and then tip his plate up so it pooled at one end, then use a teaspoon to finish it up. Another would only eat tinned tuna in brine, but drained dry with no dressing on it all. Then there was the one who ate nothing but chicken nuggets and potato smiley faces every single day.

What are your strange family eating habits?

Read more at Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 8th February and the Gazette & Herald on 6th February  2019

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