I try to eliminate food phobias. In the past year or so, I have chronicled my "coming to terms with", if not falling in love with, my dislikes of, in particular, lamb and salmon. What has usually swayed me has been trying something top drawer, properly prepared and seasoned. And cooked by someone who knows what they are doing.
Though I doubt that I am ever going to totally "get" tripe, or kidneys, or chicken's feet, it does irk me that I, occasionally, don't like something that people who I know and like and trust and admire do like. It shows fear. It shows weakness.
A couple of weeks ago I visited The Larder in Miramar. Chef-owner Jacob Brown is one of my favourite cooks, and he is a proponent of "nose to tail" eating - that is, if you are going to take an animal's life to cook and eat it, by way of respect for the animal you need to eat as much of the animal as is possible. To this end, I have eaten chicken hearts and livers, lamb's brains, and pig's cheeks and tongue that he has prepared. Because he knows what to do with these ingredients - how to process them, prepare them and, of course, how to cook them, they have all been delicious.
Anyway, when I last visited, Jacob emerged wielding a large slab of red and bloody looking meat in a vacuum-sealed bag. "You wanna try some of this?" he inquired.
"Yes," I replied, unflinchingly, even though I didn't actually know what it was. If he cooked it, it would be delicious, I was sure. "Umm, what is it?" I asked. "Ox heart," he replied. Crikey! Still yes, though.
And so, Jacob nipped back to the kitchen and returned with a plate of tender, juicy, seared, pink meat. If you didn't know better, you would have thought it was venison. It even tasted a bit like venison, but with a little something about it. There was nothing gross or weird about it - no big, chewy arteries or veins running through it. It was superb. It was done proper, like.
The other thing that it has always pained me to admit that I don't like is anchovies. Now, I like things that have anchovies in them, such as Worcestershire sauce, which is pretty much made from anchovies. But whenever I have had them on pizzas or pasta or whatever, I just haven't liked them at all. Maybe not even the taste so much as the texture - funny, furry, salty, fishy. Uh uh. Not for me.
So, again, I was recently at On Trays in Petone, buying delicious kitchen staples such as olive oil, parmesan, capers in salt, couscous and so on, when Mr Scheckter handed me a container of something to try. Again, I inquired "what are they?" "Boquerones," he informed me; "Spanish white anchovies."
Oh dear. Thanks for the gesture, Mr Scheck, but I think Lola Dog might, just quietly, get to eat the fancy white anchovies.
However, in the interests of the pursuance of Omnivorous enlightenment, I decide I had better at least try them. And besides, it was lunchtime, there wasn't much to eat in the house, and I wanted something quick.
I did pretty much as I did with the lardo I tried earlier in the year (also courtesy of Mr Scheck) - I made toast (in the toaster), and dressed the toasted bread with some of the salty little fish, as well as a sprinkle of rocket, sliced tomato, a squeeze of lemon and some salt and ground black pepper. I'm probably not going to like them, anyway, but I need to at least try - right? Lola Dog is hovering, regardless, looking optimistic...
I take a bite. Crikey - they don't taste much like any anchovies I have ever eaten! They are salty, pleasantly fishy-flavoured, and also have a vinegary kick. They taste a bit like what I remember herrings tasting like. They're rather delicious. I sneak a few more, and neck them - straight up. Delicious.
And so, another food phobia (or at least dislike) gets crossed off the list. I am pleased about this - the path to enlightenment and all that. The catch is, I only like a variety that is probably tricky to get hold of. And expensive, I'll wager. Champagne tastes on a beer budget - that'll be me, then.
It's just as well I write a food blog, eh?!
Anchovies - like 'em or loathe 'em? What should I do with the rest of the container? And ox heart - tried it?
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