Dining out on irrational food issues

STEPHANIE WOOD
Last updated 12:23 28/05/2012
food

FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD: Everyone has weird food fetishes - one person's gourmet delight is another's worst nightmare.

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Somewhere last week I stumbled on an article outlining, believe it or not, University of Toronto research on "the prevalence of cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) disliking among different ethnocultural groups".

The research was published in a journal called Flavour, which looks at mind-boggling topics such as "assessing the impact of the tableware and other contextual variables on multisensory flavour perception" and "seaweeds for umami flavour in the New Nordic Cuisine".

I've known of a few food people who have a difficult relationship with coriander - Julia Child, for example.

During a 2002 interview with Larry King she nominated coriander as a food she hated. "So you would never order it?" King asked.

"Never," she responded. "I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor." This information was in a fascinating New York Times article about coriander ("cilantro" in American) by the brilliant Harold McGee. And when I think about it, sometimes, not always, I've been less than enthusiastic about the herb.

The article set me thinking about food fussiness: I know some people who can't bear it if the different types of foods on their plate touch - mashed potato musn't rub up against peas against chops against pumpkin. A bit like Cousin Patrick in Toys: "I hate it when food touches. I'm a military man," he says.

A colleague has an OCD Weetbix habit: He eats five of them each morning. Four of them must be halved so he first eats the eight halves, then the fifth Weetbix must be eaten whole. (The same colleague doesn't like icecream, so that probably tells you everything you need to know about him!)

And I have my own food issues:

1. I love mandarins but they can be a problem for me: I can't stand the pith. And I can't stand the idea of eating a mandarin that someone else's fingers have segmented. The ideal mandarin for me is one I've segmented myself and from which I've removed every skerrick of pith. The horror scenario: the soggy pith- and yoghurt-covered mandarin segments in the fruit salad I bought at the work canteen last week. Every one of them went into the bin.

2. I loathe cottage cheese.

3. I like the idea of chicken but the reality is usually a turn off. And I'm one of those lesser people who prefer breast meat. (Serious food people prefer the darker leg meat.)

4. Avocados can make me very unhappy. When they're good they're very good, when they're bad they are horrid. I'm ashamed to admit it but avocados are the food I waste the most. I buy them - mostly Hass - but if I don't open them when they're at their perfect moment of ripeness I can't bring myself to touch them. Frequently, even if I open them at that perfect moment of ripeness, I find them to have a vile soapy flavour. And ones that have brown stringy bits or those nasty little gritty stones in them are just hideous. (Can anyone tell me what those little gritty things are?)

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5. Soggy tomato in a sandwich. Is there anything worse than ordinary bread that's turned into a wet tomato-ey sponge?

Then there are the weird things I love: great croissants with butter and Vegemite, a certain fast-food giant's fish burgers, supermarket thin sausages on white bread with lots of unsalted butter and commercial tomato sauce, the Bunnings sausage sizzle...

What are your food issues?

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