May 10, 2012

The hearty flavor of raw onions

Filed under: Uncategorized — theresaurus @ 12:47 pm

From James Beard’s Delights & Prejudices:

“The kitchen, reasonably enough, was the scene of my first gastronomic adventure. I was on all fours. I crawled into the vegetable bin, settled on a giant onion and ate it, skins and all. It must have marked me for life, for I have never ceased to love the hearty flavor of raw onions. Another taste memory, my earliest, comes from the age of three. I lay abed with malaria and without much appetite, refusing all food except spoonfuls of the most superb chicken jelly that ever existed. For a time nothing counted in my life but chicken jelly.

“If my earliest love in food was chicken jelly, my earliest hate was milk. I loathed milk, cold or hot. It simply couldn’t be made attractive to me as a drink. And if occasionally a zealous adult with standard notions about growing children forced me to drink a glass, I promptly became sick. It has never failed to be an effective emetic for me, and I am still revolted when I see people drinking milk with a good meal.

“The ability to recall a taste sensation, which I think of as ‘taste memory,’ is a God-given talent, akin to perfect pitch, which makes your life richer if you possess it. If you aren’t born with it, you can never seem to acquire it. … Great gastronomes also have a highly developed sense memory, or they would not make such a ceremony of tasting and enjoying food. And naturally good chefs and cooks  must depend upon memory when they season or when they are combining subtle flavors to create a new sauce or dish. Not all taste memory is accurate. Many people think of Mom’s apple pie or Grandmother’s dumplings as delicacies that cannot be equaled today. These memories are associated with happy times, and to the untrained palate the pie or the dumplings seemed delicious. If the same dishes were re-created and presented to a sophisticated palate, they would probably belie their reputations. … I was not sentimentally attached to the cooking of any one person at home … and was somewhat precocious in appreciating the pleasure of blending satisfying flavors. While this meant that I learned to enjoy the delights of a good meal, it also meant that I soon grew intolerant of mediocre food.”



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