Thursday 18 July 2019

Fussy Eater

It's that time of year again, Dear Reader, when Your Correspondent takes great delight in turning the season's Ye Olde Kumquats, Fortunella margarita by preference, into these orange-gold, vanilla-laced, syrupy treats below. And it's not via the alchemy of the jar of dried calendula infusing in olive oil - that oil will be destined for my next batch of cold-processed soap. The trio were merely rubbing shoulders on the sunny windowsill this morning and caught the light so fetchingly for me.

Preserved cumquats and fresh nagami fortunella and calendula infusing in olive oil photo
Before & After

Unbelievably, these are the very tail end of last year's batch. It's not that I'm a particularly everything-in-moderation kind of eater; it's more the case that FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) strikes me keenly, so I do tend to ration things accordingly, thus I can eke out treasures until a replacement is in sight.

It was not always thus for Olde Pipistrello to be loving these citrus bliss balls (not rationing my superlatives, however!). For although I would eat basically anything put before me as a child, I did have a small but closely monitored list of foods abhorred, viz.: fruit peel, kidneys, oysters and capers.

Sadly, it was my dear Nanna that was to be held responsible for the first two. Her home-made Hot Cross Buns and Christmas Cake & Pudding would be chock-full of supermarket-sourced fruit peel (plus the Pud' was made more alarming by the pallid floury skin from its hanging in the laundry for weeks). No amount of smothering in custard or lashings of butter could induce me to choke down the peel. Much like a pet refusing to swallow a pill, I could magically spit out the horrid nuggets after valiantly chewing for an age around the otherwise edible bits.*

Norman Lindsay's sketch of Albert, the Magic Pudding
Albert, the Magic Pudding - Much coveted by puddin'-thieves
Illustration: Norman Lindsay, 1918
Image: via The Guardian

Nanna's steak & kidney stews and pies beheld a similar, sorry story. A very slow meal was to be had from taking small mouthfuls, but at least the kidneys' tell-tale ammonia tang would alert you to their near vicinity on the fork, so it was very hard to actually pop an offending item into your mouth.

Sir John Tenniel's illustration of the Walrus and the Carpenter for Lewis Carroll's classic 'Through the looking glass and what Alice found there'
A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach
The Walrus and the Carpenter survey their Obliging Lunch
Image: via Wikimedia Commons

As to oysters, they were very often to be found on the table as we would regularly holiday by the sea, but in truth I suspect I never tried them. It was probably a visual thing, initially, but oysters appear fairly regularly on the Watch List of many an immature palate, so I was in good company there.

Bougainvillea and capers photographed together on Antiparos
Capers bedeck the bougainvillea in Antiparos last year
Photo: Flying With Hands

Potted capers photographed on Antiparos
Potted delicacy in the Cyclades
All edible: capers, caperberries and leaves

Photo: Flying With Hands

But capers? I'm not sure where I encountered them but I can only guess they were added to the list as I thought that it just looked a little lacking. I had to get creative while comparing notes in the playground, for some playmates would airily declare the entire class of Vegetables as Verboten on their plates. Or would only eat White Things. You get the drift. It was tough trying to keep up when your favourite vegetable was and is the Brussels Sprout.

But with Age comes Wisdom, even in regard to the Palate. If I could, I would add capers to every dish these days. Salted or pickled. Both live companionably in our fridge. And on our Greek Odyssey last year, the Lovely L and I enjoyed capers galore, alongside the caperberries and leaves.

Citrus peel, too,  is no longer to be feared (except for the commercial variety which is just plain Nasty) and I do make all manner of goodies with it with my own grubby mitts.

AGNSW Laurens Craen 'Still life with imaginary view, c1645-50'
Snacks for Later, or
Still life with imaginary view, c1645-50
Laurens Craen, AGNSW
Photo: Flying With Hands

Oysters were finally revealed to me in all their Briny Glory in my 20's when I holidayed in Scotland with a friend and are a special favourite now. I'm, ahem, fortunate I don't have to share my regular platter with Mr P. as he cannot abide them - although he will shuck them for me as an act of Chivalry!

Kidneys? Well, I have to have something up my sleeve to keep my credential as a Fussy Eater!

* The tough, floury cross on the Hot Cross Buns was likened to another imposed penance and would get picked off, notwithstanding Nanna's stern gaze, she of the waste-not-Depression-era Generation.


  1. Quite in awe of anybody who knows how to make preserves. I recently heard a podcast (On Point) about gardening, and one of the musical interstices was a song whose lyrics were something about "my grandma put summer in a bottle and you can taste it."
    Have seen kumquats around but don't recall their taste. I'm preoccupied with flat peaches at the moment. Why is it that the uglier the produce the tastier it is?
    Your note about the Captcha always makes me smile. I am not a robot, but my bifocals are not well-adapted to spotting tiny fire hydrants in grainy photos.

  2. I refuse to eat kidneys (and liver) and I've never tried oysters. I have to admit that I am a very fussy eater. I've gotten better with time but there are still many things or flavours that I will not eat.

    I understand the OYSTER THING AS I have just come around to liking them in my 50's.........It's HARD TO GET OVER THE CONSISTENCY of them but once that goes down its the light sauces that make them DELICIOUS TO ME!

  4. Dear Taste of France,

    What a nice image - bottling summer! Kumquats are eaten whole so their flavour is more about the peel, which can be tempered to a sweet/sour with the sugar syrup, and I daresay only someone desperate would eat one straight from the tree as they are tough and sour before cooking up in what is a really easy marmalade recipe. Preserving always seemed like a mystery until I gave it a whirl and now find the only tedious part to be the rummaging for jars and the sterilising of the bits and pieces. Kumquats are great to do, though, as you can even whip a batch as small as 250g of fruit and it's no big production.

    Flat peaches were our fruit choice in Greece last year! So delicious!! They aren't so common here in Australia yet and the one time I saw them in our greengrocery this past season, they were $12 a kilo! Crazy talk!!!

    Dear Loree,

    I've noticed that fussy eating is pretty common around the Mediterranean and probably explains why New Things don't get much traction in the food department. It makes it pretty easy and unremarkable to just stick to what you like. Mr P's young Italian relatives like to demonstrate their worldliness by occasionally socialising at a rare-as-hens-teeth Chinese restaurant - but they only eat the rice!! Not quite pushing the boundaries but the older generations won't even darken the door!

    Squeamishness around food is something I've not really "gotten" but it's true that palates do need maturing to appreciate some flavours. But I don't feel the need to appreciate the smelly old kidney, haha!

    Dear Contessa,

    The Brussels sprouts of my childhood were the classic boiled to blazes variety, bitter and sulphurous but strangely delicious to me! But I think they fall into the same camp as coriander/cilantro whereby there's a genetic predisposition to one's liking or disliking them.

    Apparently newer breeds aren't as bitter and you don't have to cook them so long any more and I can't remember the last time I had them boiled. They are perfect for doing marvellous things with sautéing, for instance with bacon and chestnuts, roasting them halved with other veggies with garlic and chilli, etc etc but one of my absolute faves is to shred them and sautée with bacon and onion then toss through egg and parmesan and spaghetti for a variation of spaghetti carbonara. Utterly ambrosial!!

    Brussels sprouts and oysters. Terribly good for you. My tip for the day!


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