My cupboards and refrigerator are filled with items that were not part of Grandma Annie's kitchen, although my father bought them from time to time. Among those items are three staples: Red peppers, black olives and green cheese.
The diet of my youth was relatively bland: Meat and potatoes mostly, accented by salads, side vegetables and bread.
My mother avoided many of the foods my father liked, and so never served them to me and my siblings. Mushrooms are among them. She still wonders why we all love them, and assumes its a generational thing. Perhaps it is.
Garlic, my mother often reminds me, was something odd and foreign and exotic. I have this idea that World War II played a key role in brining garlic to small-town America. How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've eaten garlic, ya know?
Many of my acquired tastes were acquired when I cooked with my first college roommate, the American-born daughter of French parents, and explored Chicago restaurants with an early boyfriend (Steven, are you still a foodie?).
I learned to love Greek food, Yugoslavian wine and German beer, thanks to these and other college friends. We fancied ourselves gourmets and gourmands, cooking together, tring to outdo each other and exploring new ethnic restaurants. While our peers were expanding their record collections, we were buying small kitchen utensils that made exotic meal preparation easier along with mustards, jams, and exotic rice mixes.
Along the way, I also acquired a passion for red peppers (well documented on this blog) and black olives (a must for any tuna salad).
One of my favorite foods is blue cheese. I've used it in sweet dishes but mostly I enjoy it in salads.
At a recent tasting when a restaurant owner I knew was trying out a prospective chef, I tasted a simple salad of blue cheese, roasted walnuts and Granny Smith apple with an apple vinaigrette. It was really wonderful and elegant.
I bought some blue d'Auvergne in France and made a similar salad. This particular blue, made in the Massif Central area is creamier (and to my palate, gentler) than the typical blue cheese found in American supermarkets. I loved its subtle taste, and felt it better suited to warmer weather dishes (blue cheese is usually reserved for cold weather, at least in my life).
It's one more taste I have acquired. But I am curious. What tastes are new to your palate?