Friday, May 14, 2021

Taste obsessions

Everyone gets obsessed with a food item every now and then—usually it’s just a craving, or something we merely “have a taste for”. But every once in awhile we may get obsessed with something for purely emotional reasons, and that can include food.

This has happened to me a lot over the past 19+ months as I’ve sailed my ship through a life-sea filled with mines, sandbars, and hidden reefs. Maybe the tastes I’m craving are comforting, maybe they’re just distracting, I simply don’t know what the reason for it is. But every once in awhile I get obsessed with some sort of food or taste, and that leads me to try making it. It’s also led to some odd changes.

Over the past year or so, I’ve documented several things that I’ve made for the first time, like the first time I made soda bread in April of last year, or, more interestingly to me, the karaage chicken I made a few days later, or Pad Thai noodles this past March, and sweetcorn fritters just last month. All those are things that captured my attention (or I was obsessed with…) until I made them and moved on (I’ve made Pad Thai noodles again, the only one of those that I’ve repeated so far).

I’ve also sometimes been focused on recreating things I used to make when I was younger, before I moved to New Zealand. One isn’t worth mentioning because it didn’t work (and when I get authentic ingredients I’ll try again and then maybe even blog about it if I do). A batch of cookies I made also failed because I accidentally left out the baking soda. Oops.

Recently though, I became focused on crumpets, of all things. Nigel and I got them most weeks for a long time, and from time to time afterward for years. This recent obsession started because my sister-in-law gave me some honey, and I suddenly got it into my head that I wanted to have crumpets with honey on them, because that’s how Nigel first served them to me way back in 1995 (see photo below), and how I continued to have them. Neither of us had had them in years, and I felt it was time to end the drought.

So I bought a pack, and the next morning I toasted two and smeared honey on them, as I used to do, and they were just as I’d remembered. The following morning, though, I put jam on them, which is the way Nigel preferred them (the photo up top is of the two versions). And me? The third day I toasted the final two and put jam on them. I realised that I now prefer that—and this wasn’t the first time that’s happened.

Back in 2018, I blogged about peanut butter and the brand I liked. In talking about various brands, I included a peanut butter called “Woolworth’s Select American Style Peanut Butter”, which I didn’t care for. What I didn’t say in that post is that it was Nigel’s favourite.

Nigel used to have peanut butter on toast for breakfast every weekday, so I always had a new jar in the cupboard so he wouldn’t get caught short if he used up a jar some morning. Awhile before Nigel realised he was sick, his peanut butter was getting low, so I bought an extra jar because I knew he’d open a new one soon, and that way I’d still have a reserve jar in the panty. Only that didn’t happen because Nigel started avoiding his usual breakfast, then he was very sick. When he died, there was the open jar and the two unopened ones.

Me being me, I wasn’t going to let them go to waste, so I finished them. In the time since, I’ve bought several new jars (only when I ran out), and my former favourite brand a couple times. I now prefer Nigel’s peanut butter to the one I used to like.

It’s not just toppings for crumpets or brands of peanut butter, there have been several food items where my taste seems to have changed, often to what Nigel liked. That’s not true for everything, though: I still hate passionfruit and offal—in fact there’s nothing that I couldn’t stand before that I now like, it’s just that there are some things I like better now than I used to.

What strikes me about this is that it’s not like I thought to myself, “I’m going to use the peanut butter that Nigel liked because he liked it.” That kind of thing has never once happened to me. Instead, I just realised I liked something he did. I think the most likely explanation is that tastes change, and also that just maybe I gave a product a fair chance, where maybe I hadn’t before. Maybe I just like to think that, that I’m a bit more open minded than I was. If so, Nigel would be pleased about that.

Food isn’t necessarily the most obvious thing for a grieving person to become suddenly obsessed with (most people would probably assume it’d be alcohol), but for me it’s probably the most common. Fortunately for me, most of this has been focused on tastes and ordinary stuff, and not on mass consumption of calories (though I’ve been known to comfort eat). It’s just I get a taste (obsession) for something sometimes.

This photo from 1998 or 1999 is of me in the kitchen of the first house we shared, holding a pack of
crumpets. We'd probably just got back from the supermarket.


Roger Owen Green said...

I've been attending Death Cafes virtually for a while now. Food is a conversation that hasn't come up. But it could. One of the things my MIL realized that there were particular foods she didn't really like that she'd make, and even eat because her late husband so enjoyed them.

Arthur Schenck said...

I did that, too, but I drew the line at kidney and mushrooms. Never was gonna happen. Mind you, he made stuff that I liked, too, like sweetcorn fritters,

Roger Owen Green said...

Arthur's a mere babe then!

Arthur Schenck said...

I was, but, of course, I still am—just a different kind.