The first time trying any food is usually the most memorable and especially so if it is something polarising like blue cheese or durian, or confronting like balut or snake.
Personally, growing up Chinese (or any ethnicity for that matter) there are and aren’t a lot of foods that will shock me. Various parts including the innards of an animal are commonplace – less so in modern times – due to agriculture being laborious, traditionally the lifeline of so many, and a bid to minimise wastage. So for me, perhaps strangely to everyone else, my “first time” food memories relate to things which are inherently non-Chinese and quite possibly unexotic to everyone else.
Banana chips did not and do not exist in our household. They only made an appearance at my grandparents’ place when my grandfather lived for a few brief years in Sydney before deciding to return to China. He munched on them regularly. I remember sitting on the knee of one of his lanky legs and holding a golden disc between my stubby four-year-old fingers. Popping it in my mouth, I remember crunchy banana-ness – no surprises there – and being somewhat disappointed as I wasn’t, and still am not, a big fan of bananas.
Cheesecake memories are much more exciting, however. I distinctly remember trying cheesecake for the first time whilst I was a young teen living in Hong Kong. A city not associated with cheesecake – yes, I know – but a city with expats from many countries, particularly English-speaking ones, which makes for a market for Western products and foods. During her younger years, one of my aunts was a live-in cook and maid for an American family posted to Hong Kong for business. It was during that time that she discovered the delights of cheesecake which she, in turn, introduced to my cousins and I from that frozen supermarket foods institute known as Sara-Lee. I can only imagine how funny a sight it would have been for passers-by to witness one grown woman accompanied by five pre-pubescent kids digging into a frozen cheesecake with plastic spoons just outside a supermarket!
Avocado I didn’t try until I was around 16 at a friend’s family barbeque. It was in a salad and, although underwhelmed at first, I later came to appreciate its pairing with and enhancement of other things such as chicken, salmon, toast, nachos… My mother has since explained the absence of avocado from our household, apart from it being not a part of her Cantonese cooking – she had never had it herself and had no idea how it tasted!
“Gourmet pizza” is a term which became popular when I was… (Actually, I won’t tell you when because that would be disclosing my age. Which is never polite for a lady to do, ahem.) It’s always been a term which I’ve found confusing as I can’t determine to whom it is considered gourmet. I grew up with Cantonese cooking almost seven nights a week and pizza usually meant my mother coming home from the supermarket with those frozen subs topped with ham and pineapple. So it was a definite revelation when Gourmet Pizza Kitchen opened and was one of only a few who offered wood-fired pizzas. It soon became a regular choice for gatherings with friends and years later they still have several outlets with pretty much an unchanged menu.
These days, first-time food experiences are usually experienced camera in-hand and are documented with a blog post. More nerve-wracking than trying an unusual food is meeting a food-blogger for the first time, although I am always comforted by the ease at which conversation flows when it comes to the topic of food.
Bar Biaggio proved to be a lovely setting to brunch with Starloz for the first time, overlooking the water at Pyrmont with boats moored alongside. Food servings were generous and they use sourdough bread (yay!). I especially like how neither the mushrooms nor spinach were overly oily; always an ironic issue when they’re oiler than the bacon or sausages on the same plate! Their coffee is well made but lacking in latte art when we were there (I know, I know, it doesn’t affect the taste!), although I definitely was none the wiser when trying espresso coffee for the first time at the age of 21 – it was a takeaway caffe mocha from a university coffee cart.
So, what is your earliest or most memorable food experience?