Plus ça change…

I do believe that tastes change, despite the fact that we all know someone who’s reached the age of 47 and has yet to eat a green vegetable, something we all assume children will outgrow. I believe that tastes can change because in my own little life, my tastes have changed. For example, as as child I did not like:

the taste of alcohol plus chocolate; the taste of fruit plus chocolate; rum; lima beans; bananas; plums; oranges; cilantro.

This is just off the top of my head. And I am sure you’re thinking, “what kind of child is even aware of consuming rum? what the hell kind of childhood did you have?” But the answer is, rum was a flavoring in a lot of baked goods I remember from my childhood, and… I never liked those desserts. It was always a real bummer, because, you know, here’s some rich, dark, chocolatey looking thing, mmmmmm yum, but then NO: something was WRONG, and that something was: RUM.

In the last few years — say, the last five years (and I’m about to turn 45 this year, so I’m quite an adult now) — I’ve noticed that many of the things I would or could not choke down are things that I will in fact cheerfully buy and cook. For example, I will buy and even eat bananas. I will buy and eat lima beans. I like plums, on a hot summer day especially. Cilantro, I will go out of my way to come up with a meal gilded with some lovely fresh cilantro, if I notice a particularly hearty bunch of it in the grocery store. But there are other flavors that I still cannot handle. Orange, for example. I don’t know how people get up in the morning and drink orange juice. It would make me cry.

A serious stumbling block for me is alcohol in desserts. Rum in particular turns out to still be a real thorn in my side. I discovered this the other day, when I made a lovely birthday cake for my husband.

When prompted to tell me what kind of cake he’d like for this birthday, he suggested a very moist chocolate cake with some kind of rum flavoring involved, frosted; I decided to interpret this by making a dark chocolate cake and then sandwich the layers together with a rum-flavored caramel frosting. I put all of this together, and it looked lovely; I made a very clear, plain rum sauce, too, to serve, warm, with the cake. And my husband was quite pleased. I, on the other hand, found the frosting and the sauce just terrible with the cake.

And I was crushed, because in recent years, I’d really begun to warm up to rum. When making a pot roast, I will sometimes deglaze the pot with dark rum. I’ve come to really like a couple of rum drinks, even. So what went wrong? I had such hope! But no: rum is not for me, I have come to realize, when combined with fruit or chocolate. In other words, it isn’t merely the thing itself that my mouth finds upsetting , it’s the combination of the thing with some other thing that I may or may not love. In the case of chocolate: no fruit or alcohol should be combined with chocolate. I will be upset. I will eat a Chunky bar, but that’s about as close as I get to wanting chocolate and fruit together. (And, incidentally, that’s one of the few times I’ll accept raisins at all.) Rum and chocolate is, for me, non-negotiable. (Orange and chocolate is my worst nightmare, though: my mouth puckers up just thinking about it.)

Clearly, my daughter feels as I do, too. She was so excited to eat the birthday cake, but her face fell when she dug into the frosting. She asked me, very politely, but very sadly: “What kind of frosting is this, Mama?” I couldn’t lie to her. “It’s rum and caramel, sweetie… if you don’t like it, you can scrape it off.” She ate it, but unhappily, saving the cake for last.

I realize that it’s unsophisticated-seeming of me to not like these things. But we like what we like, we don’t like what we don’t like. So, ok, I’m never going to really enjoy Bananas Foster. It’s all right. I’ve made real progress on cilantro and lima beans. I like rice pudding! I even like tapioca, a foodstuff that, when I was a child, just…. scared meI mean, tapioca is freaky, freaky stuff. But I’ll admit it’s good… so long as it’s not cooked with, say, rum… or orange….


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