Monday, November 12, 2007

Congee Breakfast

A study was shown on Italian TV to demonstrate how the taste of many foods we love is acquired, not innate. All babies love sweet and dislike bitter but a taste for some of the foods we love as adults is learned. Take the example of wonderful gorgonzola cheese. I happen to love it but if you'd have tried to serve it to me when I was a kid with all it's veins of blue mold, I'd have run screaming from the room. Then take the Chinese delicacy of eggs preserved in ashes. On TV they looked like normal hard-boiled eggs with the TV color system screwed up. The whites were black and the yolks were green. I imagine that much like gorgonzola, these eggs have developed in flavor through the time their are aged and through contact with the ashes. Whether one appreciates that flavor is a matter of learning. A group of Italians were given the eggs to taste and a group of Chinese tasted the cheese. I'm sure you can imagine the grimaces on both sides. Nobody liked the taste of the new food.

Now why am I telling you about this?

My worst culinary experience in China was eating the traditional congee (a rice gruel) with traditional condiments for breakfast. It's pretty, isn't it? The pickled vegetable strips up top were pungently tasty and salty, the mushroom at 3:00 was yummy and chewy but the orange marinated tofu (still don't know what it was marinated in) just knocked me off my chair! I had to spit it out and then the flavor stayed with me all day long. It was a very strong flavor and I'm sure it is appreciated by people who've learned how, but I'll be happy not to run into it again. Not in a dark alley. I'm too scared.


Blogger Cicely said...

I find it's hardest to face strange foods at breakfast. When traveling through Southeast Asia a few years ago, I was really unhappy with my choices in Indonesia: plain white bread smothered in sweetened condensed milk, or fried rice. I was so relieved to get to Laos and Cambodia, where you could get French bread or pho.

12:00 AM  
Blogger ML said...

It's true, whatever you're used to eating fits right in with your life. Sometimes, though, things like that orange tofu...well...I think I would have spit it out too!

6:45 PM  
Blogger Stelle in Italia said...

that bad, huh? :) sorry about your orange tofu experience, but the fact that you tried at all it says wonders!

11:24 AM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Cicely, wow, those choices sound pretty bad too!

Hi ML, You're right you like mostly what you know. For example, I like bacopn and eggs for breakfast, but most Italians find that gross. They want sweet in the morning.

Hi Jackie, Thanks, but I wasn't even expecting a culinary challenge that morning. Who knew tofu (not a paragon of flavor) could be so icky?

1:05 PM  

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