26 May

The best meal ever

As I was eating my ultra-healthy Greek yoghurt and honey breakfast this morning, I suddenly had a Proustian moment as I returned in time to 1982 and the Greek island of Thassos where for the first time I saw Greeks eating this, and I thought “Urgh, how revolting!”

This got me thinking not just how my tastes had changed over the years, but just how big the impact of regular foreign holidays has been on the national palate.

The early days of foreign travel saw us packing our bags with cans of beans, corned beef and teabags as we didn’t want to eat that “Foreign greasy food”. That grease was almost certainly olive oil, which we all know both tastes nice and is very good for us. Although packing the tea bags is unfortunately still a good idea, lukewarm water and a tiny tea bag simply don’t cut it, 50 years of mass travel overseas has made us a much more adventurous bunch.

...are you a traveller or a tourist?

I think the proliferation of foreign restaurants on British high streets simply wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the travel industry, nobody would have eaten in them if they hadn’t already dipped their toes on holiday.  Thai food now gives Indian a run for its money and Italian restaurants know that they don’t have to anymore stick to spaghetti Bolognese and escalope Milanese to get people through the door.

However I must admit that I still have my “Green Eggs and Ham” moments on holiday. When it comes to food, China seems to have a policy that pretty much nothing is off limits, which can be a little challenging. The one exception is cheese which the Chinese regard as absolutely disgusting both in principle and in taste.  In the case of casu marzu from Sardinia, eaten rotten and crawling with maggots, they may have a point.

My prize for the ultimate culinary challenge, the “are you a traveller or a tourist?” test, is split two ways. Firstly, in Malaysia a very popular snack is balut, a semi developed duck embryo boiled in its shell and then eaten. In Cambodia, giving balut a run for its money, is the tasty delicacy of… deep fried tarantula.

I’m definitely a tourist.