MissDissent (missdissent) wrote,

Food Writing - Assignment One

My UTS course, Food Writing with John Newton has assignments! My first was to choose an aspect of writing about food other than restaurant criticism, and write 500-800 words. This is my assignment, feel free to make comments, though I submit it in an hour or so:

The Eyes of a Stranger

Catching the eye of a stranger at the precise moment when my fingers happen upon a ripe avocado whose flesh yields to my gentle probing, gives me a clandestine thrill. There’s something both lewd and seductive about food – particularly the tactile pleasure of food – that began for me when I was a precocious, young child. Perhaps I can blame the butcher in his stained apron, for my affliction, offering me, as he did over the shiny metal counter, my first bright, red Frankfurt? Holding it tightly in my hand as we wandered to the next shop, I was fascinated with the texture of it, unsure whether I was supposed to eat it, or keep it as a treasure.

Our annual family visits to The Royal Easter Show are but a hazy memory of being dragged through long aisles reeking of manure; but it is with complete clarity that I recall my first taste of melted Cheese on a Stick, and the fluffy, battered goodness of a Corn Dog. Camping trips are reduced to the taste of blackberries, plucked and eaten straight from the bush, their juice mingling on my face with blood from the inevitable scratches garnered from attaining the plumpest, juiciest specimens. But even their tart pleasure is usurped by the memory of my first stick-roasted twist of damper, cooked over an open fire, buttered and eaten hot with my fingers.

My parents, as I recall, were often at each other’s throats. But instead of nasty memories, I remember with delight being bundled into the car by my absconding Mother, for weekends of driving. The south coast was the land of cheese and honey, with compulsory stops at Capilano Honey, The Big Cheese at Bodalla, The Bega Cheese Heritage Centre and Tilba Cheese. I fondly remember cramming as many small cubes of tasty cheddar as I could fit into my tiny fist - a memory only slightly marred with nausea drawn from eating the aforementioned samples in rapid succession. Even today, stumbling across a rather retro plate of cubed cheese at a party makes me feel like Alice, falling through a worm hole into my own childhood.

The north coast, accessible through Hexham, a stop inevitably punctuated a creamy, spearmint Oak milkshake, was the gateway to The Big Banana. And if you ate conservatively, you could make their rock candy last until you reached Nambour and the wide range of milky treats available at The Big Cow. Sometimes we worked up a considerable thirst by stopping first at The Big Macadamia Nut, but it wasn’t my favourite of attractions because in order to sample the salty macadamia treats, you needed to sit through a long train ride with commentary about the growing cycle of the macadamia. At The Big Cow, however, you could cut straight to the chase.

The Big Pineapple was also a firm favourite, as besides pineapple products, it also featured a range of exotic fruits. On one occasion, when Father had done something particularly heinous, we even got as far as Bundaberg, and The Big Rum Bottle. To a child’s eyes, the mountain of raw sugar presented with the options of climbing, eating, or bathing in, was an unforgettable sight. As an adult, I’ve always had a preference for raw sugar, and (much to my driving companion’s chagrin) a compulsion to stop at any ‘Big Thing’ we may pass!

Despite my Mother’s entreaties to look out the window at the passing Australian countryside, I largely spent the trips musing about the letters in my rock candy, sucking it dedicatedly to ensure that they did indeed go all the way through. Even when the Australian sights were replaced by the exotic green rice paddies of Malaysia (yet another holiday taken without my Father), I steadfastly refused to acknowledge the landscape. Instead my first overseas trip was marked once again by food. My first mango is a fleshly memory, of sticky sweet juice coating my face, and dripping down past my wrists in the thick heat of Kuala Lumpur. This trip also marked my introduction to chilli, in a Malaccan restaurant specialising in Singapore Chilli Crab. The jealousy I felt upon watching a local child (many years younger than myself at the time) licking crab from her fingers, made me adamant that I could eat it too. Barely hearing my Mother’s cautions, I stoically ate my share of the hot, sweet crab, my forehead sweating, and my face reddening from the effort.

You can call me uncouth, but there’s nothing better to me, than food that you eat with your hands. Perhaps for me it’s a way of erasing bad childhood memories with more simple, tactile pleasures, but I hazard that there is no better way to eat popcorn than stuffing it into your mouth by the handful, and licking the buttery salt residue from your fingers. Maybe this is the reason we generally limit this particular pleasure to darkened movie theatres… places where we’re safe from catching the eye of a stranger.

Tags: food

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