Coming Round to Olives


I can feel my palate developing as I get older. Not physically, that would be pretty off putting and I probably wouldn’t get much done. I mean in terms of the food that I enjoy – things I would never have touched before. It seems really strange to think that, as a kid, I didn’t like pizza, or Chinese or Indian food, or anything with any level of spice heat. The first time I tasted sweet chili sauce I felt like my mouth was on fire, and that stuff’s not really hot. I mean, I was downright fussy. Some things I haven’t grown out of as I should have – like not liking my food to touch, and liking my sandwiches a specific way, and maybe some of the texture issues I have. The list could go on. They’re different kinds of fussiness though; when I was young I would discount things without really trying them. Now at least I’ll give something a shot before I reject it, and even then I’m big on second, third, fourth and further chances as necessary. This is the reason that I now love blue cheese, where until about two years ago I hated that stuff. I said that I just didn’t like it, and didn’t *want* to develop a taste for it. Nevertheless I did continue to taste different kinds, only to continue to not like them. Until one day I tried gorgonzola. It was the strangest thing, like a switch had flipped in my brain. I could still taste the bitterness, sharpness and, well, mouldiness that I disliked about blue cheese, but now I liked it. I can’t explain it any better than that – I just liked it.

With olives, the same thing isn’t really happening, but I’m definitely coming round to them. So far I still don’t like them on their own, but I now have a couple of recipes in my collection that include sliced or chopped olives, and they’re two of my favourites. The first is here – fettucine with a savoury veal sauce. It’s a simple one to prepare and is full of great flavour. It has white wine in it – anything with wine in it always makes me feel like a grown up. So does drinking wine with dinner. It’s another sign that my palate isn’t fully developed, I think, that I still prefer a soft drink with my meal, and can’t really pair up booze flavours with food flavours. I can pair up food flavours with each other like nobody’s business though, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

The second olive-related recipe is here – olive-lamb burgers with a mint gremolata. I was dubious at first, more about the gremolata as I had no idea what a gremolata *was*. I haven’t used fresh mint a lot in my culinary adventures, and I was kind of imagining a sweet kind of mint sauce. This is quite the opposite, it tastes fresh and sharp, and complements the rich lamb and olives really well.

The recipe just calls for some minced lamb, chopped olives and dried oregano to be mixed and shaped into patties, then grilled. They are so easy to put together, and the gremolata doesn’t take much more effort, being roughly chopped herbs, crushed garlic, lemon juice and oil. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the challenge of a recipe that takes some effort to put together, or uses an unusual ingredient, or looks really beautiful when it’s finished; sometimes, though, what you need is a recipe that uses fresh, easily sourced ingredients and lets them speak for themselves. Not like ‘Hello! I’m a lemon!’ because that would put you off your dinner, and also I would hope that lemons must have something a bit more interesting to say. Unless that was the garlic talking, and trying to fool us.

I found that the flavour of the olives didn’t particularly stand out once the burger was on a roll with the gremolata, but they did add enough to the taste and texture to be well worth adding. I’ve started to take notions to eat things with olives in, instead of actively avoiding them, and I even ate and enjoyed a pimento olive a while ago. One whole olive. Slow going, and probably quite a weird concept for people who like and have always like olives, or who have never been fussy, but I’m working up to being a fan. Next on the list is red wine. I don’t feel like I’m obliged to learn to like it, but I do feel like perhaps I’m missing out on one of life’s pleasures by not pairing up cheese and olives with some nice red wine. I use it to cook casseroles and add it to stock, but so far haven’t got a taste for it. I’ve seen a recipe for spaghetti with red wine and pecorino – here it is, in fact. I like the sound of it, perhaps it will be a further step in the red wine challenge.

Funny how some foods are described as ‘love it or hate it’, and with others people insist that you simply must keep trying till you acquire a taste for it. What makes red wine better than Marmite? OK, probably a lot of things… I take it back.

Tunes: I am completely comfortable with the fact that I will never enjoy tequila – but part of me still wants to do a tequila slammer, even though I know I’ll hate it. In the meantime I’ll stick with this joy from the 90s – Tequila

Viewing: A film I’ve only seen once, and that a long while ago, but it popped into my head again recently. It is unrelated to olives, though may be an acquired taste. Mirrormask.

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About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983. View all posts by Rock Salt

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