Happy memories of discovering foreign foods

There's life after alphabet spaghetti
There's life after alphabet spaghetti

One of the things I always used to love about travelling abroad was the different food.

At one time, in the days before exotic food became homogeneous, you could return confident in the knowledge that no one had sampled what you had.

Once upon a time, there was simple generic curry, for example, and I wonder if you can remember Duo Can and Vesta curries.

When I first started travelling to Italy, I was amazed by the new taste sensations, ones which I could share back home.

One early memory was Porcini mushrooms sitting atop a bubbling pizza, fresh from the oven.

The array of pasta shapes in Italy seemed staggering.

I knew of spaghetti and ravioli, which had been incorporated into our diet back in the ’60s and ’70s – many a childhood tea was all about Alphabetti spaghetti – but I had no knowledge of penne or farfalle or orechiette.

My aforementioned cheese fancying took me to the delights of stracchino, mozzarella and ricotta. At one time these were barely eaten in the UK.

Even vegetables took on a new lease of life. I remember my first experience of beatola or beet, a spinach-like vegetable which I find completely delicious with a little olive oil poured on.

How cool it was to eat a pasta dish that was able to transform humble vegetables into an sumptuous feast.

Childhood saw me shunning vegetables – especially the tinned variety – but tossed with garlic and added to perfect ‘al dente’ pasta they took on a whole new meaning.

And speaking of that life-enhancer – the olive and its oil was at one time a rare treat to be visited on distant sun-soaked holidays.

Now you can buy three for the price of two at Tesco.

I loved the mystery of holidays abroad; the new discoveries; the virginal culinary experiences.

I loved the differentness and the way foods were stored in bottled oil or hung or scooped from pretty bowls.

I’ll never forget my first experience of the wicked tiramisu or zabaglione; all creamy deliciousness.

Oh for the days when foreign food was new territory to be explored.

Ah! Happy food memories.