Memories of food.

We all have a memory of food ... at some stage of our lives we all had a meal that was memorable, for one reason or another.

The first meal to leave its mark (not on the front of my cardigan though) in my memory was when I was 8 or 9 and we kids had been enjoying a day trip over to Taupo.

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As we did not have a car in those days we were taken there by Dordie, a good friend of mum's, because they had a car and they wanted to give us home-bound kids a big day out.

So, after a drive of two hours through endless bends and brows in those pre-Runanga Deviation days, we took in the sights and nearby sulphurs of Taupo.

Went for the swim in the hot pools and watched in awe as the fearsome waters surged over the Huka Falls.

Then we went to a restaurant for lunch.

Crikey ... a restaurant.

Never been to a restaurant so we were all very cautious how we behaved. There would be no flicking of peas at each other under this fine roof.

I remember seeing rice with sauce on the menu and asked for that, which drew a few puzzled looks from mum and my brothers and sister.

What had sparked in my mind was the rice mum made from a packet with the word risotto on it.

And she'd stir in some chopped-up cheerios or eggs occasionally to go with the powdered stuff and water which was stirred into it - and it was lovely.

So when this restaurant rice emerged I could not take my eyes off it.

It was all bright white and had a thick yellow sort of sauce with little bits of chopped up stuff in it sort of loosely poured over it.

So I gingerly forked some up and into the domain of my uncertain tastebuds and felt them react.

This stuff was sort of really spicy and hot ... and not a chopped-up cheerio in sight.

I had three or four forkfuls then declared I was full.

I had expected something like mum's mild and common risotto. This dish in front of me was more aligned to the households of Madras.

It was the meal I will never forget.

It stuck in my mind - and my throat for that matter.


However, among my favourite dishes these days are those which are the staples of India, Thailand, China and Vietnam.

Times change, as do tastes. For as the years went by there was a growing emergence of new food and dining cultures to the point where today we are blessed by a diverse and colourful selection of dishes from lands far and wide across the globe.

Another meal I recall was in the early '70s and was a goulash.

The sort of thing traditional old dad would have sent straight to the bin.

And had one been nearby I would have done the same. It had not been well prepared, put it that way.

Dad had a well-worn term in his vocabulary.

"Foreign muck," he'd say if anything slightly avante garde was applied to the sausages or the beef. However, he savored the wiener schnitzel, despite having been at war with its creators two decades earlier, and was always up for beef olives.

The other strong food memory which lingers in my mind was being handed a punnet of chips in Amsterdam back in the early '70s, for the bloke in the apron and the strange hat poured mayonnaise over them!

I was bemused and slightly rattled.

Try that at half-time at McLean Park and you'd sent from the ground.

But, as I discovered, they were delicious.

Forget the tomato sauce ... try mayonnaise, it's superb.

Maybe not at the rugby though.

Yep, changing tastes and directions, and that's a very good thing.

As well as the expansion of the staples — the meats, the poultry and the seafoods — there has been a huge expansion across the landscape of flavoursome ingredients.

Check out the sauces and oils - they take up half an aisle these days.

And the breads and spreads and herbs and seasonings.

Wander into a well-stocked deli today and it is flavoursomely gob-smacking.

The influences are everywhere, to the point where I am now inspired to take my Italian frittatas a step further.

To the wonderful point where my late father would have said "What the hell have you put in this thing?"