What do you like to eat when no-one’s looking?
Food is a joy plain and simple, whether it’s a burger and fries or a blackened cajun salmon with cranberry vinaigrette there’s just something about it that can make us smile, lick our lips, and bring us together around a communal table. But then there’s the grey area, no man’s land, the guilty pleasures, and secret indulgences that we’d prefer to enjoy alone, either because we’re scared of retribution, or we’re tired of defending our preferences.
I reached out to some of my followers to ask what odd pairings they enjoy, and they did not disappoint with their answers. Sharon Fourie admitted to enjoying matzos with bovril and mayonnaise, while Zuerita Gouws was brave enough to admit she enjoys banana and tomato sauce on white bread. Boiled egg with maple syrup on toast is a favourite of Petra van Eeden, while Wesley Duncan Abrahams likes peanut butter in a malay curry.
Cathy Le Roux adds a sprinkle of salt to her espressos while Linda Doig mixes her scrambled eggs with apricot jam. Yvette de Jager cleverly scoops her peanut butter out of the jar with celery, to be enjoyed together, and Lenette Saayman drizzles golden syrup over her chili sardines on toast. Meanwhile, Irene de Boer likes a good old tuna, banana and mayo toastie, Riaan Jacobs adds a dollop of strawberry yoghurt to his cinnamon and sugar pancakes, and Gail Helyar sprinkles instant coffee over her mature cheddar with honey combo.
And yet, while some of the above might make you shake your head or tut tut at their absurdity, we must remind ourselves that much like an artist with their paints or an engineer with their parts, there is no limit to what a chef can do with their ingredients. Who is to say what is ‘right’ or ‘normal’, who gets to marshal the ‘norms’ of what we deem enjoyable? After all, some of the most iconic dishes today were the results of happy accidents in the kitchen where someone went off script and ended up with an enjoyable, albeit odd, result.
If legend is to be believed, Roquefort, a beloved blue cheese, was the product of a shepherd discovering the mouldy remnants of his cheese lunch in a cave and deciding to take a bite anyway. Nearly 1,000 years later, Roquefort, a beloved classic, became the first cheese to fall under the protection of France’s Appellation d’origine Contrôlée, and only blue cheese ripened in the natural caves of Mont Combalou may lay claim to the name Roquefort. Meanwhile, chocolate truffles as we know them today were created when chef Auguste Escoffier added cream to a bowl of chocolate chunks instead of the intended one of sugared egg while making a pastry cream. While stirring the mistaken mixture, a silken paste began to form, and he tried to salvage the situation by rolling it into balls. Et voila! The chocolate truffle was born.
As for Crêpes Suzette, legend says a 14-year-old waiter working at Cafe Paris in Monte Carlo was serving His Royal Highness, Edward, the Prince of Wales when he accidentally mixed alcoholic cordials with the prince’s crepe and decided to serve it anyway. As we now know the dish was a hit and a new legend was born.
So, who is to say what is unacceptable and what is enjoyable? For all we know, banana and tomato sauce might be the next creation heading for the history books.