A Matter of Taste

Recently a Peruvian friend said to me: “It’s so nice to finally get some good cheese. I just don’t like the taste of the cheese in California.”

This is someone we had known in California and, during a visit to our home in Barranco, he was looking   hungrily at the cheese accompanying our tea. His remark started me to think because, while I like the Peruvian cheese I have eaten, it just doesn’t have the same flavor as the cheese I was used to in California.

 Actually, I always thought of the cheese from my native state as the “good” cheese.  I was surprised to hear that the taste was not agreeable to my friend. I must confess, I miss the California cheese and sometimes I even fantasize about biting into a good, sharp cheddar.

I had a somewhat similar experience many years ago when I moved to Australia. The taste of the beef was quite different from what I was accustomed to in the U.S. My first taste of a steak was a surprise, and it took me a while to adjust. There was nothing wrong with the taste and, after a few years, I thought it was ok , but the “good” beef was what I had grown up with.

Our tastes are formed early in life. This can be a challenge for those of us who wander from our homelands to live in other parts of the world. Of course, some adapt more easily than others. I have an American friend who has trained his cook to replicate exactly the meals he grew up with in the States.

I pride myself as being fairly adaptable in regard to food. At home, we eat Peruvian and I am quite content. However, as a Californian who grew up with Mexican food, I sometimes think about having a good taco or burrito, but I know that this is unlikely in Lima. This is the strange thing for me- I would rather not try one of my former favorite foods in case of disappointment.  I want to retain my old favorites as a fond memory. 

The same applies to Thanksgiving. Rather than risking disappointment, I told my family “Let’s just go to a really good Peruvian restaurant and celebrate our day that way.”

I know that it is much better to enjoy what you have rather than complaining about what you don’t have. This only makes you unhappy.  

Ironically, I find that when I return to the U.S., one taste of the food I missed is enough to tell me that it wasn’t that important in the first place or it may even taste differently than I remember.

 On the extreme are those who continually dream about a food that they had in their native country that is not available to them in their new homeland.  As a great example, I often think of Australians and their obsession with vegemite. No matter how remote from their homeland, it seems that the Aussies must have this yeasty concoction to put on their toast in the morning.

Following up on our Peruvian friend’s comment, I began to reflect on what I have heard from my students. I teach English to business executives. Some of them have to travel to other countries for meetings or, even for extended periods of training. One of my students was posted to a Scandinavian country for several months. He described the food there in this way:

 “It sustains life and nothing more can be said about it”.

 Others who have to go to our South American neighbors on business complain that the food is bland and lacks the variety of Peruvian cuisine.

So when you get down to it, food is a matter of taste whether it is good or not, and Mom’s cooking is always the best.

One thought on “A Matter of Taste

  1. My uncle – who is married to my mum’s sister – always praised the dairy products of Peru, he loved the butter which tasted like butter used to taste in the UK (before I was born by the sounds of it…) and then I went to Peru and started eating breakfast at my auntie’s house – the breakfast spread was always Pan Frances, fruit jams, Laive butter, avocadoes (which I never ate until I came to Peru and developed a taste for them!) fried eggs and ‘Queso Andino’ a breakfast fit for a king! Finished off with coffee infused with tinned Gloria milk!

    I thought the cheese was really nice and didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘Queso Andino’ until I went to Tottus one day for a supermarket run! It reminds me of Dutch Edam cheese back home but nicer, there is a lot of English cheeses and apparently we have more types of cheese then even the French but I thought Queso Andino, Laive mantequilla with Pan Frances with a fried egg was heaven in the morning!

    Great writing! Funny too because I was just thinking about the butter and cheeses of Peru the other day wishing I could get some here in China (I can’t!)

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