Abroad and in a relationship with food: Palate expansions

(Note: “Abroad and in a relationship with food” is a blog that tracks my romantic relationship with food as I study abroad in Parma, Italy. Because I will never love anything as much as I love food.)

Think back to your first crush. Unless you’re one of those people who is still dating their elementary school sweetheart (side note: do those people exist?), your first crush is probably laughable for one reason or another. In all honestly, you probably have an ex or two that you wouldn’t admit to having dated if your life depended on it. I’ll spare you the trip down memory lane, but it is safe to say that our tastes continuously change as we grow older.

The same goes for food. I’ve always been an adventurous eater, but I have always drawn the line at a couple of things. Example: I hate the taste of just about every orange food, with a few rare exceptions. I hate carrots. I double hate sweet potatoes. I absolutely loathe oranges. It’s one of those weird coincidences that I choose to call fate.

Another big no-no for me has always been spicy food. I just can’t do it. I wish I could, because people who enjoy spicy food are often cooler than me. Still, one bite of something spicy and I’m crying and begging for milk like an actual baby.

I also don’t like anchovies, but unless you’re my parents, you probably don’t like them either.

Last night, however, I was faced with two out of my three culinary “turn-offs,” if you will: hot peppers and anchovies.

As part of my abroad program, I am taking a weekly cooking class with the sweetest woman in the world, Anna Bonomi, a Parma local who also happens to be my landlord. Last night, our meal was orecchiette con i broccoli, which is an ear-shaped pasta mixed with broccoli.

When I first heard that this would be our meal, I was psyched. My diet since arriving has consisted of 100 percent carbs and cheese, and I welcomed the idea of a serving of vegetables since we get to eat whatever we make. Then this happened:

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Gulp. Excuse the blurry picture, but that is literally a pan of sautéed oil, garlic, peperoncini (peppers of the extra spicy sort) and anchovies. THEN THIS HAPPENED:

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She poured the mixture in question on top of the once delicious-looking pasta. Even though a small part of me wanted to yell “NOOOO” in slow motion, I stopped myself and decided to suck it up and try something new. Even if that something new happened to be my worst nightmare.

…And then this happened:

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Every week, we all sit in the same seats, and as the head of the table, I have the very special honor of getting to eat out of the serving bowl. It’s another one of those weird coincidences that I choose to call fate.

The flavors of the peppers and anchovies were subtle in comparison to the other ingredients, and I will admit that they even enhanced my meal. While I may not be on the levels of the cool people who can put hot sauce on anything without even flinching, I’m glad to know that my palate is expanding in Italy. I’m less glad about the stomach-expansions that are resulting from eating out of the big bowl, but it is so worth it.

For the record, I still hate orange foods.