Is there a food you grew to hate?
Testimony: how I fell, painfully, out of love with chickpeas
We often talk about acquired tastes, and in fact, the last time I went into FoodTribe Studio and came out with an article, it was about olives and how I’d learned to love them.
Well, I think you can unacquire tastes too.
The trigger can be something as gradual as having too much of a good thing. While I wouldn’t say I dislike smoked salmon, a few weeks in 2018 of having very little else for lunch has permanently damaged its appeal. Or it could be something as overnight as having an off example that sent you vomiting it and bile into the toilet. I’ve never personally expelled easy-macaroni, but I’ve seen it cleaned off a shower screen and I've never looked at it the same way since.
Which brings me to chickpeas. Rob Harris asked me the other day after I badmouthed chickpeas in another comment, whether there was some childhood trauma behind all this. There is. The truth is I didn’t start life despising chickpeas.
In fact, as additions to curry I found them inoffensive. They were just like roast almonds – not something I’d seek out, but something interesting in the sauce. This was until my mother read a cookbook that said chickpeas could be used not just as a supplement, but as a substitute. And I'll just interject: that cookbook won’t be rediscovered until we get a new fridge.
First came the curries with the ratio of chicken to chickpeas dangerously off. As I’ve argued everywhere, each step towards chickpeas and lentils in a dish is a step away from taste and towards blandness. That’s fine – not everything in a meal needs to have its own notable taste and texture, but it’s worth bearing in mind when you’re testing the ratios.
These brave new curries were followed by the awful chickpea mash. Essentially this was supposed to provide all the protein of a steak with none of the red meat health sins (which I quibble with anyway) and at a fraction of the cost. However, it tasted like a tub of hummus without the herbs and rolled around in the gut like a cannonball. I just wished it would blow up.
Damage had been done. Much thought has been given to whether there could have been a comeback from this, but unfortunately, the next actions blew any chance there was. My mum, sensing the tide of goodwill turning against chickpeas, decided that all could be saved by good marketing. This tactic was based on the flawed conclusion that her children were recognising the chickpeas, and thus if they were concealed, they’d be gobbled up and the plate handed up for seconds.
Hence the ‘chicken’ rissoles. They looked like chicken rissoles. I was told they were chicken rissoles. One bite into the mass of floury, tastelessness and I realised I had been betrayed.
The final blow came on a lovely Friday night. Hot tomato was bubbling on homemade pizza in the oven. Pizza which, as we greedily scooped 4 slices of it onto our plates, concealed the darkest secret in this household's history.
The base was hummus.
In the shock and confusion that followed – the You Will Eat What’s On Your Plate rule was enforced, meaning all taken slices had to be eaten and any trips to the toilet registered with the authorities.
Yes, in the weeks afterwards, there was a steady rebellion, and these many years later, my mother now knows she cannot touch a chickpea bag without the whole meal being nuclear-wasted and the breakfast cereal brought out. To say nothing of it being shamed on family social media.
The consequences remain, however. 10 years ago I didn’t mind them. Today, if I ever eat another chickpea, it’s because I’m at your house wiling you out of your life savings and I’m not going to blow it by saying the meal you've just served is defiled with the devil's own ingredient.
Actually I would.
The cupboard which, at the height of the chickpea apocalypse, might have stockpiled up to 6 bags. Today, its most concerning substance is a pack of wholemeal pasta at the back, in isolation.