Saturday, June 15, 2013

Changing Tastes

When I did our grocery shopping this week, the type of yoghurt we prefer was nowhere to be found in the local Stop & Shop, a major chain. I usually buy their store brand, but I’ll pay extra for Stonyfield, if that’s the only way I can get the variation we use. That is: regular yoghurt, nonfat, plain, in the large container.

There was exactly one regular S&S yoghurt in the large container, and it was nonfat vanilla. We don’t like the vanilla. The Stonyfield section had several nonfat vanilla ones, and exactly one plain, but it was low fat. I snapped it up anyway, to avoid having to stop at another market. In case you’re not a yoghurt eater, let me tell you why our variation is so hard to find these days. Everyone has hopped onto the Greek yoghurt bandwagon. It’s thicker and creamier, but we prefer regular. Jagdish won’t touch the Greek.

This episode made me realize yet again that people’s tastes change over time, and because of that, food and beverages that I’ve enjoyed for years are suddenly difficult, if not impossible to find. I’m sorry, but the older I get, the more I appreciate some stability in my life. I resent having to rejigger my eating habits to keep up with what’s in vogue this month.

In rare instances, the world’s tastes have caught up with my own. I was a tea drinker when tea wasn’t cool. Now even Starbucks is pushing the teacart. This means I have more varieties from which to choose and every place I shop has a decent supply. Oh, yes, and there’s usually one brand on sale somewhere. Sweet!

One beverage where tastes have changed notably over the years, including my own, is wine. I’ve always gone for drier wines, but I used to prefer white. (These days I prefer red.) I remember when Chablis was the wine of choice when you went out to dinner. Now I rarely see Chablis on a wine list, unless it’s three pages long.

Likewise no longer easy to find is Verdicchio, which was one of my youthful preferences. I loved that citrusy zing and the interesting bottles, especially the cute fish-shaped one and the curvy number. Speaking of the curvy bottle (Fazi Battaglia), I also loved their radio commercials, the ones where diners struggled to pronounce the name. “Bring us some of that Fuzzy Baggies” is particularly memorable.

Mateus was another popular option in the early seventies, an affordable rosé that has pretty much disappeared (mercifully). Most folks pronounced it Mahtoose, but I always gave it three syllables, like Matthew in Portuguese—Mah-teh-oos. Apparently, the pronunciation, like the wine, targets a less-urbane audience, because the makers use two syllables.

Moving on to reds, more recently Pinot Noir (think the movie Sideways) gave way to Merlot, which is giving way to Malbec. I remain partial to a Cab or a nice Chianti. I could do an entire post just on changing tastes in wine.

Back to what to order when you go out to eat, when I worked in midtown Manhattan, one of my go-to lunches at the Brasserie on East 53rd was steak tartare. It’s gone (the tartare, not the Brasserie), and not just because of Mad Cow disease. Blood red meat is considered too Mad Men macho; it’s also bad for your cholesterol. Everyone is more health conscious now. You’re more likely to see tuna tartare than the beef version.

Sweetbreads and Rocky Mountain (or prairie) oysters seem to have disappeared, too. What’s that about? Did the Internet make it easier for people to find out what they were actually eating? And frogs’ legs. Several species of frogs are endangered. Have we finally grown a social conscience? More likely it’s because France enacted laws to protect them in 1980. I doubt that Julia Childs would include Cuisses de Grenouille in a new edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Many of my more salient food memories have been tossed into the gastronomic InSinkErator. It should make me angry, but it just makes me sad. I guess I should thank the Lord for small favors. All the items that are on Luke’s increasingly short list of acceptable foods are still available in supermarkets. There are some things he just won’t eat. He’ll sniff them, give them a poke or two and then walk away. That’s probably what Jagdish would do if I served him Greek yoghurt. Let’s hope we never have to find out.

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