An Alphabet of My Likes and Dislikes: “A”

This is the first post of a new blogging project — the title is pretty much self-explanatory, I think; the project’s introductory post can be found HERE.  Credit for the idea: BeetleyPete.

Today’s entries both happen to be food items, but the only thing that links them in my mind is that they both begin with the letter “A”.



Asian Food


Thanks in no small part to my father, I became a fan of Asian food in my earliest childhood: He loved the Chinese cuisine, and dining out at his favorite Chinese restaurants is one of my earliest distinct culinary memories.  A meal at a Chinese restaurant was always a special treat, which brought with it a sense of the exotic, in the food itself as much as the restaurant(s)’ interior decoration (and of course the “strange” look of the waiters), which in turn, very early on, made me aware that not all of the world is like the place I happened to call my home, and thus raised my curiosity about foreign countries and cultures.

Thanks to this and another, equally formative food experience in my early childhood (to which we’ll be getting in a later post), I also developed, very early on, a taste for tangy or even spicy food: As a child, I wouldn’t have wanted to have Asian food every day (just yet) — besides, it would have lost its character as a special, exotic treat that way — but I had a firm sense of my preferences.

Some years later, the first Indian, Thai, Indonesian, and (a bit later yet) Vietnamese restaurants opened in my city, and I discovered not merely one, but even several other culinary worlds that, over time, I came to love even better than Chinese food; chiefly because many dishes from these cuisines are based on curry, peanuts, coconut milk, lemongrass or a combination of these, all of which are among my favorite ingredients.  Concurrently, I (of course) also developed a liking for Chai, which contains many of the spices that are also used in making curry … and again for similar reasons, Christmas tea in December.


This photo was taken many years ago, with a friend (on my right) at the “cooking class” (“Instruction in the Culinary Arts” or some such was the official title) that was offered — for credit! — specifically to non-Hotel School students by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration … which enriched my kitchen — to this day –, inter alia, by a professional grade chef’s knife (similar to the one wielded by my friend in the picture), a copy of Sarah Labensky’s and Alan Hause’s On Cooking, and a neat recipe collecting, including one recipe with instructions for making curry from scratch.  (Which I haven’t actually used in a long time, chiefly due to laziness and because there are so many darned great curry mixes to be had from specialty shops out there these days, but it’s still great fun if you have the time.)

(Note: All photos in this section of the post except — obviously — this last one are mine.)




… aka jello.  My friends from the BookLikes community won’t be surprised to see this particular entry: During the 2018 edition of our holiday-themed reading and lifestyle game, 24 Festive Tasks, we had one task that read:

The coloring of the “horse of a different color” in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz was created by rubbing the horse’s fur with jello.  What’s the weirdest use of jello you’ve ever come across?


The images adorning the resulting blog posts. taken together, made for a minor gross-out fest, while thanks to some of the contributors’ memories and / or aptitude in using Google to maximum effect we also learned that, apparently, you can use jello / gelatin to dye you hair, remove used oil from your deep fryer, or make finger paint or lip gloss.

In lieu of many of the images posted at the time, let me just share one here, with the author’s (BrokenTune’s) associated comments — which very much mirror my own feelings, too:

In fairness, I’ll own that as a kid I actually liked this stuff:

(Image sources: here, here, here, here, and here.)

… it wobbled, was brightly colored and tasted of sugar and of whatever artificial flavoring had been added — but never in my life would it have occurred to me that this was actually based on the same thing as aspic (namely, gelatin), which I hated with a passion even as a child.  Which, in turn, only goes to show what a difference looks and a sugary taste can make to a kid, I guess!

Aspic, though … nope.  Just — no.  Now more than ever.

9 thoughts on “An Alphabet of My Likes and Dislikes: “A”

  1. My parents were Anglo-Indian and I was largely brought up in Hong Kong, so I got used to curries and Cantonese dishes early on. Since then I’ve got used to less highly flavoured food, tending to go easy on the spices and, especially, the salt, to the point of near blandness. Weird that…

    Aspic? Never knowingly partaken of it though I’ve had no end of gelatinous meals.

    1. Re: aspic, lucky you. It was all the culinary rage when I was growing up (and at least the preceding decade, too, for all I know) … the photo I copied from BrokenTune‘s BookLikes blog is actually fairly typical of the things it would have been used for. (All sorts of meat loaves coated in aspic — I.e., essentially, pure gelatin — were another example; yet another were cakes covered by the stuff, i.e., with the gelatin glistening on top, not blended into the chocolate or other coating to make it smoother.) :: shudders ::

      As for spices (and taste more generally), I‘d have said family upbringing had something to do with it, but in your case apparently not? Hmmm … — My mom would agree with you, though; she‘s not a particular fan of spicy food, either. This is one of the rare instances where something about me is modeled more on my (female) elder cousins and on the men in the family, rather than on her. (I‘m with you on salt, incidentally.)

      What was growing up in Hong Kong like … if that‘s not inviting a novel-length answer (and / or prying indecently)? I visited once, in the year before the handover, and I found it fascinating, but also unsettlingly claustrophobic (on many levels).

      1. I lived there, with a break of one year for the 1953 Coronation, from 1949 to 1958 — well before the Cultural Revolution. It must’ve been recovering from the Japanese occupation during the war but I remember no evidence of that. This was at the height of British colonialism but the winds of change must have been blowing because colonies started being given their independence, as India had been in the year I was born.

        So, I was in a largely Eurocentric culture, we had Chinese servants (my father was a ship’s engineer so we were fairly well off) and I went to an English-speaking primary school. It was a big culture shock when I came back to an England which still thought of itself as a world player but which was chauvinistic and xenophobic and had yet to be shaken up by the Swinging Sixties.

        Sorry, more of an essay than I’d intended!

        1. Don’t apologize, please — I find this all very interesting! What were Kowloon and Causeway Bay like back in those days (prior to the advent of all the high rises dominating the Hong Kong skyline, I assume)? Were you ever tempted to go back? When I visited, Hong Kong seemed like a very odd mixture between a Chinese and a British place — the Macau ferry terminal could have been any large public transportation terminus or customs station in Britain, but by the same token, other parts of the city (especially the markets and parts of the New Territories) made you feel you were in the middle of China. Only very few places (e.g., the Happy Valley racecourse — including its existence in the first place) and some of the villas on the slopes of Victoria Peak still recalled the height of the colonial years, though.

          1. Much of what you describe is familiar (even the waterfront skyline was starting to burgeon when I left, with rapid-growing thickets of bamboo scaffolding) — I lived on Prince Edward Road in Kowloon, then later in Causeway Bay, and Google Street View shows me that while buildings change the streets themselves seem to wend their familiar way. The street markets, Happy Valley, the Peak, are always there, subtly and continually evolving.

            When I was there I never went up to the New Territories, nor was I very adventurous. A near contemporary of mine (though I never knew him) Martin Booth, in his Gweilo: Memoirs of a Hong Kong Childhood (2004), describes a period which is both familiar to me and more exotic and alien than I experienced, cocooned as I was in an ex-pat ghetto. Though there was a surprising lassitude when it came to me exploring on my own, through condemned buildings, on waste ground, by bike to comic stalls, and so on.

            My son was desperate to go back with me a few years ago — he eventually stopped over with his girlfriend, though only for a day — but with the present political situation, and not forgetting the global health crisis, I feel the chances of a revisit are diminishing to zero.

          2. I’m going to have to take a look at Martin Booth‘s book; thank you for mentioning it.

            And oh yes … the bamboo scaffolding jungle. I remember that had us wide-eyed and wondering, particularly the heights to which it was built … and the apparent associated “laid back“ attitude regarding the construction workers‘ security!

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