Have you noticed how your tastes change over the years? Most of us change our minds about lots of things as we grow older and gain experience.
For instance, I don’t care for the blue and green flowers on the gold trellises that cover the walls of our breakfast area. It’s pure faux-Spanish, 1960s wallpaper that I swear will live forever. (Don’t blame me for the situation I didn’t choose it, and getting rid of it is not an option.)
Let’s look at clothing. Women have tossed the shoulder pads (that look so great on Katharine Hepburn in those old movies), the huge plaids (that defined certain ensembles in the 1950s and early ’60s), and bell-bottom jeans (no self-respecting hippie would have been without them in the ’70s). Tastes change, thank goodness.
A lot goes into a person’s likes and dislikes. What will you and won’t you put in your mouth? Children usually can be counted on to declare anything with a name like “squash” yucky. Won’t smell it. Won’t look at it hard. And certainly won’t taste it. Stewed tomatoes? Don’t even think about it. How about fish? Usually not a favorite, unless it’s breaded and fried crisp like a fish stick.
One of my grandchildren, during the first five years of his life, existed on macaroni and cheese (from a box) and Honey Nut Cheerios. His palate has expanded considerably now that he’s reached high school age.
Sometimes, with food, it’s a texture thing. Our moms and grandmothers used to cook things a lot longer than we do. Lima beans were boiled almost to mush; the aforementioned squash was often cooked to a loose, butterscotch-colored paste; and what they used to do to Brussels sprouts should have been criminally punishable. Fish was overcooked every time and the smell was decidedly off-putting.
Before the days of fast-food restaurants, when diners were few and far between, people traveling by automobile would cook enough food for a small army. Fried chicken, chicken salad, boiled eggs, and everything that went with them would be wrapped and set on that shelf that was in front of the rear window in everyone’s back seat. Over the hours on a summer day, the food would get pretty toasty when the sun came out with no air conditioning. Boiled eggs especially don’t need a whole lot of time in a warm place to start to take on a rather distinctive odor (thus, that sulphurous “rotten egg” smell). And my mother and dad wondered why I, sitting in the back seat, was perpetually motion sick.
Squash is good for you. So are cooked tomatoes. It’s mostly a matter of getting the cooking time and temperature right (and maybe changing the name). Squash is really good if it’s not cooked to death; so are stewed tomatoes.
If you didn’t like either as a child, go for it as an adult. Bet you like it.
ROASTED WINTER SQUASH
2 1/2 pounds winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Olive oil or cooking spray
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. Place squash on sheet, spray with more olive oil, and season with salt, pepper and brown sugar. Roast for about 40 minutes. Stir halfway through until tender and starting to brown on edges.
Meanwhile, start to brown the butter.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add butter and whisk. When butter is melted, add sage. Whisk until butter begins to turn brown (about 5 minutes). When butter has browned lightly, remove from heat.
Place squash in a large bowl. Gently toss with brown butter and sage.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.