Last week at Christmas lunch, there was a guest at our table who didn't like pavlova and it caused not only outrage and indignation but apparent deafness as well. "What? Sorry? What did you say? Did you just say you don't like pavlova? Pavlova? You don't like it? You seriously don't like pavlova? How can you not like pavlova? It's sugar and air, what's not to like about pavlova?"
We all just kept saying "pavlova" at him as if saying the word often enough would make him realise his mistake and he'd eventually say, "Ohhhhh sorry, pavlova, I thought you said Moldova! Beg your pardon, I thought we were talking about that land-locked country in Eastern Europe – and I'm not a big fan of that place, nothing against the people, I just like my countries to have a coastline. Whew! Thank goodness you all kept shouting 'PAVLOVA' at me for 15 minutes otherwise I might have missed out on this delicious dessert. A double helping for me please, and make mine extra pavlovary!"
Obviously that's not what happened, rather the "pav-hater" (as he is now called) reminded us that he'd said the same thing last year and it had caused the exact same reaction. Apparently we'd all found it such an absurd and unlikely thing to say that we'd erased it from our collective memory.
It seems there are certain things you're allowed to "not like" such as offal, sardines or maybe blue cheese and then there are other things, like pavlova, that the world simply cannot accept you "not liking".
Of everyone at the table, I should have been more understanding. I know what this person is going through because I don't like brownies. (I'm talking about the chocolate fudgy things by the way, not the miniature girl guide things) These days, if I'm offered a brownie I usually accept it, do a lot of fake "num numming", take a few small bites then declare myself full. It's easier than enduring the intense cross examination that would follow if I dared to say, "Oh no thanks I don't really like brownies".
I've learnt over the years that you don't need to explain yourself if you don't like anchovies but you'd better have a bloody good reason for not liking something as universally beloved as a brownie. And the fact that I think brownies are underwhelming squares of undercooked cake is not a good enough reason apparently. On the rare occasion I've spoken up and said that out loud, I've been howled down with "But that's how they're supposed to be, brownies are supposed to be moist and fudgy."
Yes, I know, which is why I don't like them because to me they're not moist and fudgy, they're wet and sludgy. That's when advocates of the "cakey brownie" wade in and argue that I would like brownies if only I could find a more cakey brownie. Maybe. But I'd still prefer to find a less brownie-ey cake. I'd rather just have cake, plain, old fashioned chocolate cake with icing. Not fancy, flourless chocolate cake with ganache because unfortunately I don't like that either and it's another one of those things you're supposed to love. Everyone loves flourless chocolate cake. Except me apparently. It's the texture I find weird, it's kind of like chocolate mashed potato.
The other thing I struggle with not liking is the beach. That admission never goes down well, not in Australia anyway. It's considered Un-Australian not to like the beach. And I do like the beach in winter. That's when I prefer to take a beach holiday, accommodation is easily available, it's also a lot cheaper and best of all, in the winter months, you're allowed to take your dog on the beach. One of my favourite things is getting all rugged up against the weather and walking along the beach with my dog. But in summer, when it's hot and humid and you're wandering around among thousands of strangers, everyone wearing what is essentially just underpants but in really fun colours, then no thank you. I get no joy from slathering myself in sunscreen and waiting for a gust of wind to turn me into a human schnitzel. Also I like to have a decent perimeter around my towel but that doesn't seem possible anymore. The beach is full of space invaders who plonk their towel mere inches from yours. I blame European immigrants, yes they brought us some excellent food and helped make this country the fabulous cultural melting pot it is today but they also brought a complete lack of towel buffer-zone etiquette.
My final confession is that I don't like pork crackling. I don't see the appeal of a piece of hard, crunchy fat. But this doesn't cause outrage, instead it causes a frenzy around the table as everyone snatches at my plate saying, "Oh my god, can I have it? Can I have your crackling?" The fact that people will forgo an opportunity to be outraged tells me that crackling must be seriously delicious. I almost wish I didn't "not like" it.
Comedian Kitty Flanagan is on tour now go to kittyflanagan.com for details.
- From The Age