Up until recently, I didn’t know I had a love for balsamic vinegar. As bad as it sounds, I have always turned my nose up at it in distaste, never interested. It smelled odd and I didn’t exactly know what to pair it with. Can you blame me for blindly turning the other cheek to it?
This would prove to be rather unfortunate.
There was an afternoon when a friend of mine gave me a recipe at work. I looked it over and upon discovering that it had balsamic vinegar in it, refused to try it. Yes, it had tomatoes, onions and garlic, but the combination of flavours presented on paper just struck me as odd. I stowed the recipe away, telling myself that I would get to it at some point.
A few weeks ago, I slept over my friend Melanie’s house after work. That night when she began making dinner, she plucked the recipe for chicken and noodles (the very same recipe I had stowed away) from her recipe box. Before she began making it, Mel asked if I wanted to help. Naturally, I would love to. So, while she began chopping onions, I minced garlic. Both the onions and garlic went into a big pan on the stove among some herbs. The aroma of sautéed garlic and onions filled the kitchen, I savouring it. When the onions took on a translucent appearance, she added the tomatoes, ketchup, brown sugar and most importantly, the balsamic vinegar. It didn’t take long, but the kitchen smelled… interesting. In all the time I spent hanging out in the kitchen over the years, I had never smelled something so amazing. I had hung out by the counter on the opposite side of the kitchen, but the aroma wafting from the pan moved me. I walked over and inhaled deeply. The smell was heaven incarnate. After the sauce had simmered for a few moments, the chicken was added and then we left it be. Over the next hour while the chicken cooked, it was horrible. The aroma that wafted around the house was tantalising and my stomach growled in response. Finally, it finished cooking. It was served in pan on the table. We served ourselves egg noodles and then went to sit at the table. While she pushed tomatoes towards the other side of the pan, my mouth watered and I waited patiently to serve myself. When I did, I loaded up on tomatoes and onions, grabbing chicken as an after thought. I looked down at the plate, stabbed a bit of tomato and some chicken and then took a bite.
Though it looked and smelled delicious, nothing could prepare my taste buds for what lay in the first bite. It was a symphony of textures and flavours, parading around on my tongue. It brought me back to my childhood, though I had never tasted something so perfect. It was like tasting the essence of coming in from playing in the snow and mum having made one of her many amazing meals. It’s not often that I tell others that a meal was the best thing I had eaten outside of my family’s cooking, but after finishing, I told her I loved it. If I were any less of a lady, I would have licked the plate, that’s how good it was.
It was because of that experience, I’ve sat up at night looking into recipes that call for balsamic vinegar. A reduction here, in another sauce there, and now I look to make each one of them with open arms. For, if my first experience was that delicious, surely the rest will be just as good.