Have I Unlocked the Secret of the Universe?
I try not to blog about foods I don't like probably for the same reason someone caught up in that first clutch of infatuation wouldn't badmouth his life's blood's dinky family--I'm not newly in love with food, but I share a similar level of blind loyalty. I also like to think that there's always room for a change of tastebud down the road (when I was little, I wouldn't let my tongue in two feet of ice cream that wasn't chocolate).
The same respectful treatment goes--but just not today--for the foods that I'll willingly eat but never crave and could live the rest of myself without tasting again: cashew nuts, Japanese shoh-to keh-ki (shortcake), melons, and the like. As you can see, the unifying thread here is blandness. All three could be considered "sweet," but that's as complex a write-up as they'll ever get. Much as it pains me to admit this, many Japanese sweets tend to be stuck in an unrelenting, monotonous sugar rut. Take castella, a much loved, adapted Portuguese cake--soft, moist, oh-so-fwuffy, and just brimming with the taste of sugar (do not be fooled by variations in color--there's only one flavor, sugar). And wagashi. If you ever see a prettily formed creation that looks like it's hiding a filling inside, let me destroy the mystery: it's sweet bean paste. Every time. Okay, it might on the rare occasion be a sweet potato paste, but the sweet potato will have been mysteriously divested of all its original flavor so that it will taste just like sweet bean paste. (I do like sweet bean paste, but I prefer the Chinese version, which is quite moderate with the sugar.) To be fair, wagashi's purpose is to cut the bitterness of the accompanying green tea--so it's meant to pack a sugar wallop that will freak out your pancreas.
Now on to melons and cantaloupes--the king of overpriced fruit in Japan. The preferred gift of givers striving to make a respectable gesture. Gar! Whenever we get a big, unwieldy gift of melon, I inwardly groan. I mean, melons are...big. They take numerous sittings to go through. They swallow up precious room in my dorm-room-size fridge. And there's always the possibility that someone forked over precious cash for them--though of course they could just as easily have been picked up at the supermarket for 600 yen. But I'm not enough of a melon connoisseur to tell.
So I'll eat the melons thrown my way, but there's little relish involved, even if I do somewhat appreciate the floral aroma.
But then! As the title of this post states, I unlocked what could possibly be the secret of the universe itself: lemon juice plus cantaloupe equals far better cantaloupe. That somehow comes across as a lot more anticlimatic than it really is. But, truly, it's a full transformation of a previously boring fruit. Suddenly all that aggressive sweetness of the cantaloupe is balanced, and I can taste complexity! And it tastes good.
What's next? Lemon juice on cashew nuts? Lemon juice on wagashi? Who knows! I have the entire universe stretched out before me.