I’ll never forget my first love. Proper love, I mean. Sure, I’d loved before. I’d loved my parents without really knowing what it meant. I loved staying up late to watch TV and I loved waking up early to climb trees. But they don’t count. That was all child’s play. Proper love is different.
As I learned more than 25 years ago, it can hurt. If my dilating eyes sparkled when they saw the object of my misguided affections, then the rest of my body would experience an acute physical pain. My stomach would knot with an unrequited longing. My heart would pound with excitement and, without fail, my gaping mouth would moisten in anticipation.
Yes, there’s no denying it, I had it bad. I was eight years old and I’d fallen in love with a Yorkshire pudding. That’s not slang or a cute pet name: my first true love was with an actual Yorkshire pudding. Not one in particular – that would be weird. But it wasn’t just any old one either. I loved the Yorkshire puddings my grandmother made.
If you’re not familiar with them, I should explain what they are. In Larousse Gastronomique, the world’s greatest culinary encyclopaedia, this most remarkable of foodstuffs is described simply as ‘a batter of eggs, flour and milk’. In origin, my love was little more than a simple peasant food from Yorkshire, England. But, to my developing taste buds at least, they were so much more.
Larousse has the facts, but the passion is missing. Nana’s Yorkshire puds were my reason to live for nearly half a decade. Before I entered my teens, and the near-obsessive devotion was replaced, my Sunday worship was at the altar of grandma’s kitchen. Just one taste and I’d be lost in a world of blissful happiness. Baked in dripping beef fat and lightly crisped at the top yet softer in the middle, those Yorkshire puddings left a lasting impression on me, like savoury crème brûlée smothered in rich onion gravy. I still crave that first taste after all these years.
But, as so many Facebook stalkers will be aware, you can’t go back to a first love. Things change and people move on. Especially if one side of the relationship is nothing more than a yummy snack.
I’ve tried to relive the moment, but I can’t find good Yorkshire puddings in Dubai. They’re either pre-cooked and stale or, worse, gourmet offerings parading as the genuine article. I’ve been served fusion, miniaturised, sweetened and even curried variations and none come close to my ideal. But I won’t stop looking. My perfect pudding is out there, and until I find it my heart (and stomach) will go on.