I was eight years old when I went abroad for the first time, a family fortnight in Brittany. To prepare for the experience, my parents took us to a nearby French restaurant, where I entered into the spirit of things by ordering escargots. The starters duly arrived, but mine wasn't among them.
"Daddy," I hissed. "Where are my snails?"
"They take a little bit longer," he explained. "The chef has to go to the churchyard next door and pluck them off the gravestones."
Despite that trauma (which would probably nowadays see my father being prosecuted for child abuse - did you see the story about the teacher who was sacked for telling children that Santa Claus didn't exist?) I grew to love the little rubbery buggers, ordering them whenever the opportunity arrived. But gradually, I realised that what I really loved was the vast quantities of garlic and butter and parsley in which the snails were cooked, and they slipped from my culinary Top 10.
Fast forward rather more years than I'd care to think about; to Saturday night, in fact. I'm reviewing a new French restaurant in Bangkok, in the most excellent company of Charles Frith. Escargots Bourguignon is on the menu and hey, what the hell, let's have some. Although the garlic and butter is present, it's a restrained, elegant version of the dish, not a full-on vampire killer; as a result, you can taste the snails.
"I think these snails must be frozen," I say. "They don't taste of anything." And then the sickening, shuddering realisation kicks in. Maybe snails really don't taste of anything anyway.
It's as if you're a music fan in the late 1980's, and you've just invested in this new-fangled compact disc thingummybob; you splash out on the complete works of your favourite artist on CD. And when you get them home and play them, you realise that what you loved about your old records was the smell of the vinyl, the static as the disc came out of the sleeve, the pop as the stylus made contact, the crackle and the buzz, the familiar label going round slightly more than once every two seconds. And the music you thought you loved was pretty bloody ordinary.