In a recent conversation with another "foodie", we were chatting about culinary events and items in our past that really turned us off to something and it took a major event to turn us around. One of mine is balsamic vinegar.
Many years ago while I was in graduate school, I decided to make dinner using a recipe that called for balsamic vinegar. After paying rent and utilities, I budgeted $50 a week for food, entertainment, clothing, etc. Yes, I know that's not much . . . but, I could make it go pretty far. Anyway, when I made my first purchase of balsamic vinegar, I bought the cheapest available. I made my meal and took a bite and thought I was consuming something that had been cooked in battery acid. It was awful! I refused to use balsamic vinegar again. About ten years later, I was having dinner at a friend's house and loved the flavors of what she had prepared. When she told me the ingredients, I was amazed to find myself enjoying something with balsamic vinegar in it. She then explained that it had been a splurge; however, she found the range in quality among balsamic vinegar was huge and to get a good one, one should expect to pay for it.
I know expensive balsamic vinegar doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be outstanding, but it does seem to be an ingredient where I expect to pay to get a great one. This made me think it would make for an interesting discussion about what other ingredients where buying the best you can afford is important. I suppose I'm also interested in ingredients where there isn't much difference in quality between the least expensive and the most expensive.