I grew up in a very typical mid-western family, we ate very typical mid-western dinners (almost, every night). Meat (which meant: red meat, 5 nights a week from my Uncle and Aunts farm) potatoes (baked, mashed or gratin) and some kind of basic vegetable. (No, not anything exciting like: kale, asparagus or roasted cauliflower). More like: green beans, peas and iceberg lettuce salad. However, it was balanced, clean and healthy. Even though we ate a dinner of this sort like most nights of the week, my mother did believe that we should often experience new things or try unusual foods. We were raised that you try everything at least once and you eat everything thats on your plate (we were allowed to fix our own plate, so whatever we put on-had to be finished…no waste allowed)!!! Needless to say we grew up having food battles at our house-and we (the children) ALWAYS LOST. And though there was many a night that I was annoyed or angry at my parents I’m glad they raised me like this. It taught me to not be a picky eater (in the bad way, where you are unwilling to try new things-though I am picky in regards to quality and flavor).
I remember being around 8 or 9 years old and my mother decided to take us to the nicest restaurant in our town (The River Crab). Its a seafood and steak house on the beautiful river that runs between our town in Michigan and the Canadian border. It was a stunning setting and the restaurant was spectacular…even at my young age I knew this was a real treat. My parents taught us from an early age how to conduct ourselves and it was blind to place or situation. We were to aways be respectful of others, always behave appropriately (which meant-we were not allowed to be rowdy or loud at resturaunts, church or the grocery store) and always be willing to try new things. Needless to say, my parents were trying to keep 5 children in line and keep and maintain some amount of order…and we failed from time to time, but for the most part-we behaved. My mother knew that taking three small children into a nice resturaunt was a gamble but she wanted us to learn how to handle these settings and wanted us to try something new.
I will remember that meal FOREVER. My mother ordered an array of dishes for us to try. None of which I had ever heard of before. Pate, escargot, duck, crab and shrimp (well, I knew all about crab and shrimp and loved them) cheeses I never heard of…the list went on. As each plate arrived, one of my brothers and I would look at it-analyze it and ask: “WHAT IS THAT?” To which my mother would reply in the same way, each time: “try it and see if you like it, then I’ll tell you what it is.” Being the young ages we were, we obediently would comply. We didn’t like everything-but we tried it all. I remember smelling the pate on a cracker and making a gross face and my mother patiently responded: “just try it once, you may like it.” Ugh-I didn’t want to try it….but I D-I-D and WOW….my life was forever changed in that bite. IT WAS GOOD, REALLY GOOD. I LOVED IT! Next she had us try the escargot. I loved anything with butter and first she had me dip my bread in the garlicky butter sauce-of course I liked it. Then I again asked, “What is it?” Yeah, same response as mentioned earlier. It didn’t look good, it looked weird. I closed my eyes (literally, I closed my eyes and plopped the mini fork-which was really cute, I love mini things-in my mouth) hmmmm…. I needed to eat another one before making a decision. Um, good. Really good. I wanted another one. To which my mother allowed me 1 more and then said I had to share. My palate developed at the age of 8 or 9 years old-right there! My mother had explained that escargot were snails…I didn’t care, they tasted good and it didn’t matter what it was. My brother taungtened me that I was weird because I like eating snails…didn’t matter, I still liked them.
I still like them, all these years later. And so today in honor of my mother, I came to one of my favorite places in Charleston to eat one of my favorite dishes in honor of her, since she is 1,000 miles away and I can’t be with her today. Cheers Mom-and thank you for opening my eyes to the wonderful world of good tasting food. She probably had no idea what a food lover I would become (or ever guess how much I annually spend on my grocery bills or eating out-if she could have seen into the future, she may have not been so keen on introducing me to the world of good eating) lol. Nah, she probably still would have, she would say that everyone has a vise.
It’s amazing how sometimes it only takes a handful of experiences and memories to shape who we become, what we like and what we are willing to try. Thanks Mom- I love you and appreciate the treaures you instilled in me and the experiences you gave me.