June 08, 2007

Muy Caliente!

I was a no-spaghetti-sauce-for-me-thank-you kind of kid.

Despite the fact that my father makes this incredible homemade sauce, angelhair with margarine was my idea of culinary heaven for most of my childhood.

Ditto bread with butter.

Hamburgers and hotdogs were only acceptable if they were unadorned: no cheese, no relish, no ketchup, and certainly no mustard.

My cousin was even more of a purist; when she came to visit us when I was seven or so, I remember being dumbfounded by her professed dislike of mashed potatoes. How could anyone not like mashed potatoes?

In the land of Mommyblogs, there seems to be a fair amount of concern expressed about what kids will and won't eat. (Alice of Finslippy had a post last month about her son's refusal to eat practically anything and got 110 comments' worth of commiseration and advice. Not that I'm jealous or anything.)

I don't know if my own mother found my relatively narrow childhood dietary horizon constraining. (I rarely think to ask these sorts of questions, and when I do, she invariably says, "Oh, honey, I don't remember.") Probably she got very tired of serving me plain everything. And maybe I was darned lucky that she didn't snap and force some tomato sauce down my throat. But I don't remember her saying anything about it. And somehow, along the way from there to here, I learned to appreciate and enjoy food and spices from all over the globe; Ethiopian food, which I first learned to love in West Philadelphia, fresh eye-wateringly hot salsa which I probably first tried in college, fabulous curries from India which are thankfully plentiful here in central New Jersey. One of the main reasons I want to go back to Turkey someday is that I want another crack at that fabulous food.

Oh, and the little moments in my own kitchen, like the smell of fresh cilantro, crushed between my fingers as I get ready to make some fresh guacamole? It's 10:45 and now I'm hungry for lunch.

When I worked at The College of New Jersey, a school full of warm and interesting people that I enjoyed working with, I did have one complaint. I could never get anyone to go out for anything other than pizza or a burger. Sushi? Nothing doing. Thai? "Isn't that spicy?" Indian? Nope.

I feel about spice the way I feel about God. I wouldn't want a life without, but I think there's possibly no point in evangelizing. Either you're ready to take a test bite with your hand on a glass of water, or you're not. Either you feel a call to develop in a spiritual direction or you don't. As my famously wise sister says, "It's your job to put the food in front of them. It's not your job to make them eat it."

But I do believe that who you are today may have little recognizable connection to who you will be tomorrow. And that's the spice of life.

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

18 comments:

Wendy said...

oh this is another keeper and i so relate to this re satch!

wendy aka the other spice girl!

SarahJane said...

The smell of fresh cilantro is my favorite in the world. In chinese, the word(s) for it is "fragrant grass."
I've eaten my way around the globe, but I have to admit that these days all my culinary choices are made by "whatever goes with red wine."
smile

Sentient Marrow said...

Hah... muy caliente was the first phrase that went through my mind at today's prompt as well. Five years of Spanish and muy caliente is what stuck! I wasn't quite the purist as a child as you were but I was known to sit under the table at Chinese restaurants crying because I didn't like the food. Now, of course, I wouldn't dream of not eating spicy foods. I've never had Ethiopian food here in Philly but I have had Thai, Japanese, Afghan, Indian, etc.

Gosh... now I feel like going out to eat somewhere really good tonight.

Lucy said...

gee that post was yummy, what's for dinner? I'm Now starving! :)

Autrice DelDrago said...

"I feel about spice the way I feel about God. I wouldn't want a life without, but I think there's possibly no point in evangelizing." Amen. Haha.

We simply can not convince anyone that coriander, cilantro and a bit of salt can turn a boring slab of pork into a heavenly meal. We can, however, invite our friends over for a delicious meal, and expose them to a tasteful variety of flavor.

Regina Clare Jane said...

I was just going to say now I am hungry for spaghetti!
But this was an excellent post- variety is the spice of life! It would be pretty boring if we ate or believed or did the same things every day!

Liza's Eyeview said...

my dd is a "no sauce on my spaghetti please" kind of kid too.

A lot of good thoughts to ponder on this post ...

gautami tripathy said...

Whats food without chillies and/or mustards? Can't imagine!

Stacy said...

This leaves me: 1) hopeful that JT's culinary tastes will improve and 2) hungry!

sm

Janie Hickok Siess, Esq. said...

I love this post and am going to link to it from my site . . . I love the comparison to faith. Very effective writing!

Gill said...

A thought provoking post... I just love: "I feel about spice the way I feel about God. I wouldn't want a life without, but I think there's possibly no point in evangelizing.", my feelings in a nutshell.

Rob Kistner said...

Shelley - enjoyed your story... muy caliente! :)

The taste buds change when you are "preggers".

The birth of my fist son saw my wife eat the strangest concoction I have ever witnessed a human put in their mouth -- fried liver, with mint chutney... yuk!

Mandy said...

ohh, you're making me hungry with all this talk of food. I better go make some breakfast......

lisrobbe said...

I just had lunch and this post has made me hungry again. I also love fresh cilantro in my guacamole but most people I know have an aversion to that spice. Not sure why. But I have never really been a picky eater. I love the flavors of food, cooking and experimenting.

Betty C. said...

I think today's kids actually are a lot more accepting and curious on the food front than we were -- there is so much more available and so many more great ideas for serving it...

forgetfulone said...

Your sister is so wise. It's true you can put it in front of them but you can't make them eat it. I've tried! Luckily, my kids aren't terribly picky, but still. Certain things you know they'd like if they tried it. Maybe when they're older. Liked your post.

kerrdeLune (cate) said...

I lvoed this post, and it is certainly a keeper. Life without cilantro, turmeric, lemongrass and chipotles does not bear thinking about (however I felt about hem when I was a wee sprout.

Molly said...

There was a billboard recently in the Twin Cities: "Dear Minnesota, Kethcup is not a spice" (from some ethnic restaurant). This won me over, as I am from somewhere-not-here. To this day, my fiance still thinks ketchup is the best he can do for spices!