Personal story time. My mother was raised by people who cooked up calorie-rich and cholesterol-heavy meals on a daily basis. Pork chops with a side of grease? Sure thing. Lasagna? Of course, except forget ricotta and fresh vegetables. This lasagna consisted of cottage cheese, overcooked pasta, ground beef and American cheese singles. Yes. They considered that lasagna. When she was married at age 18 and whisked off by my father as he completed nuclear power school in the Navy, she had little knowledge of all world that is offered by food. It’s hard to believe that she grew up on what she did and has branched out so much. With all that said, I grew up in a household where meat was always overcooked and vegetables were often canned. This is where my abhorrence for canned foods developed. Sure, there are some canned products out there which are very useful and I definitely use them. But on the whole, they’re pretty nasty excuses for food. This has typically included the cloyingly sweet jams produced by such brands as Smuckers. These burned my throat because they were so sugar-packed.
My affair with culinary exploration began with my mom’s quest to shed baby weight from myself and my younger brother. She has always loved good, colorful cookbooks and I would pour over them with her and give my child’s input on the meal menus she would plan. I was always keen to be mommy’s little helper and my reward for being good while grocery shopping would be to pick one item that wasn’t on the list. I’d push my little buggy and reach all the things down low. Grocery shopping was just as exciting to me then, just as it is now. I couldn’t wait to find something new to try.
This desire to try new things extended to eating out. While we did not eat out infrequently, I was always thrilled by sitting in a restaurant and reading the menu. (This is coming from the person who as a child would sit outside reading the dictionary for fun.) I was continually dissatisfied with the options on the kid’s menu. Everywhere you go, it’s the same boring thing. I wanted to eat what the grown-ups got to eat; there was so much more flavor.