I Wrote this over on my other blog, which I'm not keeping up with, so I decided to re post this over here. This was a mother's day post, but it's totally food related
Q : What is one thing that you think your mother did exceptionally well as a parent?
My relationship with my mom has not been without stress, strain, and turmoil. I think, to some extent, that is how mother/daughter relationships all over the world are destined to go. From what I know about other people (only what they tell me) my relationship with my mom may have been a bit more rocky than most. But there are a large number of things that my mom did very well. And she deserves all the credit in the world for those. Here is just one of them.
My mom made sure that I am not a picky eater. Even as a kid, I wasn't exactly afforded the opportunity to be picky. While most kids my age were chowing down on chicken fingers, mac and cheese, and pizza, I was eating (and learning to cook) fun things like lentil soup, trout almandine, and ratatouille. Even the basics like school lunches weren't basic in our house. Most of the time, I walked the 2 blocks home from William H. Ray Elementary School and ate a hot meal with my mom and sister, since the lunches served in the Chicago Public School System. The food was pretty good. Heavy on ramen with scrambled eggs (which I still won't eat), and reheated leftovers. But when my mom wasn't going to be home to cook, or when I wanted to sit in the smelly, overcrowded lunchroom with hundreds of other kids, my mom packed my Gumby (don't mock, people.) lunchbox full of either super healthy sandwiches or thermoses full of the ubiquitous egg-y ramen soup.
And ok, now you're thinking "well that sounds totally normal. Soup and sandwiches are pretty par for the course." I hear you. And when it was ramen soup, it felt pretty normal. I didn't get made fun of. But there were a lot of tuna sandwiches packed into that lunch box, and man, did they stink by lunch time. I remember getting made fun of a lot for my stinky tuna sandwich lunches, with no extra treats packed in. Other kids ate cookies. I ate fruit. I also got made fun of a ton when my thermos (which permanently smelled of ramen) was filled with "weird" things like ratatouille or lentil soup. I remember the "eeeew, what is that?!?" coming out of classmate's mouths, and I remember being envious of the other kid's wonderbread sandwiches, oreo cookies, and apples, perfectly peeled and cut into wedges. At this point, as a (slightly more) mature adult, I really appreciate all that. All the "eeews" and the "how can you eat that?" helped make me the ballsy eater, and ballsy cook I am today. Thanks mom!
So yeah, my mom's health-nut sensibilities got me made fun of. But in the long run, they helped me develop my passion for cooking and for eating. I learned to cook so I could make myself lunches that I would like, and make dinners that the whole family would like, ensuring me leftovers that I actually wanted to eat for lunch and wasn't afraid to eat in front of my classmates. But my mom's giving me really healthy foundations to build on made it so that even now, I eat "stranger" than a lot of people my age, and probably better than a lot of my former classmates do. In that way, my mom inspired me.
Where mom made a ton of soups and stews, I make a ton of roasted lean meats and light pasta dishes. I don't necessarily use my mom's savory food recipes, though I guess I can say I've drawn inspiration from some of them. She made ratatouille-ish lentil stew, thick with eggplant. I make ratatouille the traditional French way, and make my lentil soup as a Thai style red curry, which, now that I think about it, mom would totally love. I'll have to make it for her.