Thursday, February 21, 2013

Taste Buds

I have today all to myself.  Well, to be honest, all of my days are pretty much like that.  But today, I have no yoga classes, no volunteering, and no errands to run.  So, I am taking myself to lunch at a local restaurant.

I made a reservation for lunch at Morel's in Farmington Hills.  I have eaten there several times and really enjoyed it.  The menu changes with foods that are 'in season'. 

It is no secret that I love food.  All the women in my mother's family were very good cooks, except for one cousin who once served spaghetti from a can.  Are you kidding me?  Italians not making their own sauce for spaghetti?  For shame.

Which brings me to the real subject of this post:  our differing taste buds.

My mother cooked Italian foods.  I ate so much pasta growing up, at least once a week, that for the first year I was married I would not go near it.  My how things have changed.

My father's family was Eastern European.  While my grandmother was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, her parents came here from the Polish areas of Galicia.  My grandfather was born in Lodz, in what at the time was Congress Poland, a part of the Russian Empire.

My grandmother was not a great cook, but she taught my mother how to make the dishes my father grew up eating.  I enjoyed homemade pierogis, stuffed cabbage and I learned to make polish sausage.  My grandmother made borscht.  It has to be one of the worst things I've ever tasted.  OTOH, I still can remember making homemade noodles and laying them out on her bed, covered with a sheet, so they could dry and be used in her chicken soup.

But give me a choice between Italian and Polish food and there is no contest.  It's Italian food all the way.

That is why I was so surprised when having a food discussion with a friend of mine, who was born in Italy, to discover that she never ate Italian food growing up.  It seems her mother married a man who insisted she make the foods he grew up eating, which were Eastern European peasant foods.  No risottos, no succulent roasts.  How sad.

But I could easily empathize.  I married someone who was Irish and whose mother was a terrible cook.  I loved my mother-in-law dearly.  She was a wonderful woman.  But I still remember having to stop at a MacDonald's on the way home from a trip to Chicago because she had not cooked enough food to feed everyone she invited to dinner.  And what she did cook was not that great.  Her idea of meatloaf was a few meatball sized pieces of ground beef and lots of bread crumbs.  More like bread loaf.

My husband's idea of a good meal was a steak, overdone, and a baked potato.  Every time we went out for dinner he ordered the same thing.  I rarely tried any new recipes when I was married.  In fact, my culinary education did not start in earnest until a few years after my divorce.  And despite the same-old, same-old foods I cooked when my children were growing up, they all seem to have pretty adventurous palates.

I admit that I am pretty picky about what I eat.  There are some restaurants that I have visited and I wonder how they stay in business.  Some friends have taken me to places they rave about and I could not figure out what they found so enticing (other than leaving with a doggie bag).  Go online and look for reviews of restaurants serving freshly prepared gourmet foods and you can find people complaining about the price.  (I remember someone telling me they did not want to pay $35 for my tiramisu because they could buy it at Costco for $15.)

We all have different ideas about what food should cost and what we consider 'good' food.  It must be why fast-food is so popular and so many fine-dining restaurants go out of business.  But for today, I look forward to my lunch treat at a nice local restaurant.

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