I grew up in a very whitebread culinary environment. my mother came from a family where she was the oldest of 5. Her option at home , chore wise, was make dinner or watch her siblings. She always chose the latter. She was wonderfully prepared to be a mother, but poorly prepared to be a home cook.
She did her best. We ate a lot of "goulash" ( no not as inspiring as it sounds), "sloppy joes", burgers, grilled chicken, tacos (gringo style), minestone soup, and pepper steak. She never met a veggie she couldn't overcook. Meat was cooked well done. Period.
When we ate out we did so at the most suburbanite friendly places. I was the child with the adventurous palette that would eat most anything. My younger sister was a fussy eater. Since her tastes we difficult, her prefferences dominated.
At the tender age of 14 I found myself faced with the greatest challenge of my life. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. 2 surgeries in the course of 6 weeks trimmed my already lanky 6 foot from to a gaunt 112 lbs. Recuperation led to a lot of creative ways to kill boredom. Cooking shows offered a break from M.A.S.H. re-runs. The kitchen offered me a place to burn some cabin crazy creative energy, and add a few lbs back to my skinny frame. I fell in love with cooking. I fact I realized I always had loved being in the kitchen. My first memories are of afternoons spent making chocolate chip cookies with mom (I was about 2)
When I was 15 I met Jose'. I didn't know that I was in the infancy of a lifelong friendship. I just liked the guy. He was the Butch Cassidey, outgoing and social, to my measured quiet Sundance Kid. He took great amusement in the foods I was used to. Being mexican born he found them lacking.
One day he talked me into having dinner in a local taqeria with him. Not the Mexican food I was used to. No nordic high school kids busing tables. No slurpy machine marguaritas. He suggested, more of a challenge, "Let me order for us, I won't tell you what it is until you try it!" I was game. He ordered in Spanish, and the woman waiting on us replied in Spanish. I couldn't miss the sly smile. She was in on it now. We mowed our way through tacos that night as only teenaged boys can. We washed them down with soda I had never seen before. Jose' loved it. He half expected I would jump out of my skin when I leaned I had been eating tongue (lengua) or cheek (cabeza). I was in heaven. I made myself a promise that I would seek out food that gave me this much enjoyment regularly. I would find those great holes in the wall. I would cull needles from great mounds of hay.
Years later I read a brief magazine articles about a website started by a New York food writer. A place dedicated to the delicious. Chowhound.com.
You now know the events that brought me here. Care to share yours?
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