Sunday, April 30, 2006

food and family...

gourmet carousel
Originally uploaded by starchmouse.
It's not very hard to figure out my family. If you ever want to get in good with them, tell them you love food. Not just love food, looooove it. Then eat lots of it in front of them.
I don't know how we became such food-lovers. Growing up, I don't remember food playing as obvious a role in our daily lives as it does now. Sure, we went out to eat, but never because we wanted to try something new or exciting. And we were *never* told to finish our plates - ours was the "if you can't finish just leave it!" household.

I've learned a lot about my family through food. My father subscribes to the if-there-are-lots-of-people-inside-it-must-be-good school of thought when it comes to choosing a place to eat. It doesn't matter if it's a dingy little place - as long as there are tons of people inside they must know something we don't. I suppose it's because he really wants to see the best of everything and everybody, and has a lot of faith and trust in others. A common phrase that will come out of my mother's mouth is "you are *exactly* like your father!" and if you see us in a restaurant, it's true. We're the ones who will try something new because it seems silly to order something you've already had, even though it's good. My mother, on the other hand, takes comfort in what she knows to be good. It takes a bit of a wrestle to get her to try something we've never ordered before. It makes sense - she needs order, organization, and cleanliness to function. She loves cookbooks and trying to cook new things - yet she'll rarely try new recipes unless she's seen a food network chef successfully execute it on TV first.

It was food that helped me appreciate my parents more. It first hit me in a restaurant in Paris. There was an amazing place tucked away on a little side street near our apartment - crowded, smoky, and a slight risk because everything was in french. But we loved it so much we went three nights. On the third night, I just shook my head in amazement - there sitting in front of me were two people who at the tender age of 25 hopped on a plane, each carrying two babies adopted by families in the US (crazy - four babies on a 12 hour flight!), so that their tickets would be $200 instead of $2000. They landed in Minnesota and went to school (all over again) so that they could have two kids and move them out to sunny California. All they knew growing up were the soups and stews and pickles of postwar Korean cuisine. They could have stopped right there, but they were not content to be immigrants who just got by in a new country while feverishly clinging to the only customs they knew. They really embraced what they thought to be the american spirit - trying new things not for trend's sake (which is typically Korean) but really because you had the opportunity to. And here they were in Paris, devouring moules, poisson gratin, aubergine caviar and fried anchovies. They had an organic garden waiting for them back at home. I never understood the significance of what my parents had went through to get here until I saw how they took that opportunity and ran with it. And while I'm normally proud of my parents, at that moment I wanted to burst with it. And that was just the beginning. There was curry eaten off of banana leaves in Singapore. Glasses of cider and plates of tapas while tottering around San Sebastian. Haggis in Edinburgh. Churrasco in Brazil. Guacamole in Mexico City.

My brother and I are so lucky - we could have been pulled in so many different directions, trying to assimilate to a culture foreign to my parents and living life the way my parents had when they were young. Instead, we were shown that whatever you decide to do you should just throw your whole self into it while keeping the best parts of your past experiences.

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