The Picky ChildIt’s a fact that somewhere down the line, some scientist figured out that as we age, our tastes differ and vary. This could not be more true. I bet you remember being a kid and someone in your family wanted you to try something. Whether it be while you were staying with relatives and your aunt wanted you to have cold cut sandwiches one day, or the following year your uncle wanted you to have his signature fireman’s breakfast burrito. Or perhaps, while out at a restaurant your grandmother wanted you to try that funky fried thing she was eating, that though you didn’t want to admit, smelled great. Well anyways, I bet 90% of the time, as a kid, no matter who offered it, or whatever it was, you tried and hated it. Why’s that? Kids are picky, of course.

Now, look back on these experiences as I recount mine with a few tales from as of late.

See, I was a kid who was spoiled. I hated cold cuts like it was nobody’s business. Ham? Ew. Turkey? Ew. Bologna? Double ew, and it still is unless it’s with grilled cheese. I remember this one day, we, my mom, sister and myself, were in Ohio and my aunt went to pick up sandwiches at the local deli that was right down the way from my Nana’s house. It was a hot day, that day and all of us kids, our cousins and us, had been in the pool. It blew my aunt’s mind when I refused to eat. A cold cut sandwich? What on earth had she been thinking? Pickles? Uck, gross. I wouldn’t come to really like cold cuts until after I was 10 or so. That was only because one day a close friend of the family (at the time) was getting sandwiches while we were helping him paint his house. I asked for something ridiculous, just because I didn’t know what it would be like. As it turns out, and here’s a real shocker, I loved it. Now, into my teenage years, I slowly grew away from my favourite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and more towards cold cuts. It was my dad who got me to try a roast beef sandwich and that’s one of my all time favourites.

A few years later, after turning my nose up at cold cuts, my Uncle, the one married to the aforementioned Aunt, tried to get me to eat his breakfast burritos. Honestly, at that age, his kids loved re fried beans, sausage, eggs, ham, omelets, etc. You name it, his kids were probably eating it. The kicker is, my cousins are younger than me by 1, 2 and 4 years. Now that I’ve acquired the taste for re fried beans and sausage, I would KILL for one of his breakfast burritos, but I’ll stick with making em myself because they live all the way in Ohio and well, who has that kind of money to be spending on flights just to eat a burrito? Also on a note about burritos, I love them and highly recommend this place called Moe’s Bar & Grill. They honestly make the best burrito, ever. According to my Grandfather, there is a place in Atlanta, GA called Willy’s that makes the all time best burritos. Who knows, until I go down to Willy’s I can’t tell you what’s better. Although, I can tell you I’ll never eat Taco Bell ever again.

One of the handful of times that my whole family went to the Olive Garden together, my Nana came with us. She ordered calamari and I being the picky lil thing that I was, turned my nose up at it and just ate breadsticks until she offered it to me. It being my Nana, I couldn’t say no. So she put a few pieces on my plate with the marinara or whatever sauce they use with it, and I popped it in my mouth, chewing. One of the immediate things I remember was that it was good, but very chewy. Later on, I found out that calamari is the cute chef terminology for squid, kind of like escargot is the French, cute terminology for snails and caviar is the chef terminology for, oh yum, fish eggs. When my mother’s appetizer came, it was this bubbling pile of green goo. I didn’t care what my mother said, I would not eat it, ever. As a matter of fact, later on one year when I ate there for my birthday and ordered that goo to go for my mom, I still hadn’t tried it. It wasn’t until this year at My sister’s birthday that I tried the dip. In case my terminology didn’t give it away, I’m talking about the Olive Garden’s spinach and artichoke dip. It’s delicious now that I’ve had it. Shoot, I’m pretty sure I could make a small meal out of the calamari and dip and be happy.

Paris. The City of Love and Lights. Also home to fashionistas and the world’s best chefs, well, or so I think. But my opinion is biased because I love it there. Anyways. I ventured to Paris at the tender age of 16. Before I’d been to Paris, I’d never taken my salad with nuts, berries and egg whites, as that was always “weird” to me. Before Paris, I thought, despite my love of cooking with onions, that << Soupe a l’ongion>> (French Onion soup) was horrible and gross. I had this very, pardon my lack of better terminology here, American sense of cooking. I never believed in cooking passionately until I entered a French kitchen. Although, I still think that they didn’t have to drown the beef tips in white whine sauce… it was a bit overbearing, yet good (I have no idea how that works). Among a handful of the meals we had there, I had tried their crepes, beef, chicken, hen, and deer and some fish. All of the meals evade me, but the one meal that truly sticks out is the night that we cooked it ourselves. We had been there for a few nights already and were midway through the trip and our itinerary called for a culture experience. So we made our way to the culinary school in the pouring rain. We were introduced to the chef instructors and were divided up. Everyone from my school worked on the appetizer or main dish. I worked on the dessert with a bunch of not so lovely ladies from a different school. Looking back on it, they pissed me off. They wanted to purposely burn the <<Pain Perdue>> and flambeed pineapple because they showed no appreciation for cooking. This was when I should have found out I was a chef. I enjoyed flambeeing the pineapple and cooking the bread. Mine didn’t come out burnt at all, and truth be told, it was the perfect accent for the dinner. The full three courses came together perfectly. The appetizer was seafood soup with shrimp; the main course, roast hen in a bag with assorted vegetables; finally, of course the “lost bread” and pineapple. It was delicious. It would have been better with wine… but what can I say? We weren’t allowed to drink on school trips.

At 17… I began to truly embrace my new found taste buds. It was on my birthday that I discovered a real treasure… even if I didn’t appreciate it. White Clam Pizza from Frank Pepe’s. In case you’re at all curious, the White Clam is nothing but, pizza dough, garlic (lots of it) and fresh, whole belly clams. No cheese, no pepperoni. Nothing. Just the basics. The clams are chewy and loaded with garlic. If you’re new to it, close your eyes, plug your nose and just do it. It’s so very worth it. Naturally, I was partially horrified at what I was eating, but it was too good not to eat. That afternoon, after wolfing down a good 2/3 of the pizza, my granfather and I headed home. The second we walked in the door, my father, who was 2 rooms away, asked what the hell reeked like garlic. A hint, if you don’t mind, it takes 2-3 times to truly get the garlic reek out of your breath. Brush, rinse and repeat, as necessary.

As of recently, because I’ve been seeing a Spanish man, my budz have grown accustomed to more Latin tastes. I make kick butt burritos, quesadlillas, rice (from scratch, not that box junk), and i’ve recently tried pasteles. Pasteles… now that was an experience. I went to see the boy and his mom handed me a tupperware container, told me to put it in the microwave for x amount of minutes and enjoy. So I did as told, microwaved it and looked at the hunk of… I don’t know what you want to call it, food? That lay before me on a bed of steaming white rice. In case your at all curious, I’m of the French and Italian blood. Appearance of food means a bunch to me. So this… orange/brown hunk in front of me had me making a face. Because I’m who I am though, being an Italian, I have to try everything once. So pulling a small piece off with my fork, I stabbed some rice with it and closed my eyes, trying it. There’s no real way to describe what a pastele tastes like. I’m told it’s made of meat and vegetables, mostly vegetables. All looks aside, it bad at all. I would definitely eat it again.

A refresher. Recently (this past weekend to be completely honest), I ended up out shopping to celebrate my birthday with my grandfather. As per the usual tradition, we usually go out to eat. This year we had planned on Thai food, but that didn’t pan out. Instead we hit up Frank Pepe’s, ordered a medium white clam pizza, ate the whole thing, and went to the home of the best burrito I’ve eaten, Moe’s. The pizza, was better than I had remembered, partially because these days I don’t much mind seafood as much as I had (I have a horrible jonesing for some lobster and steak, to be honest), so it was so much better. After leaving, we made our way to Moe’s…

A brief side story if you don’t mind… You see, this whole last year has consisted of my wanting to go to this Bar&Grill and get a burrito. It started during last year’s shopping experience when My grandfather posed either Moe’s or this awesome southern barbeque place down the way. Wanting to try something new (and being swayed at my grandfather’s raving about how kick ass the pulled pork and mac and cheese was) I agreed to go to Matt Hoffman’s place in Windsor. Don’t get me wrong, it was most definitely worth it. However, it wasn’t worth the bated wait for a burrito. My uncle had promised me to finish my tattoo and one day when we were making plans he had mentioned Him, my other uncle and my grandfather going to get Moe’s. The idea was to of course make that afternoon definitely worth it. Probably the best thing he said during the conversation, a response to my protests about intruding on man family time, “No of course you wouldn’t be intruding. Besides, we need to devirginize you to Moe’s. Let’s do it up.” It didn’t happen as a Christmas party came up and he had to attend to that, but in the end, it was definitely worth waiting until this past weekend.

Here’s why: As I mentioned, we finished up the pizza and made our way down the street to Moe’s. Upon going in, we had agreed to get burritos and sit and enjoy for a while. We each ordered a “homewrecker” I had mine made with steak, onions, peppers, black beans, rice, and some guacamole. Upon sitting and biting into my burrito, a few things struck me. 1. I would never, ever, ever, eat Taco Bell ever again. 2. This was definitely worth the wait. 3. When can I get another one? During our nosh session, my grandfather suggested that I text my uncle and tell him the following, “I got fed up with waiting around to get Moe’s so I took a cab down. Unfortunately, my cab driver wants half of the burrito as payment, fml” After we finished eating, I did indeed send that text to which my uncle wrote back “Man, what a bummer, I’m sorry your first time had to be like that” Replying back, I could not help but laugh as I had made mention of something else we were privy to, his eating sushi. I called him out for only being able to eat 85 pieces in 2 hours. In his reply, he offered for me to have a throw down with him and the guys. So now it looks like I get to expand on my taste buds some more….

My next tries:

  1. Sushi
  2. Bouillabaisse
  3. Various French Cheeses
  4. Cod, Haddock, Swordfish
  5. Thai Food (So general, I know)

Hopefully, now that your eyes have fallen off from my various stories, you’ve thought and recalled your own changing taste buds. And might I add, no matter how old I get, I’ll never touch asparagus, ever. Until next time, stay hungry, mates.

Xx Steffica