Growing up in middle-class America in the 60’s/70’s and into the 80’s wasn’t exactly a trip to food paradise. Oh, it was for some, but for a family where only one parent worked we had typical middle-class fare with some “treats” along the way. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I discovered the joys of food.
For those not fortunate enough to be around back then, we’re talking about breakfast cereal (boxes) and oatmeal on weekdays, eggs, pancakes or on special occasions waffles on weekends. Pretty plain and standard fare. Fruit might have been a part of it, and there was always milk (“for growing strong bones and teeth”). I never learned to be a coffee drinker, but as I grew older i found tea to be more to my liking. College brought the dining hall (yum! Institutional Food….) when in the dorms, and a return to “home like” food when living off campus. Weekends might find donuts or a visit to a small, local restaurant in-town.
Lunches and dinners were similarly un-exciting. Dining out meant the local chain steakhouse, “Chinese” restaurant (learning later that chow mien was not the depth of Chinese food), Howard Johnson, and occasionally pizza and fast food (Yum! Milk shakes!) Sometimes we went to nicer places, and a wider variety of places when traveling. At home, my mom cooked some kind of relatively easy meal, and we’d have things like steak on the grill, lobster, clams, and other treats on very special occasions. Oh, and frozen veggies. But we did get good, fresh corn in the summer.
Learning to cook really took place at Boy Scout camp. Menus set by the dads to a budget, and cooking on gas stoves (except for those times we grilled over the camp fire or were working on a merit badge). No, no bugs or squirrels or other proteins.
With that background, it’s almost a surprise that I came to like good food at all. But I did. My renaissance converged with the growth of a much better food scene in DC, and the growth of food stores that offer a better and wider selection of food. That love for good food only grew the more I traveled, to the point that having good food options in a town became as important as a good hotel.
So, in my mind, varieties of food and travel are inextricably linked. Sure you CAN eat at a chain restaurant, but why? There’s so much more to life and food than that. It’s all part of the adventure….
Over the past few years, I’ve taken up smoking meat – some places it’s called BBQ – and it’s been great to experiment with spices and rubs and sauces. Kitchen cooking is great, too, thanks to a huge variety of recipes from chefs famous and obscure…. and local spice stores. More on my adventures with cooking later.
I’ll come back to this topic later.