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Life as a Foodie (or not)

July 14, 2011 in Cooking, Life, Restaurant Industry

Photo Credit

Before you begin, start here.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been resisting talking about this topic for a while now. I know a lot of you reading this honor your foodie-ness as very near and dear to your hearts. So before going any further, let me clarify that I RESPECT and REVERE your desire to find and bring the best quality, and best tasting food into your mouths. I know a LOT of you would travel far distances to check out a restaurant that’s acclaimed for it’s far reaching ingredients. Please know, I respect that. You see, I am NOT a foodie. It’s not that I don’t want to be a foodie… it’s just not my thing. Maybe this post (and your subsequent comment stream) will help me understand the err of my ways (and my upbringing) and steer me toward acquiring a more deliberate palate. Although, No guarantees.

First, let me try to explain why the concept is foreign to me. (YES, even while being married to a chef)

Maybe it’s because I grew up with my mom being a lunch lady all thru my school years, it wasn’t as important the QUALITY of the food I was eating, but the quantity. (Not to mention growing up in a NYC Italian family, it was ALL about quantity). Clearly remembering my mother bringing home left over frozen pizza from school (you know, the square kind that you remember being lifted off a  metal sheet tray with a spatula in the cafeteria?) … I was in heaven. I had NO idea about salty, sweet, sour and bitter, pungent and astringent. No, it was about eating SCHOOL PIZZA for dinner! I kinda felt special since the pizza in school was coveted by most of the students. (Friday was Pizza and French Fries Day… although I always thought that a strange combo)

I grew up with two philosophies that, now as I look back on them, are the causes for a lot of confusion when it comes to my experience with fine dining.

  1. Eat EVERYTHING on your plate (also called “you’re not leaving the table until it’s GONE! or “Take everything you want to eat, and eat everything you take.”) and
  2. Having a meat, starch and vegetable

So I did. In college, I maintained that cafeteria lifestyle my first two years in school while living in the dorms and when moving out into the wide blue yonder, I maintained those rules… meat/starch/vegetable and eat everything on your plate. It’s not that my family wouldn’t occasionally visit a nice restaurant, but nothing like what I’ve experienced in recent years, so needless to say, I didn’t have lots of experience to go on. I knew what food I LIKED to eat, but I wasn’t particular about it. More a “meh, whatever – I can take it or leave it” kinda philosophy.

On top of that, my mother (the sole cook in the house) didn’t grow up eating fish too often (like at all), so that meant that neither did we. That leaves out a HUGE portion of the food pyramid (isn’t that what Michelle Obama still calls it nowadays?) that I never tried. I remember my mom cooking salmon once, the smell was SO different, so… EVERYWHERE, that I was like NO WAY (and sat at the table for hours until my mother gave in and let me go to bed)

I sat there a while, let me tell ya….

Another possible reason was my not so regular experience with FRESH vegetables either. It wasn’t often that my mom would splurge on fresh veggies, going for the convenience of the can. And when she did (go fresh), it was always the same degree of cooked-ness that the cans had – never al dente, but shmushy – and since that’s all I knew… well, that’s all I knew. (Let me say… my mom still knocked out the BEST meals I’ve ever had, like her mothers meatloaf that we all still ask for every single birthday dinner we’re together)

I remember on a trip to Hawaii with my college roommate, she was GAGA about how fresh the fish was (I believe it was Ahi), so I too, had to try some. I remember being nervous about it, never revealing to her that I have never eaten anything close to that before. It was good but nothing that I would go GAGA for.

Trust me, I could go on…..

Enter the chef husband (then boyfriend).

I remember the FIRST time I visited him for the weekend (I was in VA, he was in NJ) he made me NY Strip steak with peppercorns and bok choy) I was like “bok what?” and remember him saying “Trust me, you’ll like it.” And I did. Whenever we went places, he wanted to try a hole in the wall restaurant, telling the server “Just bring me what YOU think is good”  and I… thought it a little nutty to trust so willingly, and also a little jealous he was so brave as I would rather stay in my comfort zone. It’s been some version of that ever since.

Three foods I’ve never eaten until my 30’s (I’m in my 36th year now):

  • Sushi
  • Indian
  • Tuna Tartare

All of these foods, I now LOVE.  I try foods more willingly than I ever have, being with my husband. But it wasn’t always that way….

Like the nightmare of Dim Sum. Going to eat Dim Sum for the first time (without anyone telling me what Dim Sum meant) with a whole bunch of Chefs and their spouses. STILL brings me flashbacks. I was SO naive and well, scared. I don’t think I ate a damn thing. I didn’t know that they brought food to you on a rolling tray, or WHAT as underneath that basket! I did my best to play it off that I was just not hungry.. but inside I was like WHAT the heck am I doing here!!! *I think all the chefs thought it funny I sat there so uncomfortably, asking me “You want this?” while I was writhing in my seat until it was over. (okay maybe it was just my imagination)

yea, I was embarrassed….

I understand now what it is and will willingly go when asked, but those are just a few examples of what my food-ie experience is to date and why I am still a bit indifferent about it all.

So when I encounter anyone who calls themselves a foodie, I sit back and watch (and listen) with genuine curiosity and amazement about their passion for these unusual and sometimes uncommon delicacies (My husband still torments me with eating anything with Foie Gras.. Thanks but NO thanks. I know that’s a sin in some circles.) but inside, I am FINE with the slow pace I travel to experience these foods knowing that if I get there, I get there. And if not, well… that’s okay too.

For the most part, my sideline observance of others in the throes of foodie-dom hasn’t caused much contraversy. I am usually respected when not wanting to try something out of my comfort zone and surprise my husband when I decide to just DO IT and give it a whirl anyway. I tell people, I didn’t grow up eating it so it’s not something I would order myself.. but if placed in front of me I would try it. That’s been my stance. I’m not holding up my forefingers in a cross like pattern saying NO WAY! to everything different that I encounter, I just approach it a bit slower than most. Not apt to DIVE IN like some foodies do.

*Confession: I still like my vegetables a bit softer than what restaurants usually put out. (Peter, don’t laugh!)

When creating this site, I thought… I KNOW there are other non-foodies married to foodies out there! So I asked everyone on our Facebook Page what their stance was and was sad to see that most are food connoisseurs. I still haven’t found many non-foodies married to foodies.. but I just know that I’m not alone. I will continue the quest! As we all know, it’s not all fancy meals every nite, being married to a chef, so I usually cook what I know when I’m home; and even when I cook for my husband, I say (as I said in an earlier post about eating alone) “it’s nothing fancy”. I think it makes me feel better to say that, if only to myself for I know what a fancy meal looks like. (And it’s not meat/starch/vegetable either). Just as long as I’ve eaten everything on my plate… I’m good. (I’m teasing…)

PLEASE comment below if you ARE a non-foodie married to a foodie! I’m not giving up my search!

So, now that you know MY story, let me ask you…

  • When was the first time you even heard of the word Foodie?
  • How was the way you were raised affect what your food preferences are now?
  • How does knowing your a foodie affect your restaurant choices? (Ever dare go to Outback Steakhouse for example?)
  • How did being a foodie (or not being a foodie!) come into play when connecting with your restaurant man/woman?

    and finally…How has the world changed for you since you became aware of your degree of foodie-ness?

Look Familiar?

March 29, 2011 in Cooking, Favorites, Life

Loneliness Is - Day 129

Loneliness Is... by Christen Shaw

Come on.. tell me this doesn’t look familiar to you?

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday  nite (maybe more?) … eating alone?

Yes it does. That’s what WE significant others do.

This is EXACTLY what 99% of most of the people out there (you know…those who, right now – are sitting down, watching cooking shows or reading a foodie magazine- are thinking about what it must be like, being married to a chef) – have NO idea about. For all they know, it’s all glitz and glamour, 24/7.  Usually meeting someone and explaining the dynamics of what we do.. sound like this:

Me: “My husband is a chef”

Unaware masses: “OOH, he must cook for you every night!”  or “You must eat really well in your house!”

Me: “uh, yea NO.”

This logic doesn’t make any sense to me really. WHY would they be home cooking for me when their PURPOSE is to be at the restaurant cooking for YOU???

And when they ARE home… they’re most likely too tired to cook so at least one night a week it’s Chinese delivery nite. (Okay, there are a few restaurant men and women who come home with the same energy as when their at work.. but they’re rarely seen, kinda like Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street.)

So most nights…we cook for ourselves (or our children).  Alone.

I can only speak for myself when I say, for the record – I’m NOW totally okay with that. Yes, there was a time in an earlier chapter of my life, back when he was just a boyfriend (or not a boyfriend at all!) that I daydreamed of coming home to someone and cooking together. Wandering the aisles of the grocery store together, seeking out unusual recipes to try out. Creating a nightly menu of what we’re going to eat every day of the week. I briefly had that with a previous relationship (fellow 9-5’r) and will admit; yes, it had it’s moments of being fun. But like most things, we romanticize these moments as greater then they really are and end up not having the long term appeal that we originally thought.

Whether we’re with a chef or not, at the end of the day it’s challenging to always be up on your game with regard to preparing home cooked meals.  (No wonder Rachael Rays 30 minute meals are so popular! 30 minutes from prep to eat? SCORE!) I mean we’re tired. After a day of enduring the 9-5, picking up the kids, hitting the gym, running some errands, or surviving the long commute home. It’s no wonder why the allure of being with a chef is so great… MOST people take themselves out to a meal (i.e. have someone cook for them) because they don’t want to do the cooking at home! Why is it any different for any of us?

As for me, I’m not a foodie. I don’t have a pantry full of exotic and far reaching ingredients. I grew up with a  meat, starch, vegetable mentality. (Unfortunately I also grew up with an ‘Eat everything on that plate or your not leaving the table!” mentality, but that’s a post for another day) I didn’t grow up with fresh herbs sitting on my window sill. My mother didn’t cook fish all that often (like at ALL), so I didn’t grow up eating it or more than that, cooking it. My idea of a home cooked meal is a box of Rice-a-Roni and some baked chicken dish with canned vegetables. Yes, I said canned vegetables.

So that is what I do. When I know I’m cooking alone, I look up a recipe by it’s keywords “quick and easy” or “one pot meals”.

I even have a confession: I even  have, on occasion, come home to a box of  Hamburger Helper when I want something hot and fast. It’s a joke in my house when I do so but ps: who eats those leftovers huh? yep, the husband when he comes home at night. Whose joking now?

It’s not like I’m completely clueless – I like to step it up a bit when I am cooking for my husband or guests. You’re just not going to find me whipping up a 4 course meal with the “Secret Ingredient”  as they do on Iron Chef!

All of this earlier upbringing means that I am quite intimidated when it comes to cooking for my husband. I inevitably say before placing any plate in front of him, “It’s nothing fancy…”. It’s apparent that my shortcomings in the kitchen are apparent when he’s around. Here’s the thing…

It’s just not my bag.

It works for me that I don’t have to give too much thought to having to cook knowing that I’m doing so alone. I don’t have the all encompassing eye, leering over the stovetop, watching how much salt I put in my water when I cook pasta (answer: none. I only salt water when the husband is home).

And so it is…this is part of being with someone in the industry.  I KNOW most nights, I will most likely eat alone. I have come to enjoy the choice I have of what to cook, where I eat what I cook (usually on the sofa in my pj’s, catching up on my shows I record) or that I’m able to make plans with my girlfriends without the guilt of making sure I’m home before the husband gets upset. I will admit, it took some adjusting of what I thought my life would look like, but once I did, I realize its part of the freedom that I VALUE about being a strong and  independent woman,  successfully navigating through the life of being Married to a Chef.