Wednesday, April 3, 2013
I have an unabashed love affair with food. It’s no secret.
There is a line drawn out there somewhere far in the distant sand, a line I shall not cross when it comes to culinary delights upon which I decline to dine.
Yes, there are some foods I will not eat.
First on the list: liver. Not now, not ever. I will not eat a body organ whose soul function is to process and generate waste bi-product.
I was 12 years old, at an age where I no longer took the carte blanche word of my parents, especially my dad. I sat down to dinner and smelled something really foul. It was coming from my plate.
“What is this?” I said with a crinkled up nose.
“That’s steak,” my dad replied, and that’s when I realized, though not for the first time, but with an adult-like clarity, that parents lie to their children.
I processed this information, even tried ketchup and A1 Steak Sauce, and after one more bite challenged my father’s ascertains. “I don’t care what you call this, it ain’t steak,” I said, and for the first time in my life, I pushed my plate away.
If this were a supernatural world, the skies would have parted then and fire and brimstone would have rained down upon us.
There was one other food I wouldn’t touch as a kid: macaroni and cheese. This aversion didn’t make sense because I loved macaroni, and I loved cheese, but I didn’t love them together. They were the Romeo and Juliet of my black list of foods, doomed to never join.
The problem wasn’t in the taste but the texture. The noise macaroni makes when you stir in the melted cheese and milk sounds like a colony of sub-larval life forms on a mass exodus. It gives me the shivers even today.
I was the victim of a wicked trick perpetrated by mac and cheese during my later years. I came across a dish called Three-Cheese Pasta, an Italian blend mixing Parmesan, Romano and Mozzarella cheeses with half and half and Penne pasta. You mix the ingredients and then bake the casserole dish to brown the cheese on top to a crispy crust.
I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it.
I touted the dish to family and friends as the next great culinary discovery. It became my signature dish at get-togethers and parties. “Hey everyone, Dan’s bringing his special Three-Cheese Pasta dish.”
My then nine-year old nephew Tommy – the smart nephew – set me straight.
Tommy’s sitting at the dinner table, heaping on the Three-Cheese Pasta, and I, trying to share a moment with my nephew, say, “You really like that Three-Cheese Pasta huh?”
Tommy looks up as he stuffs a big forkful of Three-Cheese Pasta in his mouth and mumbles in a matter of fact tone, “You know this is macaroni and cheese, right?”
I looked at my nephew like I’d been asked to solve an Einsteinian quantum physics equation.
Okay, I conceded the cheese part. But this was not macaroni, I argued.
“This is Penne pasta.”
And what is macaroni?
It took about “five-Mississippis” before it sank in. And then somebody stirred the Three-Cheese Pasta.