As I walked through my kitchen yesterday morning, I noticed my daughter who was hovering over the waste basket, intensely focused on a task. I spoke, but she was so tuned into what she was doing she didn’t hear. “Good morning, Sissy,” I said, again. Nothing.
I walked over to where she was standing and noticed that she was holding a bowl filled with dry cereal flakes. She was rummaging through the bowl with her fingers picking at it the way zoo monkeys pluck and scan when they are checking each other for fleas. “What are you doing?” I asked. She was still so intently focused on the job at hand that she didn’t hear me. I walked over to the wastebasket and looked inside. There, on top of an old newspaper, was a small pile of dried strawberries.
A box of Special K with Strawberries was sitting on the counter. “Why are you picking out the strawberries,” I asked, “That’s the best part.”
“I don’t like the strawberries,” She said.
“Then why don’t you just eat plain old Special K?”
“Because the strawberries add flavor.”
“Well they can’t add flavor if they’re all in a trash can.”
“You just don’t understand.”
“That’s the most accurate thing you’ve said in this entire conversation.”
This is the same kid who bakes oatmeal raisin cookies several nights a week, and spends the first 20 minutes after they’ve been removed from the oven, picking out— you guessed it— the raisins.
I love oatmeal-raisin cookies. I think that raisins— even though they share 50% of the co-billing— add at least 60-70% of the flavor. Seriously, I know oatmeal-raisin cookies. They have been my go-to cookie for more that 50 years, and I know for a fact that they are much better with raisins.
She won’t hear it. I’ll approach her while she’s got a couple of cookies on a plate, and before I can say anything, she says, “I know, I know, ‘they’re better with the raisins.’ This is the way I like them, daddy.”
I have never told her, but she’s right about food components flavoring other foods “by association and proximity.” As a kid, my favorite home-cooked meal was stuffed peppers. If I had a birthday, my mother didn’t even have to ask. I was going to be eating stuffed bell peppers with mashed potatoes and English peas. Guess what? I never ate the peppers. I just liked the ground beef stuffed inside. Guilty.
Now a case could be made that bell peppers add a lot more flavor to a dish than raisins or strawberries, but in the end, it’s sort of the same.
We all have food quirks. After 36 years in the restaurant business, I could write a book on people’s crazy ordering systems that would make Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally look like a low-maintenance patron.
There have been occasions, through the years, where my kids— even though they were born four years apart— have been complimentary with their food quirks. For their first decade when they ordered fried cheese sticks in a restaurant, my son would eat the breading on the outside and my daughter would eat the cheese on the inside. That was a nice situation. Of course, it was a messy job, picking apart fried cheese at the table, but it kept them occupied and therefore, made their mother and me happy. These days they make healthier food choices and I haven’t seen them pull the Jack Sprat fried-cheese maneuver in several years.
My kids are also complimentary eaters when it comes to broccoli and asparagus. She doesn’t eat the stalks, and he doesn’t like the tops. Like the breading on cheese sticks, he seems to be getting the short end of the culinary stick in that deal. But they both seem happy, plates get cleaned, and their parents are pleased.
The kid’s opposite food quirks don’t stop there. She is a persnickety eater and doesn’t like any of her food items touching other food items on her plate. The boy, on the other hand, will make a Mexican combo platter look like one big, brown, gloppy mess by mixing together his rice, beans, enchiladas, and burritos. It ends up looking like something served in an old folk’s home where soft food is plentiful and intact teeth are scarce.
So, what have we learned today? 1.) Dried fruit can sometimes be an inconvenience. 2.) Brothers and sisters can occasionally agree on something. 3.) I miss my mother’s stuffed peppers.
View today’s recipe: RSJ’s Stuffed Peppers