I am not a picky eater. The only meals I have refused outright to eat are baked brown beans and eel. I like most other beans; raw or otherwise; green, red, lima, lentil, and kidney and I’m not exactly sure what actually made me decide to forego the brown variety for most of my life, but I have long stood by the fact that I do not like them. The eel, which I was being encouraged to try because it was, I was being emphatically told, considered a delicacy; was all about my mental inability to eat the animal for which there was so much screaming and disdain about from childhood fishing trips. The last eel I had seen was on the end of my fishing line where it wrapped it slithery black tail round, and round and round itself with the speed of an electric drill. I did the screaming. The disdain was from my grandmother who reached up with her knife and deftly cut the fishing line releasing the affronting eel with an unceremonius plop back into the bog.
I do love sushi. I have enjoyed the most exquisite, fresh and most perfectly assembled sushi in a small shop in Shizuoka, Japan, with two lovely friends with whom I shared a Friday-after-teaching-kindergarten-class custom. Our Japanese hostess, who had learned English in Texas, had a southern drawl and big oil attitude that was entirely incongruous on her tiny Asian frame. She kept our sake glasses perpetually replenished and she accepted no excuses for not trying food. She was relentless in her insistence and repeated constantly that refusing food would offend the Buddha. Since I was new to the country, and the Buddha and I were not overly familiar, I decided it best to relent and eat whatever was put in front of me. Over a long string of Fridays, I was introduced to the best sushi I have ever had in my life and a real appreciation for trying new food.
I eat jalapenos straight from the jar. I would like to travel to Mexico, just because I think it would be fabulous to be served hot and spicy food everyday. Mexican dishes appeal to me through their color (salsa-red, guacamole-green, corn chip-yellow), textures (soft shell, hard shell, beans, cheese) and its piquant spice. I am comforted by a tortilla chip and a huge dollop of guacamole. And I still enjoy friendships with many of the people I came to know while I worked as a waitress at the local California-stye Mexican restaurant in town where we sipped cheap margaritas while listening to local musicians play acoustic sets and eating spicy chicken nachos.
Cheese. Oh, do I love cheese! Brie, goat, blue, cheddar, gouda. I especially love Vlaskaas, thanks to the wonderful ladies at our local Farmer’s Market who turned me on to it. I love it in food, on food, on its own, with fruit, with vegetables, with pie, with chocolate, with wine. I like it baked, fried, shredded, and sliced. I like it with friends and alone.
A perfect meal however, has more to do with whom I am eating, than what it is that we are eating. The menu for my perfect meal could indulge a variety of cravings, or be something I have never tried before. It could be something I am cooking, or it could be prepared for me. If the meal’s preparation is shared by many, that is ideal. I am more concerned with the intellectual conversations I might have whilst enjoying food. I like to chat and saute; converse and chop; muse and bake. Who’s coming for dinner?