I remember hating raw tomatoes as a kid. I loved tomato sauce, especially Bolognese, but I couldn’t understand why anyone would eat raw tomato. It was mealy, watery, mushy, and slightly sour all at the same time. Of course, I learned later on, after being convinced to try a good tomato, from my Aunt Sherry’s garden, that tomatoes could be spectacular, even raw. I’ve been hooked ever since and I’m always willing to pay more for a better quality tomato. Forget that pale stuff from the supermarket.

Heirloom Tomatoes

I had a similar experience with papaya. My dad loves papaya and he’d always try to push me some. I tried it, thinking how gross it was. It was mushy like an over-ripened fruit, yet had no taste, like it had never ripened. It wasn’t until my family vacationed in Hawaii (I was about 12 years old) that my world turned around. We were on a cruise and every morning we had a fancy breakfast in the dining room. My dad’s favorite part of cruising was table clothes and high staff to guest ratio. The first few days, he had a big omelet, toast with jam, Canadian bacon for sure, and some of the daily fruit. The papaya was so good in Hawaii that for the remaining days on the cruise, my dad would sit down and ask for papaya first, sometimes two. At some point, I caught on, smelled it, and asked for a bite. I was completely overwhelmed by the fragrance it had, the sweetness, the soft way it dissolved. It was almost like a sorbet without being cold.

Papaya and Cream Donut

For those two life-altering experiences, I am so grateful. I learned early on that if I disliked something, I should give it another chance, and not just one more chance, as many as it takes. You don’t know if you don’t like something because you really don’t like that ingredient or preparation, or maybe it’s just not the best quality. Maybe it’s not prepared right. Think of all the bad versions of over-done steak out there. If that’s what I thought beef tasted like all the time, I wouldn’t eat it either. But, I’ve had wonderful steaks, medium-rare, wonderful cuts of meat, that have put beef on the top of my favorites list.

Ribeye Steaks.jpg

Do you remember the large pasta shells served in the school cafeteria? I dreaded those days I had to eat the ricotta filled mushy pasta with watery tomato sauce. I really went on for years avoiding ricotta. It was tasteless mush, and there always seemed to be so much of it. I did love lasagna but mostly because my mom didn’t like ricotta either and she’d put very little in the lasagna and just load it up with meat sauce and mozzarella. When I started cooking, I mixed ricotta with chopped spinach and mozzarella to minimize the texture of the ricotta. (It’s still my favorite lasagna recipe.) But, in recent years, wine bars started offering fresh ricotta in their cheese section, and after having it a few times (because other people ordered it), I’m now a big huge fan or fresh ricotta. I now enjoy a big dollop on crusty bread, with a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. It’s so milky and fluffy, and usually a little cold, a nice change from other cheeses.

Sheep's Milk Ricotta

Then there’s olives. I didn’t think I liked olives but now I love green ones, especially the ones that are a bit more solid, bouncing back a bit when you bite in. I still haven’t found black olives to adore but I’m sure I will one day.

olives

The list goes on…I never dis-liked olive oil but never thought dipping bread in olive oil was that special. After visiting Greece, I became a dipping fanatic. Oh, and you can eat large chunks of onion raw in Greece, which you can’t really do here because they’re too sharp.

These moments in life are so thrilling, seriously. I wish I could go around trying to make it happen for everyone. I remember the accomplishment I felt the first time my dad enjoyed salad, and I made it! This was such a glorious moment because he didn’t want me to go to culinary school. He saw no point in it but there was a glimmer of understanding when he ate this beautiful salad of baby spinach, dried cranberries, toasted slivered almonds, with a poppy and sesame dressing.My mom looked on in amazement as my dad was chewing on raw greens.

I remember many elementary school friends who didn’t like fish. All they ever had was frozen fish sticks or the ones in the school cafeteria. Those were so nasty. They looked like breaded bricks of fish with a layer of American cheese in it. They were rubbery and fishy smelling. Yuck! The announcement of fish for lunch got a loud EWW from the peanut gallery every time. I remember when a few of them changed their minds after I convinced them to try fish at my house. My mom always bought fresh live fish, that were still flipping and flopping in the sink before dinner. My my would make a whole steamed fish, or a whole crispy fried fish, and my friends would love it. Of course, everyone always wanted to eat at my house. My mom was/is a fabulous cook and I’m sure I get a lot of this love from her. It’s not just loving to eat ourselves, it’s loving to share food. When I met Lon, he ate everything but mushrooms. But now, he eats mushrooms, even loves my Balsamic Drenched Portobellos. He loved the morels at Daniel, and I was so happy to share that moment with him.

Marinating Portobellos

What I really wish is that everyone who reads this tries to keep an open mind. Try some of the foods you don’t like again, and again. You might have just had bad versions or bad quality. Some things are an acquired taste. I mean all of us coffee drinking freaks did not love coffee as kids. Life is to short too limit your menu.

posted by jessica at 02:11 PM Filed under Miscellaneous. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.