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My food discovery period began in Boston’s Chinatown. In the 70’s, there weren’t many ethnic restaurants in the suburbs, and the ones that existed catered to a clientele that enjoyed Americanized versions of the food. Thus, all l I knew of Chinese food was pu pu platters with fried shrimp and chicken wings. Sometimes my parents would order Chow Mein or Chop Suey if they were feeling adventurous. It was okay, but it didn’t excite me. In my early twenties, my good friend had a boyfriend whose band mate lived on the edge of Chinatown. He ate there almost every day; he kept bragging about the food, “You’ve got to have “real” Chinese food.” So one day we went to lunch at a hole-in-the-wall that he chose, and he ordered for all of us. We had mu shu pork, Peking ravioli, and a rice stick dish. I loved it!¬† I couldn’t believe I had been eating that doughy, boring stuff — oh, what I had been missing!

Then I tried Indian food. I had a college friend who was a vegetarian. After we graduated from college we would get together every once in a while for dinner, and her dietary restrictions meant we had limited options. She often chose Indian restaurants because they had a wide variety of vegetarian choices, and I found out that I really liked it. The spices were unique, and there were lots of vegetables!

Finally during my mid to late twenties, I dated a food critic who had gone to cooking school. He was a pretty good cook when we ate at home, but we often went out to restaurants so he could write a review. I went to a Vietnamese restaurant for the first time with him, and I discovered another food I liked. By then, I was really starting to realize that there was a big world of food out there if I was open to it! Of course, it all went back to my initial love of vegetables, since these ethnic food types were very vegetable based. What was interesting was that the girl who hated condiments was finally discovering sauces and liking them!

By the time I met my husband, I was well on my way to becoming a foodie…




I was a picky eater as a child¬† — high maintenance for my mother — but not in the way a mother would be mad about. I loved fruits and vegetables (especially raw ones), which were healthy for me, but I didn’t like sauces and condiments. For example, I liked tomatoes, but not ketchup or spaghetti sauce. My mother would make me “milk spaghetti” (spaghetti with butter and milk) when the rest of the family was having spaghetti with tomato sauce. Not too much extra effort…she just put mine aside before she put the sauce on.

The kids at school would call me “rabbit” because I would eat celery sticks, carrot sticks, even green pepper strips for lunch — no salad dressing of course. I became a favorite target of teasing because I would have a gag reflex whenever I was in the vicinity of bowls of ketchup, mustard, and relish. Of course they were always putting them near me and laughing. Lunchtime wasn’t enjoyable for me.

After my “healthy” phase, I went the other way in junior high — I ate an ice cream sandwich and a milk every day, until I couldn’t bear to eat another one. ( I still don’t eat them!) That led me to my borderline anorexic phase, which lasted through high school: I pretty much ate nothing but toast and tea, soup, and…milk spaghetti.

It took a lot of comments from strangers — “Your friend looks like a boat person,” “Is your friend an orphan?” — before I realized how I looked to other people. But it was a bout with the flu, during which I lost 10 lbs I couldn’t afford to lose, that changed my eating habits. At one point I couldn’t even drink water…I didn’t know that I was allergic to the codeine cough syrup the doctor had prescribed. I was lucky that my mother was taking care of me; she called the doctor and he told me to stop taking it. Nothing like the fear of not being able to eat again to scare someone into wanting a steak!

Little did I know, a wonderful food future lay in front of me…



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