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Teach Your Children Well

July 26, 2010

Few food memories are as powerful as childhood food memories.  As a direct result of my father’s influence on me as a young boy, I now count myself among the few remaining fans of Cel-Ray.  My mother’s meatloaf set a very high standard that no others were able to beat, although a couple did come close.  And then there are the stories about the cheese.

Then of course there is the forbidden fruit.  My mother rarely let me have hotdogs.  I have a distinct memory of walking down the street, seeing a kid my age enjoying this everyday delicacy, and my mom explaining that they were a choking hazard.  It took me years to get comfortable eating pork chops after being drilled about the impurity of pigs, even though miraculously bacon and sausage had always been fine.

When you are eating with kids, regardless of whether they are yours or not, you’ve got an opportunity to open their eyes to truly great things.

Here are a few things I have tested out on Young Master Fussy.

At the tender age of two years old, I took him to the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory in Berkeley.  It was an off time, and the gift shop was empty.  The clerk thought it would be a hoot to try a vertical tasting on the little guy.  So she handed him a piece of their 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate, which he happily gobbled up.  The boy did the same with their 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate.  But he was decidedly not a fan of the 82% Cacao Extra Dark Chocolate.  I’m glad we got to stop there, because I was a bit nervous about giving him a nibble of the 99% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate.

Anyhow, we had certainly expanded his palate, and I walked out of there with a bunch of their Bittersweet Chocolate squares to dole out for extra-special treats.

This spring, I took Young Master Fussy out for his very first hot dog after he helped me with a donut tasting. Up until that point the only thing he had seen resembling the form was a vegetarian corn dog.  Which he thought was mighty tasty when drowned in ketchup.  But given my concerns over the quality of conventionally raised meat, I’ve been overly cautious with what I put into the children’s growing bodies.

If he was going to have his first hot dog, we were going to do it right.

So we sat down at the counter of Famous Lunch in Troy, where he had a chance to tuck into one of their miniature hot dogs.  The kiddo got his naked, and I got mine with the works.  When he was done, we ordered him a second round. He loved them.  I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the hot dog, and from now on all subsequent hot dogs will be measured against that very high bar.

This past weekend we went camping and Young Master Fussy got to eat another hot dog, this time cooked around the open fire.  He obviously enjoyed it.  But I wondered how he thought it compared to the ones we had at Famous Lunch.  The kiddo conceded that the hot dogs at Famous Lunch were indeed better.

He’s a great student.

Which is why I give him tasty treats that many adults don’t get to eat.  He’s known for many years that Parmigiano-Reggiano is his daddy’s favorite cheese.  I share my precious stash with him even though he remains a fan of the parmesan in the bright green tube.  When it’s roast chicken time, Mrs. Fussy generously gives up her oyster so that the two boys can secretly enjoy the best part of the bird in the kitchen.  And it turns out that he really enjoys the honeyed notes within a few sips of 12-year-old balsamic.

Now I’m working breaking him off of Log Cabin maple flavored syrup.  His current perspective is, “How can something that is sweet and sticky be bad?”  On some level he has a point.  My argument that it is not really maple and just corn syrup with maple flavoring doesn’t carry a lot of water with the little one.

Just another good reason why it makes sense to start off on the right foot.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Kerosena permalink
    July 26, 2010 9:01 am

    “It took me years to get comfortable eating pork chops after being drilled about the impurity of pigs, even though miraculously bacon and sausage had always been fine.”

    Thank you for this sentence. ‘Miraculously.” Ha!

  2. July 26, 2010 4:47 pm

    Start serving Log Cabin in a creamer pitcher vs. the bottle itself. Then, switch it out for Grade B All Natural. If you can’t beat ’em, trick ’em.

    On the hot dog front, our household stands as firm supporters of Hebrew National. Ce la vie.

  3. July 26, 2010 7:59 pm

    Your earliest culinary memories are much tastier than mine. My mother cooked the spaghetti and meatballs in the same pot. Every Saturday. We kids learned to cook in self defense. Cel-Ray? Yum. Another wonderful memory. Celery soda was the traditional beverage of choice with a pastrami sandwich at most NY delis – Katz’s, 2nd Ave Deli, Carnegie. I was surprised to see that cherry soda is the drink of choice at Schwartz’s in Montreal, their iconic deli. I’d love to know how those traditions get started.
    PS – I look forward to your comments on the Yelp dust-up.

  4. Kerosena permalink
    July 28, 2010 9:32 am

    Oh, dear!

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