Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vicki's Food Adventures

A lot of changes are going on in my life, mostly good, but sometimes I feel like I am having a midlife crisis. It’s possible some day you might see me with hair plugs while driving around in a convertible. Part of this midlife crisis is what I decided to call my Food Adventures.

My first adventure started at work a couple of years ago while talking to my coworker, Betty. She was really selling hot dogs to me. I hadn’t eaten a hot dog since I was in grade school. The movie the Great Outdoors had a line in it that conveyed that hotdogs were made of undesirable pieces of the animal and that prompted me to stop eating them. So, one day Betty takes me to Boz’s where I order a Chicago-style hot dog. I also attribute my intrigue of hot dogs to author, Adam Selzer, who has a website all about hot dogs. ( The hot dog experience was a positive one (although my gripe there is that they didn’t have french fries at Boz) and the next thing you know I am buying packages of them at the store and eating them on a semi regular basis. I found it was best to eat them with a tasty root beer and Baked Ruffles potato chips.

Just over a year ago when my brother was in for Christmas I decided to try a family favorite. Cardoons. ( We serve these in a batter and fry them up. At family parties my cousins fight over them and I never understood what the fuss was all about. Pete wanted to make these for our immediate family Christmas Eve dinner (normally we just have them on Christmas Day) so I decided to try one right out of the frying pan. Well, dangit if these things weren’t delicious! Pete thought I was nuts putting a little bit of sour cream on them but they reminded me of a potato pancake. I realized that I didn’t like them at our bigger family get-togethers because someone makes them early in the day and puts them in a dish to stay warm. They get soggy when you do that and I prefer them when they are crispy.

Also a year ago, someone had bought two cream cheese spreads. One was cranberry-walnut and the other was pumpkin. For years I always protested that I hated pumpkin. I sniffed around at the pumpkin container and was surprised to find out that it smelled wonderful. It was very yummy and I was stunned! Did this mean that I like pumpkin? All these years of being a baby about it and I was missing out on something like this? This past Thanksgiving I tried pumpkin pie and thought it was gross, but I do like pumpkin cake and other pumpkin flavored things.

Cute side note here. My daughter, Abby, got pumpkin scented soap and lotion from Bath and Body as a gift. Even I thought it smelled great. One day she put some lotion on her hand and a dried out, discolored blob of lotion squeezed out and she exclaimed “Look! A piece of pumpkin came out!”

Another food adventure came about because of my bookclub with my friends. I have always hated olives and I hate that I hate them because they look so good! I’m Italian! I should like them! My friend Karriann brought a container of olive tapenade and a loaf of bread. It was passed around to me and I started to refuse but I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a try. Yup, you guessed it…delicious! Why didn’t people tell me all that I have been missing out on?! I even managed to bogart the leftovers.

So, this past Thanksgiving rolls around and I geared up for trying escargot. Here is where I let you in on a secret. I am self conscious when I try these new foods. I have protested for years about not eating seafood, hot dogs, pumpkin, etc. that I feel silly and maybe a bit like a hypocrite when I try them. I prefer to do it when no one is looking and report later. So, I get myself a piece of garlic bread and put a slimy, unattractive piece of escargot on a plate and run upstairs to be by myself. This will be my first piece of seafood since sometime in early grade school. I sniff it. I poke it. The escargot is mocking me. I am laughing at myself. Several times I start to put it in my mouth and then put it back down. A couple of times someone walks in on me. I wind up wandering into the kitchen to talk to my mom and I put it down and I confessed to her what I was up to. She found it amusing. Unfortunately, right around this time my Uncle Mike walked into the kitchen and it was at this time he said he wasn’t feeling well and he collapsed in my arms! It was quite scary and he wound up being ok but we had to call the paramedics and I went to the hospital with my two aunts. My mom kind of giggled though when she found my hidden plate of untouched escargot while I was gone at the hospital.

Upon returning from the hospital I still had time to have dinner. I decided to try the cranberries which I normally ignore. They look gross and slimy. They were really good but when I tried them again at Christmas someone different had made them and they weren’t as good but in general, thumbs up to cranberry sauce!

My favorite food adventure so far is my first trip to Chinatown. A friend took me to Café Huong which I have been told was on the show Check Please. I left the ordering up to him and informed him that I wanted to try some new foods. I had crab rangoon that was really good and quite possibly my favorite so far. I also tried a spring roll that had shrimp in it. I didn’t die from eating the shrimp which is a good thing but I have got to say that my brain was really freaking out while I was eating it. I used to eat shrimp, crab and lobster all the time when I was little but suddenly stopped. There is something about the texture and smell that I find unsettling. This was also the first time that I had noodles served with my Chinese food. This is definitely one of my favorite meals of all time.

What prompted me to write this today is that I decided to give coffee a try. I don’t feel this is going well. I used a package of sugar and two French vanilla creamers. I feel like my breath is disgusting and that I might as well give the ole cigarette smoking a try. Those two combos on a person’s breath should be illegal. Plus, I kind of feel like I have the shakes and that I am getting a little too giddy. No one needs a giddy, goofy Vicki on coffee at work. Just plain giddy and goofy is good enough. It’s a good thing no one is here with me because I think I would be talking a mile a minute and no one would understand me. I am reminding myself of Hammie from the movie Over the Hedge. It took me 7 and half minutes to write this whole blog. Is that a caffeine high?

I have also tried a bit of salmon, calamari and crab cakes that my mom ordered while we were at a restaurant. The hard part of all this is it adds a whole new dimension to ordering off a menu when it was already hard enough to decide as it is! I think it’s great that I am trying new things and I encourage everyone to do the same and have some adventures of your own!