Saturday, February 5, 2011

Comfort Food

In the many ways that I define myself, one of my favorite personas is "the foodie". And so it is ironic  that as a child, my mother and I lived each and every day in food fights. I know that she thought I would never grow up because not enough food ever entered my mouth and the bits that did, had no nutritional value.

At home, our meals were always weird - my mother was from the West Indies and had never learned to cook before coming to the States. After marrying my father, she came to live in the South - first starting off living with his sisters in south Georgia. Mother detested Southern Food but loved my father so she did her best to start learning how to cook in the Southern way.  The truth is, she never really mastered the art and so her meals were Southern with a Caribbean flavor. As I got older, I realized that her flavorings were interesting but as a child, they were confusing and unlike anything the neighbors moms were serving.

When I was thirteen, I went to live in a boarding school. Food was for survival - the nuns could have cared less if we liked it or not and they certainly had better things to do than to fight with us over eating or not. Since the game with mom had ended, I resolved myself to start eating and trying things just to get by. When I would go home to my mother's house, I started to realize that her pidgin way of cooking was interesting - today it would be considered New Cuisine - and I started to appreciate the different spices and blending of foods that would not normally be experienced. To this day, I have never tasted spaghetti sauce (that is what she called the marinara sauce) made with bell peppers anywhere but in her kitchen. Her sauce was sort of like a Sloppy Joe sauce but she spiced  it with Italian seasonings and served it over pasta and proudly proclaimed that we were eating Italian on those occasions.

Today, I would rather not eat if the food isn't interesting and really good. There are not many things that I won't try and there are many things that I could eat each and every day (like pasta served with anything). Meals are experiences. I love the smells, the flavors, the companionship and the love that comes with a well prepared meal.

I am so reminded of this when I think about the meals of the last couple of days. I am visiting my daughter in Gainesville. We went to an Ayurveda spa yesterday and had healing, cleansing massages  and so, out of guilt, came home last night and prepared delicious vegetarian food. Today, we changed all that and headed out to Ivey's Grill and had eggs, cheese grits, bacon and biscuits. After visiting quite a few antique stores, we found ourselves in Alachua lunching at a wonderful Southern Inn eating cornbread, macaroni and cheese, oven fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and broccoli casserole. For dinner, we ate at home - taking the lovely left over vegetarian food and mixing it up with left over grilled lamb and steak, fresh spinach and sauteing the combination in olive oil and butter and then topping it off with cheese and cucumber-tomato salad. Adding a glass of Cote d' Rhone rounded off the flavors and we had the best meal of the day right here at home. My mother would be proud. My daughter and I have no fear of throwing the most unlikely combination of foods together and coming up with a gourmet delight.

Being a foodie is a heck of a fun thing. Thanks Mom for all of your influence in our gypsy way of eating.