Thursday, February 21, 2008

sweet potato salad; childhood foods

My aunt made a good cold sweet potato salad for my uncle's birthday.

Boil sweet potatoes, toss with diced green pepper, white onion, celery, olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Very simple, but very good.

I think it's a great example of changing tastes. I didn't like a lot of different foods when I was growing up, including sweet potatoes. Maybe because I couldn't stand the icky, sickly-sweet, fake-fluff marshmallow.

Other foods I hated as a kid:

  • broccoli: brown and overcooked, so bitter
  • cheese: I only liked mozzarella, and string cheese. Disliked cheddar, even if melted. Especially disliked stinky cheese, like blue cheese or particularly the "green can" of Kraft Parmesan. No grilled cheese (until later), certainly not on sandwiches.
  • chocolate: bars, ice cream, chocolates, sauce, chocolate chip cookies; mint chocolate chip was a double whammy of badness
  • cookies: mom never backed chocolate chip (or any for that matter), so I never learned to appreciate the joy of a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie
  • melon: no honeydew, no canteloupe, only watermelon
  • green veggies: green beans cooked until they were brown and dead; spinach
  • cauliflower
  • tomatoes: OK in pasta sauce (like on spaghetti, I think the only pasta my mom regularly served); couldn't stand them fresh, neither in salads nor on sandwiches.
  • any egg that wasn't scrambled: sunny side up or over easy = yuck!
  • Coca Cola (see below)
  • Plain cheese pizza
  • Big Macs: cheese and dressing were bad, too complicated
  • Spumoni ice cream: chocolate in there, weird flavors
  • Beets: too strong and earthy, kinda like spinach
  • Cabbage: some was passable, but in general disliked most forms: Brussel sprouts, sauerkraut, fresh
  • Squash: still don't like it too much; what bothers me most is texture, I think. can't get around the stringy texture most of the time.
What I liked:

  • Soda: my great aunt always had a 6 pack of 7-UP "shorty" cans in her closet, which I would poach when I would visit. Mom would never buy soda, and if bought, never Coca Cola
  • Ketchup: cmon, what kid doesn't?
  • Pizza: all kinds, just not plain cheese
  • Basic McDonald's hamburger: no Big Mac, didn't like the dressing and esp. the cheese
  • Strawberries: fresh, or also my favorite ice cream flavor...well, that and vanilla.
  • Salad: iceberg, with thousand island or vinaigrette
  • Carrots: watching B&W TV cartoons in my grandpa's room after school Friday
  • Apples: see "Carrots"
  • Blackberries: from my grandparent's bushes in the backyard
  • Pineapple guava: amazing little green, egg-sized guava, right off my grandparents' tree
  • Kumquats: from my aunt and uncle's backyard tree, surprisingly tart and tangy
  • Oranges: juice or fresh, as long as not dry, delicious!
  • Satsumas/Clementine tangerines: I remember a tense family trip to Sequoia around Thanksgiving, and we got some at a roadside stand that were a revelation to me.
  • Tacos: "ghetto tacos" ,ground beef
  • Fejoida: my mom learned from my dad's mom
  • Meatloaf: simple, yet tasty
  • Potatoes: french fries, tater tots, hash-browns, pan-fried a la grandma on Fridays
  • Steak: vinegar + garlic marinated flank steak, and nice T-Bones at lunch on Fridays at grandparents
  • Baked chicken: bone-in chicken breasts, baked, crispy skin and delicious fond (baked on bits) in the bottom of pan....I figured out for myself that blending them with the rice that was often served was another delicious revelation.
  • Walnuts: cracking fresh walnuts....where else? my grandparents house
  • Juice: all and every kind, orange/apple/grape/lemonade/cranberry!
  • Tonic water: had one taste, I think in Palm Springs, and decided nearly immediately "yes this is for me!" I liked the sweetness with the citrusy, bitter tang.
  • Spaghetti: my mom made 2 pastas: spaghetti and lasagne. Spaghetti was always prepared sans-sauce, so you'd have to ladle it at the end, and mix it yourself (don't like that style anymore)
  • Bacon: one of my favorite dishes? Mom used to make this for the feijoida. Dice bacon, and saute with onion, a bit of garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Serve over my grandma's black rye bread
  • Grandma's rye bread. Had an excellent version in LT; I can get close, but I'm not there yet. When toasted and buttered, became just like a french fry, slightly crispy on the outside, light and chewy in the middle. Heaven in a slice!
Note to self: watching Tony Bourdain in Cleveland with Harvey Pekar. Gotta pick up American Splendor graphic novels.

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