i am always willing to try something new. in fact, that's what i look for when dining somewhere. now, i won't order the lobster special at a greasy spoon in kansas (i would in kennebunkport
), but i try to order things that i've never had before that i think the place would do well.
i guess it stems from my childhood, where my best friends were of very different cultures. italian, jewish, asian, armenian, and of course, my own ancestry of irish and norwegian were all fantastic influences to me as a boy.
i distinctly remember going out with my asian-american friend's family to restaurants in ny's chinatown every february for new year's and having some of the weirdest albeit most delicious food any gringo ever tried. fish heads and crab claws floating around in soup is nothing short of totally cool to a 10 year old. the gross out factor of chinese snails in black bean sauce is only outdone by how tasty they are. so good you'd almost forget about the little red envelopes (ka-ching!) that all of the aunt's and uncles would bestow upon us.
now, sundays were for feasting at my italian american buddy's house. his mom would start cooking on saturday night, and we'd begin the pig out just after church on sunday. it was a real macho male bonding thing, with all of the men, mostly sicillians, sitting around and indulging in plates of everything from cheeses, breads, and salume while we watched a ballgame as the ladies bonded in the kitchen. then we'd all gather at the table to dig in to courses of salads, pastas, and finally the sunday gravy.
i won't even begin to tell you what an italian christmas is like.
my high school girl friend was jewish, of german descent, who's family kept kosher. in fact, they owned a kosher meat products company. eating at their house was an experience and a half. watching all of the preparation as her mom worked her kitchen as oddly but efficiently as could be was only half of the fun. the whole house would suddenly stop and come together for the meal, and a truely hectic pace slowed to a polite, reserved, respectful and intelligent conversation of the issues of the day as we enjoyed the incredible things that her mom and dad prepared. it was quite a change of pace from my gravy stained/open belt buckle italian sundays, i'll tell you what.
having armenian friends meant getting to celebrate certain holidays twice. such as our christmas, and their theophany, i think it was called. getting gifts on new years eve was always a bonus, along with some of the best breads and desserts the world has ever seen. "hatz" off to the armenians...
also, it was the only time that i ate so many vegetables in a dish without ever knowing that they were there. all i knew was that it was good.
i'm very glad and truely thankful that i was able to experience these things; too many to even remember let alone write them all down. but these events very early in my life has given me both an appreciation and respect for the diversity of all mankind, as well as a desire to continue to seek them out, try to understand them, and then eat them... umm, i mean enjoy the fruits of their traditions.