My mom is an amazing part of my life. Without a doubt, she unwittingly made me the fresh food nut that I am today. She made me think that eating the cabbage core was fun, that peeling an orange was an adventure. She made planting and harvesting a carrot from the earth seem like the simplest thing in the world. And when the rhubarb came, it was a treat to break off a fresh stalk, brush it off and eat it raw.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of fancy food or sweet treats. I remember eating entire lemons and oranges – peels and all – and not knowing at the time that there was anything unusual in that. My mom didn’t do all of this consciously – it’s just the way she eats. And she passed that on to me.
I hated fresh mushrooms for most of my early youth and yet I loved the ones out of a can. Then one day, the fresh ones tasted better….different….they say that your taste buds change and I guess mine did.
My mom still jokes that she should never have let us kids taste steak or lobster because we never wanted a hot dog again. (though just for the record, I do still love a good hot dog)
I can still picture my mom in her garden – mostly because she still has one. But I can see her back then, bent over the earth, poking, weeding, harvesting. It’s a sweet memory of mine because, though it wasn’t a huge garden, she harvested great memories for me from it.
My maternal grandmother grew a few vegetables here and there – at least that I remember. A small garden in back, eventually becoming a small row of lettuce and vegetables alongside her driveway.
My paternal grandma owned a restaurant and was an amazing gardener and cook. Her garden took up most of her yard, at least in my memory. I can still see the rows of huge cabbages and green beans. She canned and made her own applesauce and jams. Distant memories but there and sweet nonetheless.
My family grew up near a Green Giant plant and every summer there was a huge sale on fresh sweet corn. We kids would ride our bikes down to the plant, load up bags of fresh corn on our bikes, and then bike them home. I can still remember grumbling as we had to shuck and silk ears and ears of sweet corn, but the smell of sweet corn still brings a smile to my face.
My mom used to make a dish called Mock Lobster. All I remember was it involved fresh cod loins simmered in Old Bay seasoning. She served it with dishes of freshly melted butter and oh, man, I loved that stuff. My mom really made food fun.
I could go on and on – and I’m sure I’ll revisit some more memories along this journey. But I often think about where my love of fresh vegetables comes from and I don’t really have to think too deeply. My mom has been an inspiration in my life for many things and my love of food is definitely one of them.