Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's your "food"?

  Given the chance what would you eat?  It has been tradition in our family that on your birthday you can choose any meal you want and dad will cook it.  Now that my children are getting older their choices for that meal are changing and I began to wonder what, if anything that says about them, or for that matter what our "meal" says about any of us.
     My eldest, Read, now 22 was just home for a few days leave from the Army.  He had not been home for  several months, having been training to be a Cav Scout and then Airborne training.  Since his birthday is in May, we decided that he should have his birthday meal now since he will be at his base in Alaska and we may not see him again until his next birthday. (he'll be deploying to Afghanistan in the fall).  So of all the things he could have requested, he wanted brats on the grill.  Those of you not from the Midwest may not realize it, but brats are the "meat in a tube" of choice here in Wisconsin. This got me to thinking about his request.  To put it in the most simple terms, although brats may not be high cuisine, to him they taste like home.  Food can do that, in his words "At airborne school we were talking about what we eat at home, and I've been jonesing for a brat ever since."  So I think my son has become not just a man but a soldier, someone who, when times get tough thinks of the simple things back home........a brat, some kraut and a beer. 
     So, I fired up the grill (in the rain) threw on the brats made some beans, kraut and corn on the cob.  Opened a beer and had this "special" meal with my wife and 2 of my sons.  Again I was reminded that a real meal is not so much about the food as it is about sharing ourselves, laughing, crying and swapping stories.
     Now, contrast that with my middle son, Dom the Archaeologist, one of the smartest guys you will ever meet.  What does he ask for?  Coq au Vin, if you don't know what that is look it up.  Suffice it to say that it is a French chicken and wine dish that when made properly takes literally all day to prepare.  So, I get up early and start cooking this fairly complicated dish.  What does this say about Dom?  Well it could be he just wants to make his dad work all day to cook a meal for him, or he enjoys the complexity and different layers of flavors and textures involved in the dish.  I 'll let some psych major figure out how that relates to his chosen field.  But, in the end, we sit around the table and talk, and celebrate his year and many accomplishments.
     Ah, but what about the youngest?  He is only 13, what could his choice of meal possibly say about him?  Gabe chooses ribs, slow cooked on a charcoal grill with a smoking attachment pumping out hickory smoke, and then smothered in Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce.  I usually let them cook all after noon so the meat just falls off (I'm getting hungry, maybe I can sneak some in before his b'day in September).  Any way, it could very well be that he just really likes ribs.  But I remember one of the first times he had ribs,  it was at a Famous Dave's during a family vacation.  I'll always remember the look on his face when they brought out all that food on the lid of a garbage can, it was the look of joy and astonishment.  So does he choose ribs to bring back some of that memory?  Maybe a little, that day always seems to come up as we are wiping the sauce off of our faces during is birthday meal. 

So, what is your "meal"?  And what does it say about you?  Your past?  And your home?

Stay hungry

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