How childhood shaped my love for food

Growing up, neither of my parents liked to cook.

My dad enjoyed the grill and my mom would whip meals together, but family dinner most often meant dining out.

We would hit a rotation of frequented restaurants, that is, aside from nights shown in the photo below. My siblings and I would dress up as mom made a classy meal. It was often something along the lines of steak and baked potatoes.

We’d drink water from wine glasses, light candles and hide behind the couch until my dad walked through the door home from work. At which point, we’d scream and run out to hug him.

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Oh, to be seven.

Indeed, our family dinners happened primarily at restaurants.

Mid-afternoon, sometimes mid-morning, someone in the family would hit the family group chat to ask, “what’s for dinner?”

The conversation looked like this:

“Chinese?”
—“No.”

“Pizza?”
—“I had that for lunch.”

“Thai?”
—“YEAH.”

“Ok. Be in the car at 6!”

This sounds like an underwhelming argument for restaurants thus far, but truthfully I’m grateful for the dining out. It offered the chance to expand my palate and made my own cooking better.

Save for some mud-sliding cake, re. photo below, circa 2013 — I’m not such a bad chef.

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In any case, the dinners I spent on fake-plastic restaurant cushions shaped who I am today. The art of leaving home and seeing more of life was social. My mind expanded for cuisine and the interactions with the world.

Exaggeration? No. For a 7 year old, the world is small.

The key here was routine. Dining at restaurants as a family was a constant in my life. I knew, regardless of how the day went, the meal would be there.

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Spending time in a service job is wise to appreciate the industry. Similarly, I felt ‘one with the waiters’ at our weekly dinners. I built an empathy for people that continues in me today.

Rarely do you consider the impact of how you were raised, at least not with little details. Parents fret over the idea. As moms’ bellies expand like watermelons, they have a book on parenthood in hand.

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This makes sense. Everyone wants to know what they’re getting themselves into. Anticipating leads to preparedness. After all, everyone strives for their best. #1. Gold medal. Perfect.

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Is this what we should aim for?

Where does perfectionism get us besides disappointed. At the finish line only to receive 4th place; at a cooking competition where we’re awarded #5; after an interview that you did not land. You were not a fit.

Life and we should be imperfect, flawed and messy. In fact, we all already are, so why not embrace it?

Cherish the dull in the midst of the shine. What’s key is gratitude. Be grateful for the uniqueness within each of us, each relationship and each way we’ve been raised.

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Perspective shows us that imperfect is unique, messy is relaxed and flawed is human.

That is life, and it’s quite beautiful that way.

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