I don’t consider myself a foodie, but M does. Of course next to him, I suppose I am. I’m Korean-Canadian, and he’s white. White-Canadian. Whitey, white, white. So while we both grew up eating things like Kraft Dinner and Hamburger Helper, I also ate Korean food. That alone makes my food experience a tad broader. Though M’s mom was born in Slovakia, she never prepared Eastern European dishes. Just as well because, apparently, she wasn’t a great cook, and tended to overcook everything. Her chicken was like the turkey in Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation – dusty dry. When M was a teenager, his dad would call him to ask what was for dinner and, if it was chicken night, would arrange to covertly meet M at a nearby McDonald’s.
In my mind, foodies are somewhat pretentious people with impeccably discerning and adventurous palates. That’s not me. I just love food. Next to being a bit of a clean freak, I’ve always had a preoccupation with food, even bordering on obsessive at times. It’s amazing what years of controlling calories will do to a dancer’s mind – all we can think about is food! I plan dinner at breakfast, and holiday meals weeks in advance. I have the most delicious conversations with dancer friends about meals we’ve had, meals we’ve prepared, restaurants we’re dying to try and on and on. I’ll show up early to my dentist appointments just to read the recipes in Chatelaine and Canadian Living. Even better? My dentist has televisions in his exam rooms that I set to the Food Network. I learned how to make buttermilk fried chicken, during my last fluoride treatment!
The Food Network is my go-to channel. The first one I turn on, the one I turn to during commercials, when watching other shows. It’s the only channel that programs shows right up until the next show. So at 2 minutes to the half hour or top of the hour, when all the other channels are running commercials, the Food Network is still showing food! M thinks I’m nuts.
I especially like programs that show people eating the food they’ve made. Probably because I grew up in the 70’s watching the Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr (the King of orgasmic eaters), who ingrained in me a palpable pleasure of food.
I’m not the most ambitious eater, but I enjoy tasty, well-prepared dishes of almost any ethnicity. I get a little picky with meat. Anything beyond cow, pig, chicken, and some seafood, makes me squeamish. But after initially balking at, or downright reviling, certain foods for much of life, I’ve developed a great fondness for things like pickled ginger, cilantro, raw oysters and sashimi. And considering I’ve evolved from well-done grey to juicy medium pink in my cooking preference for beef, I think my taste buds are maturing quite nicely.
M’s food likes are narrower than mine. For him, pizza (extra cheese, pepperoni, sometimes pineapple), hamburgers (no garnish, lots of ketchup) and wings (hot, with extra hot sauce on the side) are his go-to eats. He doesn’t care for very strong-tasting foods (too garlicky, oniony or spicy), seafood, anything cream-based or pickled, or most vegetables. He’s allergic to mushrooms, peaches, nectarines and nuts (though not in a can’t-be-in-the-same-room-as-a-cashew kind of way).
Once, when he was on a business trip, we were chatting on the phone. He was tired and cranky because he hadn’t eaten much all day. I asked him what he was having for dinner.
“I’m just going to order pizza.”
Imagining how many times he’d probably had pizza that week, I suggested he order a salad too.
“No,” he groaned, “I just want to relax.”
Apparently, broccoli would have pushed him over the edge.
One birthday, I asked M to take me to a new restaurant called Buca. We started with two glasses of Prosecco and a lovely cheese and charcuterie plate (we both passed on the horse meat salumi). For my main, I had the braised beef short-ribs with polenta and he had (wait for it) pizza – a tad more misshapen and rustic than his favourite, Pizza Nova. My meal was divine – creamy, fall-off-the-bones tender and very tasty. Incredibly rich, but I savoured each bite. He, on the other had, was less impressed.
“Meh,” he said, “it’s alright. I mean, it’s no Pizza Nova.”
The day after that meal, I regaled my dance colleagues with mouth-watering details of my fabulous meal, and laughed about M’s comment. One gal said she could never date a guy who didn’t love food. What she meant was she could never date a guy with M’s less adventurous tastes in food. Sure, M likes what he likes, but he’s also willing to try things at least once. Why just the other night, we had dinner at a high-end sushi restaurant, chosen by his former colleague. Course after meticulous course, the chef designed the entire meal for the table. The food was fresh, delicate, and M actually liked it. Later, of course, he admitted that all the beer and sake helped it go down easier.
Although they aren’t his first choice, M’s not averse to going to restaurants off his beaten track. His first meeting with my family was at a Korean restaurant, and he loved it. We’ve also had Thai, Chinese, Indian, and even went to Rodney’s Oyster House. True, he didn’t have any oysters, and he did somehow manage to get a steak that’s not even on the menu. But he chose the restaurant just because he knew I’d like it. What more can a gal ask for?