Will Curry Call Her Home One Day?

I suspect that I am quite lucky.

Kat, although she has started doing the toddler food-controlling games, still loves real honest to God food.

Here, you can see her using a regular sized spoon to feed herself homemade Cajun red beans and rice. Hardly a bland dish, my vegetarian version is filled with onions, garlic, and both sweet and hot peppers, Thyme, rosemary and celery seeds add fragrance, and Kat adores it.

She still loves curries, mattar paneer is a favorite, but she also likes various chicken curries. The other day at Casa, she was scooping up refried beans and guacamole with a regular teaspoon and feeding herself quite handily. She even scooped up pieces of quesadilla from Zak’s plate–he’d tear off bits of his pork, rice and refrieds quesadilla and she’d use her spoon to scoop them up, instead of picking them up in her fingers. She is very into using a spoon these days.

Blueberries are a favorite, as are potatoes in any form. Cheese is beloved–although she has the toddler peculiarity of thinking that all cheese must be orange to be cheese. I have to convince her to try white cheeses, even though she used to eat them gladly a few months ago.

Eggs scrambled with cheese and herbs is a great quick lunch or breakfast for her, and she always eats it. Whole wheat toast with butter and sometimes strawberry jam are also favorites–the one time she was given white bread at my parents’ home, she spit it out. Instead, she chose to eat the pumpernickel bread that her grandfather was eating–bland foods just do not impress her at all.

She likes beef, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, Thai basil–we know this because Zak plucked a leaf from our deck garden for her to taste and her eyes lit up and she insisted on another leaf immediately. She even liked my Thai Basil Chicken, even though it was very hot with the first Thai chilies from the garden.

And she still loves fresh tomatoes, and has been keeping an eye out for ripe ones on our huge tomato plants up on the deck. Spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce and lots of freshly grated cheese is another perennial favorite, especially if there are some cut up olives or some chili flakes in it.

We still feed her so-called “kid foods–” meaning that she snacks on cereals and crackers, and now and again, she has macaroni and cheese or ramen noodles from a package for lunch, but then, so do the rest of us. She eats ice cream when we do (chocolate is her favorite) and when we have tortilla chips with salsa, she is right there with us.

And sometimes, she has cereal for lunch, just because that is all she is interested in eating.

But all in all, she eats what eat quite happily and cheerfully. She is a little more wary of new foods and flavors these days, but is still much more adventurous than a lot of kids are. We don’t cook separate meals for her when we are eating–we just make sure that there will be something in our meal that she will like and eat.

And there almost always is. (Especially when we are having Singapore Rice Noodles, which combine her favorite foods–noodles and curry–a meal made in heaven for Kat!)

So, I guess I am lucky.

I cannot help but wonder what sort of tastes she will grow up with, eating these sorts of foods. What will her childhood memories of dinner be like, since she has eaten a combination of Appalachian farm food, Indian and Thai curries, Chinese and Thai stir-fries and Mexican foods, as well as traditional and improvised pasta dishes? And she is still getting exposed to pizza, a few french fries and the occasional hot dog, just like most kids.

What food memories will she carry with her as an adult? What scents, flavors and textures take her back to her childhood and give her a sense of comfort and “home?”

I think about that often, and I think that more parents should, too. What we feed our kids early in their lives is what they will want to eat for the rest of their lives. I was lucky in that I was fed mostly homemade foods, most of them fresh and locally grown, with convenience items at a minimum, and fast foods as a special treat. And to this day, a plate of sliced tomatoes, well-salted and peppered, next to a platter of grilled or freshly boiled corn on the cob and a big bowl of ice-cold coleslaw makes me miss my Grandma. The smell of roast lamb and cauliflower with cheese sauce brings to mind my Gram, and a certain combination of tomatoes and herbs make me think of my Aunt Nancy’s spaghetti sauce. And the smell of beef and lentils cooking into a thick soup makes me think of Mom and Dad.

Will the scent of Indian spices and Thai basil, of sesame oil and Shao Hsing wine, of toasting chilies and warm tortillas fresh from the griddle do the same for Kat? Will curry call her home in her mind long after I am gone? Will the flavor of Singapore Rice Noodles in a restaurant remind her of her mother’s kitchen?

It is just something I think about.

9 Comments

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  1. That’s really beautiful…and really impressive. She’s advanced far beyond my twelve-year-old brother.

    Comment by laurie — July 10, 2008 #

  2. I often wonder the same for my son who is now 2.75. He cut his teeth on food with dishes from across the globe and loves the hot and spicy foods. He’ll eat darn near anything if it doesn’t move fast enough.

    I often wonder if he will pine for a sandwich when he is older, haha.

    A beautiful post!

    Comment by Moderndayhermit — July 10, 2008 #

  3. It is a lovely idea, isn’t it? I dream of my children (and this is in the abstract, as I don’t yet have children) finding comfort in foods from many different cultures…

    …but it does worry me sometimes, wondering if there will be place in their global palate for the beloved dishes that—despite not making frequent appearances in my kitchen—remind me of home and comfort.

    Comment by Alan — July 10, 2008 #

  4. I was born in good ole Los Angeles, so I was exposed to Mexican cuisine at a very young age. It is still my favorite cuisine by far, despite some globetrotting and plenty of exposure to other food.

    Mexican doesn’t make me feel “at home” though. It’s exciting and tasty and I devour it greedily, but I really feel most at home with Hungarian cuisine of my ancestors. We didn’t eat it often at home. My mom was young and single and didn’t often cook from scratch, but at family reunions… Mmmmmm… Nothing makes me feel more comfy, cozy, loved, and at home than chicken paprikas or stuffed cabbage or goulash or, well, you get the picture. :)

    I guess what I’m saying is, it’s not the food that I was fed on a daily basis that comfort me and call me home. It’s those foods that I associate with being surrounded by family and love and fun times that I really and truly enjoy and crave.

    Comment by Mist — July 10, 2008 #

  5. “What we feed our kids early in their lives is what they will want to eat for the rest of their lives.”

    Not always. And thank heaven, too. My parents were stunningly conventional when it came to baby and toddler food despite their deep and abiding interest in exotic food for themselves. (Fortunately they eventually fed us what they were eating and fortunately, about a decade after that I got into it myself.)

    Comment by Harry — July 11, 2008 #

  6. What a lovely thought!

    Your daughters will no doubt have many foods that they remember you making with love and help transport them home when they miss you. Lucky them!

    When I moved away from home, I often called my dad to ask how he made something or another. He passed away last fall. A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my mom on the phone about how he made bean soup with ham. She had never it herself and I think she missed him. Certain food can help loneliness sometimes, and we’re glad for it.

    Comment by Libby — July 11, 2008 #

  7. What a lovely post! I lived in Turkey as a child and my father’s family is from Lebanon so Tabouli, yogurt, dishes with lamb and pilaf are my comfort foods. Neither my brother, sister or I had any problem with all sorts of different foods, maybe because we lived in so many different countries and my parents always had a cook who made the local dishes. Ful Mesdemes in Egypt! Taramosalata in Greece! Pasta with clams in Naples! Roti in Trinidad! But my four nieces – my brother’s kids – would only eat junk like cheeze wiz, chicken munuggets and other crap because my sister-in-law hated to cook and only fed them junk. Even now, when they are grown up, their tastes run to McDonald’s and Taco Bell. So, I suspect that being introduced to good foods – or not – early in life, always stays with you. Your delightful daughter is a true culinary. child of the 21st century.

    Comment by Nancy — July 12, 2008 #

  8. Lovely! Like Mist, although we didn’t eat Russian food all the time, Russian food makes me feel cozy, because it reminds me of big family gatherings, when my relatives would make home-made pirozhki, stuffed cabbage (gulupsi), mushrooms in sour cream, smoked salmon, caviar, any kind of pickles….I’m drooling!

    Comment by Maria DaCosta — July 15, 2008 #

  9. that was really beautiful, barbara. here,in kochi, both me and rajan often share our childhood food memories. unfortunately (or, fortunately ?), we never had such a wide variety of food around in our childhood. it was always rice, rice and more rice !

    can you imagine that my staple during school days was rice in the morning, rice for lunch and rice for dinner ?

    for breakfast, it was rice with some ghee, some dal (lentil), and pappad. for lunch it was rice in a steel tiffin box topped with two curries, one with gravy and one dry. my mother had an additional bottle of buttermilk and pickle on top of rice. for dinner it was rice and curries from lunch ! idly / dosa/ puttu etc. for breakfast was a weekend treat, with both parents working. even now, i love to have my rice-ghee-dal with some salty pappad and some dry stir-fry (upperi).

    Comment by renu — July 17, 2008 #

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