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Your moment of discover/ I knew I was a Chowhound when...

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I grew up in a very whitebread culinary environment. my mother came from a family where she was the oldest of 5. Her option at home , chore wise, was make dinner or watch her siblings. She always chose the latter. She was wonderfully prepared to be a mother, but poorly prepared to be a home cook.

She did her best. We ate a lot of "goulash" ( no not as inspiring as it sounds), "sloppy joes", burgers, grilled chicken, tacos (gringo style), minestone soup, and pepper steak. She never met a veggie she couldn't overcook. Meat was cooked well done. Period.

When we ate out we did so at the most suburbanite friendly places. I was the child with the adventurous palette that would eat most anything. My younger sister was a fussy eater. Since her tastes we difficult, her prefferences dominated.

At the tender age of 14 I found myself faced with the greatest challenge of my life. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. 2 surgeries in the course of 6 weeks trimmed my already lanky 6 foot from to a gaunt 112 lbs. Recuperation led to a lot of creative ways to kill boredom. Cooking shows offered a break from M.A.S.H. re-runs. The kitchen offered me a place to burn some cabin crazy creative energy, and add a few lbs back to my skinny frame. I fell in love with cooking. I fact I realized I always had loved being in the kitchen. My first memories are of afternoons spent making chocolate chip cookies with mom (I was about 2)

When I was 15 I met Jose'. I didn't know that I was in the infancy of a lifelong friendship. I just liked the guy. He was the Butch Cassidey, outgoing and social, to my measured quiet Sundance Kid. He took great amusement in the foods I was used to. Being mexican born he found them lacking.

One day he talked me into having dinner in a local taqeria with him. Not the Mexican food I was used to. No nordic high school kids busing tables. No slurpy machine marguaritas. He suggested, more of a challenge, "Let me order for us, I won't tell you what it is until you try it!" I was game. He ordered in Spanish, and the woman waiting on us replied in Spanish. I couldn't miss the sly smile. She was in on it now. We mowed our way through tacos that night as only teenaged boys can. We washed them down with soda I had never seen before. Jose' loved it. He half expected I would jump out of my skin when I leaned I had been eating tongue (lengua) or cheek (cabeza). I was in heaven. I made myself a promise that I would seek out food that gave me this much enjoyment regularly. I would find those great holes in the wall. I would cull needles from great mounds of hay.

Years later I read a brief magazine articles about a website started by a New York food writer. A place dedicated to the delicious. Chowhound.com.

You now know the events that brought me here. Care to share yours?


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  1. I knew I was a Chowhound when...

    My wife and I had travelled a bit in Italy purely to eat with one rule never to eat in the same place twice no matter how good the food.
    Anyway, we got stranded in the Cinque Terrra for three nights. The CT are five primitive fishing villages on the ligurian sea and are known for pesto, seafood, risotto and vino de cinqueterra.
    Most of the restaurants were closed for the year. Fortunately, the only restaurant open in our village was one of the best we had eaten in all of Italy. After the third night in the restaurant the chef invited my wife and I back into the kitchen. I noticed that he cooked all of his food in clay pot servers and under extreme heat. He explained the benefits of cooking that way which took little convincing cause his food was the best.
    After midnight that evening, we were roaming the town in a drunken stupper and noticed the light was on in the local enoteca. We stumbled in and saw a stack of these clay pot for sale in the corner. It cost about $25 bucks, but how I cherished that pot. We could not fit it in the suitcase, so we checked in the plane $2000 worth of Murano glass, but I flew home with the pot on my lap.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Shoeman

      Hi Brandon,

      I look at this site and think usually, oh, it's just about food. But I come back because it's about life. Your posting bowled me over.

      My dad lives a couple of blocks (1.3 mi.) from the crash site in Rockaway 11/13. He got his phone service back today, called me up, said, "Yeah, everyone's okay. What're you making tonight?"

      1. re: lucia

        My parents and I had that "talk" a few months ago, about what to do when...My father said, "When you bring in boneless spare-ribs, and I don't wake up for that; pull the plug..."

        1. re: lucia

          Lucia --
          Loved your post. . . that's exactly what it's all about! Glad your dad's okay. . . and wondering what you made for dinner??

          1. re: Nancy

            Fish Pie, the ultimate English comfort food:

            1 lb. scrod, poached until it flakes, in milk with a bay leaf and peppercorns,

            Remove fish from milk, place in large chunks in a pie dish, nap generously in parsley sauce (thick bechamel with loads of minced parsley and a grating of nutmeg),

            cover with a mashed potato crust, bake until hot and then glaze under a broiler.

            Must be served hot with boiled green peas.

            This dish is magic when you need the familiar and gentle.

      2. I was working in an excellent restaurant on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It was between my junior and senior years of college and I was basically working my way around Spain while having a blast doing it. Anyway, the restaurant was the bottom floor of a castle near Palma and very posh. The executive chef had just come over from the Ritz in Barcelona and had brought five or six younger protoges with him.

        One night, after closing, he gathered everyone in the kitchen around the butcher table. Atop the table lay (what seemed to me) to be a very large tuna. Maybe 200-300 lbs. I guess that is in reality, just a baby. The tuna had been cut in half already and he wanted to show his young charges the proper way to butcher the fish to make steaks.

        Before getting down to the business of butchering the steaks, he silenty walks around the table and hands each of us a large soup spoon. He points to the section of the tuna's belly that contained all the toro and explained that it didn't keep too well and was difficult to make into steaks so they weren't going to keep all of it. He then plunges his spoon directly into the middle of the toro and plucks up a scoop like ice cream and pops it in his mouth. Then he commanded each of us to do the same.

        Pure heaven. A huge tuna, laid split in half, fresh from the market that evening...all the toro I could possibly eat.

        As I happily gorged myself to belly-splitting fullness, that's when I think I became a Hound.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Andrew

          The hair on the nape of my neck tingled when I read your post!

          1. re: Andrew

            What is "toro"? Roe? A certain part of the carcass?

            1. re: Sharuf

              It's a Japanese word. When talking sushi, there are two types of tuna. The regular, "maguro", which is a deep red in color, and "toro" or "fatty tuna", which is much lighter, almost whitish. A tuna's belly section has a large pocket of toro (I presume to insulate against cold waters?), but it is much smaller in volume relative to the amount of maguro that can be butchered from a single fish. Because of it's relative low supply and seasonality, it is one of the most expensive cuts of fish.

              1. re: Sharuf

                > What is "toro"? Roe? A certain part of the carcass?

                It's the fatty flesh around a tuna's belly.

            2. When everyone I come in contact with on a regular basis, walks away or roll their eyes when someone else asks

              "where/what should we eat?"

              1. My story is just the opposite.....

                My mom is a great cook, and we ate lots of different things. There are stories about food in our house, like "Stand up lamb"....One of my mom's best dishes is marinated leg of lamb. One time she made it for my brother and me, and she couldn't slice as fast as we could eat!

                I was always a chowhound; at some point I realized that others were NOT chowhounds.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Peter
                  Brandon Nelson

                  On Mom...

                  Don't get me wrong, we didn't dread dinner. My mother did O.K., eating at home just wasn't much of an adventure. My family was never subjected to anything spicy. In fact I think my parents still have the same tiny bottle of tabasco in their cupboard. That bottle is at least as old as I am, and I'll be 31 in 2 weeks.


                  1. re: Brandon Nelson

                    I threw out my mom's bottle of gray tabasco last time I visited. This year it'll be the bacon bits on the spice rack that disappear...:-(

                2. Well, we were driving around France a few (ok, many) years ago, and on our way through Lyon we stopped at Troisgros (sp?) because we'd heard it was pretty good. So we had a nice dinner, but i like to get up early and the Ex likes to sleep in. So i wandered down to the kitchen at about 6am as the etages (apprentices, and sp? again) were chopping, slicing, butchering and, generally, getting ready for the day. After some conversation in broken French/English they invited me in, sat me at a stainless steel counter and gave me cafe with milk, a croissant fresh (really) out of the oven and homemade jam. I was fairly hooked.

                  The girlfriend calls me "foodwhore".

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: CliffA

                    It was croissants for me too...

                    When I was ten yrs old, we went to Paris. The hotel served fresh croissants every morning. I dunked them in hot chocolate -- and the world was never the same.

                    Later, I read in Simple Cooking that this was John Thorne's favorite breakfast. As if something so good needed the validation...

                  2. My mom is a great cook, so I've always been aware of the difference between good and bad food. Early on she taught us how much difference there can be between good and bad produce, and how to know which is which.

                    But for me, I realized I was a chowhound when I dropped a class and reorganized my entire college career because a class necessary for my old major conflicted with a local diner's thursday lunchtime only serving of the best chicken and dumplings I've ever had.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ben f
                      Michele Cindy

                      When Chowhounds are passionate about something we'll go to extremes, for food or whatever else it may be.
                      I know this is not a food story, but your story reminds me of the time I quit my waitressing job so that I could go and follow Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 1980 tour... (#1 summer of my life I might add...)

                    2. m
                      Michele Cindy

                      I knew something was up at a very early age. From the moment I was given a "kids" menu,I REFUSED the thing.
                      (Perhaps like many of my fellow chowhounds?).
                      My parents would give in to my requests. Sometimes I hated what I ordered and would never hear the end of it from my folks. But, I always was up for a new food adventure.

                      1. I'm sure there were moments before this, but I think the first time a cute high-school girl classmate said to me "really, you like to cook, maybe you could cook for me someime", I was hooked. Rudimentary knowledge of wine wasn't far behind.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: J. Pine

                          Very similar for me. The Girlfriend is, well, not too good in the kitchen, and i've been cooking for her since first date. I'd like to think she was hooked at that point.

                        2. What a great "coming of chow age" post!

                          The first suspicion that we were moving towards Chowhood came at 6 years old--when twin, Alice, and I refused to eat in the children's dining room at a summer hotel. "Too noisy, too many screaming kids and too limited a menu--nowhere as good as the adult dining room." To our eternal gratitude, my parents acknowledged our anguish--and each night, we were allowed to accompany them to their more dignified eating place.

                          At 7 years old, Dad introduced me to my first raw cherry stone clam. And at 8, headcheese was my favorite appetizer at Reiber's, an excellent German restaurant located halfway between New York and the Catskills.

                          My heart would beat excitedly on days scheduled for restaurant dining. Nothing much has changed as far as THAT goes. :-)

                          Today, I cannot pass a restaurant without checking the menu (you know--that staggering sway from one side of the road to the other.) At work, I'm the designated eater, who is asked to choose celebratory chow spots. When friends want to go out for lunch, they know the company cafeteria is not the destination I had in mind. (Tho I immediately send an e-mail to our chef, when he prepares a winner--ie, dynamite avocado soup.)I guess I would describe myself as "a fool for food."

                          But, there's no end to the learning process--and that's where Chowhound comes in. I discovered it several years ago--and it's the longest-lived entry on my "favorites list." I sort of think of it as "edible philosophy." And I'm always amazed by our wealth of philosophers!

                          1. I grew up with parents that always made wonderful foods. Sometimes tastes differ from one person to the next, even in a family of four, but it only helps in the quest for good chow.
                            In the second grade we were told by our teacher to choose a book from the library every day. I chose two books. One was a cooking book and the other a gardening book. All the other kids found 'regular' kids books to read. Must have been because of my time spent in my moms kitchen.
                            I still have the recipe for Zweeback German chocolate Truffles in my moms recipe catalog. I still grow my own tomatoes in my organic garden as well as other organic veggies. I hunt my own game. I prepare my own foods.
                            When I eat out, now almost daily as I work in "the big city", I find chowhound-ish type places to dine. I seek only places that serve what I consider food, even if it's the ONLY dish on the menu that is worth eating.
                            When dining with friends, non-chowhounds, and family they think of me as 'the difficult one', as I 'take a while' to find something edible on the menu of such places as 'The Cheesecake Factory', 'Applebees', or the local restaurant of tasteless slop.
                            Ah, until I found this site, I was alone, now I am among friends, Thank you.

                            1. Like the post! lesssee. Well I was always fascinated with cooking from a young age. My Dad ran a lunchonette in Upstate NY. Pretty Standard fair. When I would consider my chowhound 'birthing' though starts when I moved t Caliornia to live with my Ma and Stepfather. They had just come back from living in Tahiti and every night we ate fish. Now my idea of fish was the Gorton's Fisherman and this hit me for quite a loop. They used to go hunting so gradually they started eating other things and my stepfather steered the meals toward Italian Fare, most of which, I had never had. Risotto w/Quail. Pheasant in Cream Sauce. Venison Roasts and Chops. Spaghetti Sauce w/Rabbit. and other pastas. My Ma and Step Pa taught me how to eat really. Never forget learning how to make pasta sauce with Dolce Latte. or how he would talk about raisng snails in cornmeal to get em to taste "right". When they moved to Hawaii we drank up the Wine Cellar one bottle at a time. That was my lesson in Wine...

                              1. Mine came when I was 11. My folks had a tavern that served a limited menu. We were shuttled there for dinner nightly. My mother was a great cook but the menu was limited and boring. I was told, "You're not helpless, you can read... get a cookbook and cook your own dinner." That is exactly what I did and before long I was experimenting with my own creations. I remember when I discovered rataouille in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and I thought, "Wow, I make that... sort of".

                                1. What a fun subject! the only problem is that, it can be terribly complex. I am entirely consonat with the view expressed that there came a time when I realized that there were some unfortunates who were NOT interested in food. My training began early at the hand of my Francophile and Anglophile father who was determined not to waste time in educating his children. The family is Southern/New Orleans and so I had a very early exposure to really good cooking and restaurant dining. My chikdhood, however, was spent in NYC and Connecticut (my father was a corporate type) and I remember the german and italian reataurants in Manhattan quite clearly. My father did not have any truck with Henri Soule---he thought Soule should defer to the customer and would only eat at the pavilion if someone else paid. He preferred Marmiton, The Brussels and Le Perigord for his high-end dining and these were the ones I was brought up in on the special occasions when the children were hosed down and suited up. And the late, lamented Gripsholm Restaurant which was always a fun smorgasbord. But I also fell in love with the german butcher shops in Yorkville & was given eraly tutalage in proper butchering. My wise father also knew that a kid will eat "yucky" things many grown-ups avoid so I had lots of brain (with scrambled eggs, creole style) and tongue and such offal.

                                  We were something of an anomaly in Connecticut with our old Yankee friends who seemed to think of food as fuel. But some were bon vivants and we had lots of really first rate New Orleans dinners at our house there. Then, too, we were shutling back and forth to NO so we got the real thing at an early age. My father upped the ante when I was about 12 by taking us on a REALLY frugal tour of Europe and although I was a bit young for some stuff I encountered it set the groundwork for later food researches in that realm.

                                  I became interested in the production side of things when my mother was cooking my beloved artichokes without the hollandaise sauce (!) I was about 9 years old, I think. She wanted lemon butter because she did ot care to bother with the coimpound sauce. I protested this in a typically childish was to which she repied--"You want hollandaise? Make it yourself" and she threw me a cookbook. Well, I made it and it did not curdle. That is when I becamse hooked on cooking, a happy obsession that has carried me through the middle years of life. I drool over pictures of La Cornue ranges (the dark blue ones with chrome trim) & wish that I could cook dinner on one for Miss November (thus perfectly linking the twin arts).

                                  There is far more to this but one does not wish to gas on indefinitely. There is the proverbial Great Cook Grandma and memories of the Haymarket in Boston when sides of beef still hung in the buildings instead of latte shop decor. In short, I was extremely lucky to be in several "right places" at the right times.

                                  1. I think being a Chowhound is a genetic trait, but that's another thread.

                                    I KNEW it for the first time lying in my bathtub reading MFK Fisher's The Gastronomical Me, weeping silently through the pages recounting her early love affair with her second husband Timmy, how she met him late at night in his attic room for caviar and gin and they talked and talked--he always knew just what to say, and he always knew just what foods to feed her.

                                    MFKF was the first writer who articulated for me one of the fundamental truths about eating: the food itself isn't all that matters-- but also the company with whom one dines, the setting, and the attitude one brings to the table.

                                    1. I knew I was a chowhound when I would salivate looking at the pictures of the food in the coupoun section of the Sunday newspaper at the age of six. I would head to this section instead of the comics!

                                      1. The signs became apparent when I was a teenager;[1]I began to notice,and rate,the subtle differences in Drakes Apple Doodles,which I ate on a regular basis on my way home from school.[2]When they brought me mushy,tasteless food during a stay in the hospital,I wept.[3]I remember the last peach,at the top of our one tree,falling while I was in the yard.I ate it,warm from the sun,and it was wonderful,

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: M.K.
                                          Brandon Nelson

                                          Hospital food...

                                          Who cooks this crap? I was always talking my parents into sneaking me in a good meal. Mercy Childrens in Sacramento had a particularly inept kitchen about 1985. I developed a strategy. Breakfast was at least edible (order a ton of food), lunch was dicey, and dinner was the worst. Only the hamburgers and fries could be trusted. I had the worst pizza I have ever had in that place. The crust managed the miracle of a crust that was soggy, but burnt on the bottom. The mozzerella was a brown overcooked mess. It was one of the few times a teeanaged boy ever passed on a meal. Let alone pizza.


                                          1. re: Brandon Nelson

                                            If you think that's bad,try it when you're on a 'soft foods' diet;three variations on mush;enough to make anyone weep....

                                            1. re: M.K.
                                              Brandon Nelson

                                              I got another for you...

                                              "Clear liquid diet" which is essentially "broth" (bullion cube plus water), apple juice, and high protien jello. When I had abdominal sugery it was 9 days until I had solid food. For the first couple days dined on I.V. saline in intensive care. I then moved on to the above disaster for 3 or 4 days. The straight liquid diet added cream soup and ice cream. I redefined lean and mean at that point.

                                              I have also had the chowhound hurdle of a broken jaw. That sucked. 6 weeks of your mouth wired shut. The final insult was added to that injury post surgery. Here I was thinking O.K. I'm out of work for 6 weeks, read, work out, sunbathe. The doctor then told me due to the nature of my particular oral surgery I was not allowed to due ANYTHING that elevated my blood pressure. So Mr. 22 year old virile chowhound, no exercise, no sex, eat whatever you can drop into a blender and suck past your teeth. Have a nice day. Those were 6 hard weeks.


                                          2. re: M.K.

                                            By the time I was 7 or so, I'd become addicted to egg nog--not just any egg nog, but the richest available, even with a few lumpy egg yolks still intact (we're talking the late 1950s, Midwest),

                                            I knew I'd turned the chowhound (chowpup) corner when Christmastime came around and I managed to awaken by 6:30, just when the milkman had made his delivery that included a quart of eggnog. I would drink the entire quart, right from the bottle, then hop on my bike and ride a half-mile to the grocery store, buy another quart (about $1--the same milkman supplied them), bring that home, AND DRINK MOST OF THAT, TOO!

                                            For the ensuing portions of my life, I have always been willing and eager to go out of my way for something better to eat or drink. But I'd say it all started with egg nog . . . .

                                          3. What a provocative and complex thread. Ever since Brandon's first wonderful, beautifully written posting, I have found myself in off moments thinking about the topic.

                                            Even though my younger years were spent at the end of an ordinary street in an ordinary suburb in St.Louis, my parents were clearly maniacal chowhounds. It was the 1950's and 60's, and even though my mother was a very typical WASPy young woman in every other respect, she prepared artichoke hearts and eggplant when other Moms served canned peas, she braised sweetbreads instead of molding meatloaf, and she made tamales with Masa she brought back from New Mexico when other mothers brought peanut brittle back from their vacations (darn her anyway.) She was an inventive, wonderful, creative cook. My father came home every Friday night reeking of garlic and red wine. Friday lunch was with The Boys, and they always lunched on The Hill, and in time, we would troop off with him. (and we did.)

                                            While my mother didn't teach me to cook, she DID teach me to read before I began kindergarten. Long before being a chowhound, I was a bookworm. After I had read every single book in the house with a plot, I started in on the cookbooks, the yellow pages, technical journals. By the time I cracked open the Joy of Cooking, I was ready to start cooking. My mother didn't encourage it, but she didn't stand in my way, either. The only rule I had to follow? If I cook, I clean. Period. I launched into the Joy of Cooking, delighted by the successes, undeterred by the failures, and determined to master every possible recipe. I could ride my bicyle to the store, or take the bus downtown to Soulard Market for special ingredients.

                                            By the time I was a young adult, Tuesday lunch at Jane's was a ritual my teenage friends looked forward to attending. My parents had a wonderful long dining room table, with a dozen ladderback chairs around it, and I would regularly prepare a fairly elaborate meal for a dozen of my friends. I tackled cooking like I should have tackled my homework. First, I selected a menu, then I started researching recipes, going to at least three but sometimes as many as a dozen different sources for each item. I was hell bent on mastering every element of cooking, and used Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking as my main mentor. (Ms. Rombauer marked her favorite recipes with her own special word for "hyper deliciousness", it was "Cockaigne", as in "Braised Liver Cockaigne with Wine", a recipe located right next to "Braised Liver with Vegetables." Ms. Rombauer hailed from my neck of the Midwest woods, so I felt a special kinship to her, even though I never met her or her family. Through her writing, she was a kind and gentle teacher, her writing so thorough and patient and clear that I never felt the least bit afraid to try anything.

                                            Once a chowpup, always a chowhound? The stories on this thread are probably endless...thanks for asking. It has brought back many delightful memories.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Olympia Jane

                                              Olympia Jane: I don't think I've taken the opportunity to tell you how much I've enjoyed your postings since you appeared on the scene. For me, Chowhound has always meant a generosity of spirit, with knowledge and information, and in this thread, with memories. This is a belated thank you for some really great posts. I credit my dad with my Chowhoundishness. The man could cook! And while I feigned disinterest as a teenager, his gift to me is cherished now. pat

                                              1. re: Pat Hammond

                                                Thank you for YOUR warmth and generosity, Pat. Even though I have only been on chowhound for a short time, your welcoming spirit is abundabtly evident in your postings. I am honored by your welcome.

                                                If I had been truly honest about the "moment when I knew I was a chowhound", I would have said it became all too clear to me on the first date with the boy who would become my first boyfriend. I met him at a party at my house, he was a friend of my little brother. As if I, a sophisticated woman of 16, would ever be interested in a 15 year old, ha! Well, he knew exactly how to overcome the normally impossible one year (huge) age difference between the two of us...he asked me if I wanted to come over to his house the next day, as he had bought a fresh calf's head at Soulard Market, and was planning to spend the day cooking it down to make head cheese. I was simultaneously completely repulsed, completely fascinated, and absolutely positive I had never met a more interesting man in all my 16 years. I told him I would think about it.

                                                After the party I pulled out my trusty Joy of Cooking, found Irma and Marion's recipe for Head Cheese on page 511, a recipe calmly calling for brushing the teeth of the calf's head with a stiff brush, and removing and reserving the brains before simmering the head, and I knew I where I was spending my Saturday.

                                                We were inseparable for the rest of our high school years.

                                                1. re: Olympia Jane

                                                  Ahh, the nature of life and love, men and women, boys and girls. Olympia, I dont think you were the classmate I was referring to in my post, but you might have been. Two sides, same story.

                                            2. I've always loved food and sharing meals with others, and intuitively knew how it is fully representative of life itself, but it wasn't until very recently that I had my baptism by chow. It was over drinks with a crew of confirmed chowhounds, when one of our group (a new father) brought out photos of his newborn. As we were passing them around, out came another batch -- this one was of various dishes that he had the pleasure of trying while traveling in China. A couple of us joked about what "food geeks" we were, but that didn't stop any of us from dutifully and eagerly admiring the photos, salivating in envy! That's when I fully realized the nature of the common bond that brings us all together here, one that most "regular" folks will never get, but that we all just understand deep inside.

                                              1. m
                                                Mary Niepokuj

                                                I've never really had a moment of revelation, as some people here describe, but in retrospect there were chowhoundy signs very early. When I was about 8 or so, the local paper (The Detroit News) printed a recipe for a salad dressing from a restaurant called, I think, "The Little Cafe." I nagged my mother until she got the ingredients to make the dressing, and insisted on having it as often as possible. Years later, when I got married, my mother compiled a cookbook of my favorite childhood recipes, including the one for this salad dressing. My husband nearly died laughing as he read the "recipe" - olive oil, wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. I maintain that the fact that I preferred this dressing to the lurid-colored "French" and "Thousand Island" dressings that everyone else in my family ate was an indication that I was becoming a chowhound even then.

                                                1. Looking back, I guess I should have realized I was a budding chowhound when my parents took us out for dinner and I ordered the Frogs Legs, because it sounded like the most intriguing new food experience I could imagine. I was about 9 or 10, and I loved it. I also remember ordering a delicious cracked dungeness crab at Tarantino's in SF at about age 7 or 8. Even back then, I knew the good stuff. We're talking some decades ago, and I love those food memories. I've also saved every nightly menu from all 5 cruises I've been on, and when ever we get in the mood for a cruise, I pull out those menus and start planning in my head what I want to order...even though I know the menus will be different on the next cruise. It really gets me in the mood, though. And when other people want to show their pictures, I want to show everyone the menus we had. I guess there might not have been 1 definitive moment, but a series of them.

                                                  1. What a wonderful thread! I'm sooo enjoying everyone's chowhound coming-of-age stories.

                                                    Ack! Brandon, your mom is my grandmother reincarnated! A ghastly cook, and to add insult to injury, she came from the clean-plate school. "Think of all the starving children in China," she said often, as I lollygagged at the dinner table, long after everyone else had finished and left. And I'd be like, "I am; I'm wishing I could send this junk to THEM to eat ..." (This to myself, of course.) She used *canned carrots*!!! Who does that?!?

                                                    She too cooked meat to doneness and beyond: perfectly square pieces of meat, so overcooked that the corners curled up. When at age seven my time of living with my grandparents was up and I rejoined my father and his new bride in Arizona, I was as far from chowpuphood as it was possible to get. Especially I avoided meat. My father by way of celebrating our reunion prepared 2-inch thick T-bones on the backyard grill, up at which I turned my nose. It took some persuasion on his part to get me to try a tiny sliver ... and boyohboyohboy,I still remember the burst of magnificant flavor in my mouth of that pink, juicy morsel, that he had rubbed with garlic and dusted with black pepper beforehand. Instant and permanent conversion to carnivore.

                                                    Chowhoundism was still in my future, however. Impressions of early childhood are hard to kill. I remained uninterested and unenlightened, with occasional forays into Chowhound-Land, such as when my German step-grandmother made Hasenpfeffer with potato dumplings, oh lorrrrdie. But I was just as happy with a bowlful of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which I loved. (Still do, I blush to confess, even though I know in my heart that food can't hardly get more horrible, go figure.)

                                                    Fast forward. I am a new bride, on a typical newlywed budget. Read: No money for restaurants. Meaning one of us had to learn how to cook. This was fine with my husband, so long as the "one of us" wasn't him. So I was stuck with having to breach a craft that was as shrouded in mystery as the Rosicrucian creed -- and not half so interesting. One day, sighing deeply, I dragged home a raw chicken and Craig Claibourne's 'Kitchen Primer' cookbook. The chicken lay on the counter staring back at me ... getting the thing to an edible state seemed like the hardest thing imaginable. But dear Mr. Claibourne took my hand and guided me through, and to cut it down to an hour, by the end of the evening, I was hooked through the gills. Chowhound at last, and forevermore.

                                                    Not that it was a journey without pitfalls. I remember my first dinner party. Wishing to keep it simple and not strain my still-fledgling cooking skills, I decided on a cheese fondue with a good store-bought bread and salad. How hard is that, right? By then I owned "The Joy of Cooking", and per Ms. Rombauer set forth on what turned into a safari to find Emmenthaler cheese. I'd never heard of Emmenthaler cheese; called all over the Washington D.C. metro area, finally found a source in a tiny little deli, stood in line for 45 minutes, raised Cain when the clerk plunked down a block of Swiss. "No no, I said EMMENTHALER." Life's little embarrassing moments ...

                                                    That evening I fired up my brand-new bride-gift poisonously avocado-green fondue pot, added the wine, the cheese, so forth, and waited for it to, well, do its fondue thing. And waited, and waited, and waited. It stayed runny. I added more cheese. I added ALL of the cheese. I rummaged in the fridge and threw in every scrap of cheese I could find, including a few slices of American processed and even, in desperation, some Philly cream cheese. No dice. Runny soup. The guests are getting roaring drunk, waiting for dinner. Finally we gave up and ate bread and butter and salad. I wanted to commit hara-kiri with my skewer.

                                                    The next morning, hungover, I researched the reason for my failure in my library, and found these words in some cookbook or other, emblazoned in BOLD FACE at the top of its cheese fondue recipe: NEVER USE A METAL FONDUE POT FOR CHEESE FONDUE!

                                                    Live and learn.

                                                    But now, like many of you, I have dozens of cookbooks and file folders fat to bursting with a lifetime's worth of clipped recipes ... every one of which I have every intention of trying someday, honest. And like you, I love to schmooze about foods and how to prepare them. Raspberries one day, swordfish the next ... Some people get themselves to sleep counting sheep; I do it planning menus. (And boy, have I come up with some doozies :o)

                                                    Well, this got too long, so I'll stop. But I look forward very much to occupying Chowhound-Land with the rest of you. Your posts are delightful. It's gonna be great fun.


                                                    1. when i first tatsed pavlova

                                                      1. When I never thought about a restaurant meal, and couldn't wait to get home to cook something delicious and learn a new technique. The day I felt like a queen when I opened my first ginger and scallion fish en papillote.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                          yes. cook at home, no restaurant. that is what i want. <3

                                                        2. When I turned 10 my parents told me that they’d take me to any restaurant I wanted for my birthday dinner…. I got out Philadelphia Magazine and turned to the restaurant section and started studying it like it was a major test coming up

                                                          I chose Deux Cheminees (now closed) because I thought going to a French restaurant would be “fancy” and I overheard my parents say that Le Bec Fin was ‘over rated’

                                                          (when I turned 11, I chose Benihana… lol, I was a little disappointed)

                                                          Every year from 10 on, I consulted the Restaurant Guide of Philadelphia Magazine for my birthday celebration dinner…