Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Nov 13, 2001 04:15 PM

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

  • b


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.

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


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  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...