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Oct 23, 2006 04:45 AM

When did you discover you were a Chowhound?

One night in 1966, I was desperately searching for something to eat in Palo Alto. I made a mental inventory of the places on University and on El Camino, and all I could come up with was Jack-in-the-Box and Denny's. At the time, Jack was an enormous figure that was perched on a huge black spring attached to the top of a cube that sold bad hamburgers. I couldn't go in. Denny's was a well-lit wasteland. I couldn't go in there either. I didn't want a pizza. I didn't want a hamburger. What I really wanted was an empanada like I had last weekend in Santa Monica, for a couple of bucks, in an Argentinian hole in the wall with opera flyers on the bulletin board; but I didn't know it at the time. So I went hungry. I was a sophomore, after all.

When did it occur to you that you couldn't take the bad food that so many people settle for? Was is a particular meal (or as in my case, a non-meal) or an individual who opened your eyes?

Some years before the above incident, I had my first taste of good fresh french bread, in a little neighborhood in Sao Paulo Brazil. I was 13, newly arrived from Ohio, and a new friend showed me around, starting with the bakery down the block. We each bought a couple of dinner rolls, and munched them as we explored. I knew this was something special, and I loved it.

When did you know?

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  1. I had hedonistic hot chocolate (read: thick and luxurious and silky) in Spain in high school. After that, I never ventured near Nestle Quik ever again.

    It's all been downhill from there.

    1. Hours in the library pouring over used cookbooks while my mom ran errands in town!

      1. Around my 6th birthday, I actually bothered to notice my mom soaking the chicken in buttermilk before dredging them in Old Bay dusted panko breadcrumbs and frying them in lard. I thought, "Maybe THAT'S why it tastes so good. I've got to remember that."

        1 Reply
        1. re: monkeyrotica

          When I was a kid in the sixties, my hippie mom was cooking curries - thai and indian, escargot and all sorts of goodies when everyone else's mom was cooking meatloaf and potatoes (which mine made too, as a special treat!). anyhow, having been exposed to good, interesting food early on, i have been a chowhound since then - and so have my siblings.

        2. Long ago and far away, when I was half my present weight, my grammar school teacher wrote on the blackboard:

          I eat to live.
          I live to eat.

          She said, "One of these is correct. Which one is it?"

          I remember thinking, "Oh. I know what I should say, but it's the other sentence that's true."

          1. I grew up in a military family, moving from place to place. Fortunately my parents were the type that didn't want to ever live in the U.S. So, as a kid I was exposed to a whole bunch of different foods and would even refuse to eat "normal" foods for a spell.

            My mom is the one who really did it to me. She worked as a tour guide in Italy and had Lasagne somewhere in Florence or something. For almost fifteen years she would talk obsessively about it, stopping at nothing to replicate what she had.

            That's worked onto me, I'll travel no small amount of distance or time to get a meal that I want. The more obscure, weird, or uniquely local I do it.

            This is a big subject for me.