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My 10yr old's "Aha!" moment: rootbeer floats

Somehow, my son heard about rootbeer floats and asked me if we could go get one. I told him it's more fun to make them so we bought some Virgil's root beer and french vanilla ice cream and had fun layering the root beer/ice cream until the foamy top started spilling over the glass. Dear son had a blast trying to slurp up the foam before it spilled over and we stuck in straws, got long spoons and dug in.

He almost swooned off his chair. I got such pleasure watching his "discover"y of this treat.

Do you remember one of these "aha!" or discovery moments? One of mine was a hot, cucumber dill soup from a Polish restaurant in Detroit. I can still remember what that first spoonful tasted like. I've tired to duplicate the recipe but have never captured the combination of cream, dill, and pickle-juice.

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  1. This was an Aha moment about both fish, and food in general:
    I grew up a block away from the beach in Massachusetts, but somehow my parents' idea of fish was those breaded square things in the freezer case. Which I didn't like, but ate, on Fridays. And tunafish sandwiches. Which I hated, and threw away when they appeared in my lunchbox. I really had no idea that "fish" was, well, FISH.
    Until the day that our across-the-street neighbor went deep-sea fishing and caught a swordfish and brought us over a big piece. My mother (must have been divine intervention) broiled it with butter and lemon, and I will never forget the first taste I had of it. Tender-firm, sweet and slightly salty-- I realized I had never really eaten fish. Had never really thought about what I WAS eating.
    This was the first of many, many discoveries of foods I had thought I didn't like, but only realized through growing up that I had never really even HAD. Asparagus, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, pork... the list goes on and on. I became an extremely adventurous eater because I truly felt, "You never know!" even about foods I thought I'd been exposed to.

    1. I had an Aha moment years ago while dating my husband. We were at an italian restaurant and he ordered some bottle of white wine. I don't remember what. What I do remember was he had me take a bite of my food, chew it a little, add a slug of the wine and continue finishing the bite. I got it!! The right wine with the right food! Aha!!!

      1. Might not be the same kind of 'ah-ha' but during my freshman year in Boston, some friends took us to Chinatown. The place we went had to be one of the fanciest Chinese food restaurants I'd ever seen. I was astounded, as where I'm from my only previous experiences were Chinese food restaurants in the run-down scary part of town. Anyway, after everyone had ordered their meals, one gal piped up and ordered a SCORPION BOWL. It's a huge drink with foot-long straws and a volcano-shaped indentation in the middle containing rum set on FIRE! HOLY COW! I'd never seen anything like that. Needless to say, we stumbled home that night, and I'll never forget it.

        4 Replies
        1. re: maddogg280

          LOL. That restaurant wouldn't be the Kong in Harvard Sq., would it, maddogg?

          1. re: rockycat

            I don't think it was in Cambridge, I thought it was in downtown somewhere. Given how few times I went to Chinatown area of Boston, and each time I had a SCORPION BOWL, I'm not surprised that I cannot remember where it was. I wonder if there are any Chinese restos in Baltimore (where I live now) that have those fabulous concoctions?

          2. re: maddogg280

            Hee hee-- those "communal" drinks always seem to get everyone plowed; maybe because they get sucked down quickly as everyone wants to get their "share".

            On a related note, the (not very good) Chinese restaurant my family went to when I was a kid had placemats that featured little drawings of the fancy cocktails you could order-- the fog cutter, the mai tai, the sailors' grog... I always wanted to get the head hunter, which came, according to the picture, in a cup shaped like a shrunken head. This was way before I could or did drink, and I haven't really thought about it since!

            1. re: maddogg280

              Ah, the Scorpion Bowl. Motto: don't worry, the ethanol will sanitize the backwash. When I was a freshman in the Boston area, Chinatown was (or at least was immediately adjacent to) the run-down scary part of town (the Combat Zone, may it rest in peace).

              The Kong was a safer place to overindulge. Or to get an order or six of steamed dumplings to go after having done so. Memories...

            2. That description just took me back to my childhood, when my dad would sometimes make Coke Floats for us as a treat. They were the best. He didn't often cook for us, so when he did, it was extra special. I was convinced his pancakes were even fluffier than my mom's, for example. Thanks...............

              1. I would say shrimp and lobster were my big "A-has." My Jewish family didn't keep kosher but shellfish was too alien to our experience to ever even consider it as a food option. When I was in college I went on a date with some guy who couldn't believe I had been deprived. I can't even remember where we went (somewhere near Rutgers U. in any case), but we had shrimp scampi and lobster tail. I doubt it was even very good shrimp or lobster, but I've been swooning for both of them ever since. The guy? Can't even remember his name, bless his heart!

                1. Ah, I love your story, three. It makes me happy just reading it. :)

                  My aha moment (a fish story like missoulagrace's):

                  I'd hated seafood my entire life b/c I grew up in the midwest/south where the seafood we bought at the grocery store was not pristinely fresh. Even though my mother was and is a wonderful cook, the fish / shrimp / scallops always tasted 'fishy'.

                  My parents would also tell me, when I was five or six, that if I didn't eat whatever seafood was on my plate, I physically wouldn't be able to swim (I swam on a team). So, not being the brightest kid in the world (nor the brightest adult :) -- I believed them and forced down all this horrible stuff though I literally gagged on it. (Once I threw up all over the table at a friend's house after forcing down some dried shrimp, but that's a different story for a different thread!)

                  Fast forward to college. I still hate fish. But when I visit my older sister in NYC, she takes me to a sushi restaurant for the first time. My first bite of sweet, slightly salty, buttery yellowtail nigiri without even the slightest hint of fishiness was possibly the most enjoyable bite of food I've ever had in my life....

                  So today, I love fish in all its forms -- though I'm still waiting for my "aha" moment for lobster.

                  1. Three stand out: the first time I had pea shoots (the leafy kind--'dai dou mui') in Vancouver. Prior I had only had the pea sprouts ('sai dou mui') but the green, spinach-like taste was a revelation. At the same meal, fresh steamed Alaskan king crab with fried minced garlic.

                    Also in Canada: goat cheese cheddar at Sooke Harbour House. Prior to that I'd been rather meh about goat cheese in general, but the goat cheese cheddar tang melded with the cheddar opened up my taste buds. That was when I switched loyalties from cow to goat forever.

                    And one reverse revelation. Growing up in a Cantonese family I'd only had fresh spinach. I always scoffed at the depiction of the stringy spinach in Popeye cartoons and thought the animators had done a particularly bad job. That was until I had my first school cafeteria spinach and realized, to my horror, that people Popeye-style spinach actually existed!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: PegS

                      goat cheese cheddar


                      holy cow (goat). this i have to try.

                      1. re: PegS

                        My ex husband LOVED canned spinach! Being young at the time, I bought it and heated it in a pan for him (smelled horrible) and he would put butter on it and eat it down. Still makes me cringe even after more then 23 years! yuck!

                      2. My brother-in-law was visiting us for a few days. He is a sushi FANATIC, Go into any little sushi joint in New York, and they know him by name.

                        Anyhow, he takes us to dinner, and the place has Toro (one of his favs) as one of the white board specials. He gets a couple. The twins (Destroy-ya and Annoy-ya) were about 4 or 5 at the time. All through dinner "Uncle Doug, can I have another pink one. Poor guy never had a chance.

                        2 years later, sushi is still their favorite meal.

                        1. Broiled sea scallops, St. Augustine, FL, sometime in the late 70's. These were firm, sweet, and astonishing. I used to chase that experience at restaurants all over, rarely finding scallops that compared. The memory is all the more poignant now, because I've developed a sensitivity to some preservative commonly used on scallops and cannot eat them at restaurants any more.

                          Fried liver: Cornell Dining, 1981: Suddenly I understood all the cartoon jokes about kids hating liver. This was NOTHING like the milk-soaked calves liver, pinkish in the middle, served with carmelized onions, that Mom had been making as a treat when Dad was out of town.

                          1. Three.... do you remember if the Dill soup had actual pickles in it ? My babcia ( Polish for grandmother) makes Cream of Pickle soup.... it is a pork base stock, which is just a standard stock but with pork ribs instead of chicken or beef. That is drained and she added 1 head of cauliflower, broken down into the smallest florets and a few diced carrots. Once they are soft she adds a few grated dill pickles, kosher ones tend to taste the best in the end, two beaten egg yolks, some cream and then pickle juice to taste.
                            I am thrilled to know there are other pickle soup lovers out there, every winter I try my best to convert a few more non -believers over. :-)

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: books

                              Wow, that sounds good! I don't recall there being any actual grated pickles but one could certainly taste the pickle juice. No cauliflower, either, but the stock was pork. Have you tried to make it? My Polish-restaurant friend (he loves exploring them with me) loves this soup, as well, but we've only found it at this restaurant and only by chance. It's not served on a regular day but when the cooks feel like making it.

                              Your post reminded me that my mom used pork stock for her borchst. Never could get into czcarnina (duck's blood soup), though. Not for the obvious reason, I just don't like raisins or prunes -- they made the soup too sweet. I think I'll try making my next soup stock from pork. Thanks for the reminder!

                              And I would love, love, love the recipe if your babcia has it written down. If, however, she's like my family, they all cook from memory and don't have measurements for anything (you take some of this and add a little of that).

                              1. re: three of us

                                Sorry but it is one of those a little of this and a little of that recipes, I have made it actually I make it alot in the winter it is great with the root vegetables and the pork meat, and it the summer it is so nice just with the pickles and dill.

                                Let me see what I can do about actually making a actual recipe for the soup.

                            2. I'm sure alot of college kids have this aha moment, but I remember feeling like I was the only one who hated the taste of beer. The stuff I drank, the watered down "iced" lagers, tasted similar to an animal urine or sewage of some sort. Yet everyone around me was acting like they loved the stuff. So for years I went on thinking I hated beer

                              One day I drank a pint of black and tan and my perception of beer changed forever.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: takadi

                                yes, i definitely experienced the post-college "aha" beer moment, as well. :)

                                for me, it was the fruity beer flights i had at sunset bar & grill in boston that made me realize i could like the taste. i didn't advance to the dark stuff till much later.

                                1. re: takadi

                                  Wow, I just had another huge aha moment with beer. Opened a bottle of newcastle two weeks ago and it tasted fine. Opened it two weeks later, and it had that absolutely disgusting skunk smell and taste that was similar to all the beers I had in college. Turns out, I wasn't crazy. The beer, and all the previous beers I had before, were all lightstruck! It all makes sense now

                                2. This reminds of an a-ha moment I induced in someone else. In high school, I introduced a friend to root beer floats: her family was from India and I think they ate little American food at home. Well, she introduced the concept to her family, and it was a huge hit. My friend told me they bought those spoons with the straw in the handle, and she had the method perfected, to the point where she always used a fork to scoop the ice cream, since one of the best parts for her was where the root beer came into contact with the ice cream and the ice cream got a little icy and had a bit of crunch, and using a fork maximized the surface area of the ice cream so more root beer could come into contact with ice cream. She may have gone into engineering.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: optimal forager

                                    LOLOL! You really rocked her world. that's just too funny about the fork usage.

                                  2. I had an "aha!" when I first ate cheesecake, I don't remember where, but later when in a restaurant with my grandmother I ordered it. "Don't get that," she advised, "you won't like it. Nobody in our family likes cheesecake." (I still love it.)

                                    1. The first time I had fresh brussel sprouts. I'd been explosed to the overcooked, previously frozen ones before, and had promptly turned around and fed them to the dog. But those first fresh ones.... cooked with a little butter and garlic and topped with parmesan cheese.... Oh, my. They're now a favorite veggie.

                                      1. Two things come to mind. Growing up, we had a pretty adventurous household in regard to food--my father was first generation American (Austro-Hugarian), so brains and eggs, kidneys and eggs, rouladen, creamed herring were all standard. I used to love the Howard Johnson "fried clams" and sometimes that was a birthday treat, along with their totally rocking peppermint stick ice cream

                                        Imagine my surprise when we vacationed in Maine and I actually had a whole fried clam! I had no idea they were creamy, and tasted of the sea, and were huge!

                                        Second, as another poster mentioned, I spent 4 years at the University of Michigan going to keggers, etc. I thought all beer was room temperature and foamy. Then one day, after I graduated and was working and on vacation, was with friends in a canoe at a beautiful lake. The day was drawing to a close, the ice almost melted in the cooler, and I cracked and icy cold Miller, in the gold can. OMG, I had no idea how wonderful a cold beer in the summer could be! The combination of gorgeous surroundings, being on the water, and the thirst quenching coldness of the beer is was a paradigm shift.
                                        I'm still not a big beer drinker, but on a hot, hot night with some kind of sport involved, it can be ambrosia.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: berkleybabe

                                          "The day was drawing to a close, the ice almost melted in the cooler, and I cracked and icy cold Miller, in the gold can. OMG, I had no idea how wonderful a cold beer in the summer could be! The combination of gorgeous surroundings, being on the water, and the thirst quenching coldness of the beer is was a paradigm shift."

                                          I need to find my aha moment for the lager I have forsaken. He and I need to forgive each other and become friends again. Wow

                                        2. In the back of a Ford station wagon on a family trip somewhere in the CA Central Valley during summer, around 7-8 p.m., age 8 or 9, going from SoCal to SF.

                                          We stopped at a mom and pop burger stand and ordered a bunch of food for dinner. I had the usual plain kid burger w/o anything. After a bit of driving I was still hungry and there was an extra "adult" burger with everything; tomato, 1,000 island dressing, etc. I was so hungry I didn't care and just ate it.

                                          I suddenly realized, this is really good. The burger was a bit soggy but the flavors (greasy burger, tomato, lettuce and onions) melted perfectly together. It might have been the best burger I ever had. I still remember it.

                                          1. sort of a reverse "aha". grew up with parents from r.i., fish every friday, fish when we went out,etc. people telling me for years how great this or that fish is. out to lunch with inlaws (massachusetts north shore natives) at, where else? a fish house. i order fish and chips to be in the spirit, and brother in law stops me and says " have the beer battered haddock, its much better..) food comes, it tastes the same to me. other than a few shellfish, it all tastes the same to me. i just dont like fish, i never have! im 50 years old and i dont have to eat it anymore. no more " oh, the chilean sea bass is wonderful", yeah except it tastes like fish. free at last..

                                            1. I was a very picky eater when I was a child, and had this thing about eggs. If they were fried, I'd eat the yolk and if they were hard boiled I'd eat the white. If they were scrambled or made into omelets, I wouldn't eat them. When I was in Paris one summer during college, I had a cheese omelet at a little bistro that blew my mind. And I never liked yogurt until I was on an island in Greece and we would get home-made yogurt from a woman in town. They were in little paper cups with a rough paper twisted around the rim, and with a sprinkling of sugar they were about the most delicious thing.