By Jenn Press Arata
My passion for food began at a young age. Born into a Jewish family, I was constantly surrounded with, “Do you want more? What else can I get you? You didn’t eat enough. Where should we dine next?” Food was memories, love, comfort, company, celebration, family and routine. It still is.
Growing up, my kitchen was like a Starbucks as far as choices were concerned. My vegetarian mother often made four different dishes to accommodate everyone (and PS makes the best meatballs and chicken soup she’s never tasted!). My father’s car was fondly referred to as ‘The Food Wagon’ as he would stop at various restaurants in the city to pick up dinner on his commute home from work. For us, take-out didn’t mean ordering from Chinese or pizza places that offered this as an option. Take-out just meant we took it out of the establishment, even if it was an upscale restaurant.
We always had choices. It was never, “This is what’s for dinner, like it or leave it.” I remained eager and willing to try anything put in front of me, and I thank my parents for not being advocates of the clean plate club. They always encouraged me to taste and experience all types of dishes, reminding me if it wasn’t to my liking I could order something else. I relished in this adventurous feeling and carry that with me today.
As my brother and I expanded our social lives and respective after-school activities, we were never required to all sit down to a meal or be home for supper. My parents understood that we were running in different directions during the week and chose to make plans with friends over the weekends. However, we all agreed upon—and looked forward to—our Sunday night dinners. We shared quality time, inside jokes, great stories, and of course, food. This was the perfect way to end the past week and begin a new one, talking, laughing and eating long after the check was paid.
While many families sit at their kitchen table discussing politics and breaking news, our little foursome had Godiva tasting nights. My parents, my brother and I would gather around a newly packaged gold box of Godiva chocolates with a sharp knife and tiny tasting plates. My father would open the cellophane wrapping and allow us to select our truffles of choice. We would then reference the enclosed description booklet to learn about what was inside our delicate treat, taste and discuss. To us, this was culture. And I’m okay with that.