As my last year at Johnson & Wales begins to wind down, I cannot help but think about how much this school has changed me. To be completely honest, I never really cooked before I came to this school. I loved to help my mom around the kitchen whenever I could, but when it came down to me and knife it was as if my mom had to be right there watching my every move making sure I still had all 10 fingers after each slice. We don’t have an Italian or Greek family, but looking back, every family get-together revolves around the food in the center of the table.
I have a vivid memory of sitting at my desk in Mr. Meyer’s 4th grade class and he went around asking what we wanted to be when we grow up. I’m pretty sure I said something along the unrealistic childlike lines of being a professional soccer player, but what I remember most was what a girl named Carley Haftel said. She was the only one in the class to say that she wanted to be a chef. It’s weird that I can remember what she said better than what I said, but that’s probably because I was jealous. “A chef? That’s so cool, why didn’t I think of that?”
I was, generally speaking, always an adventurous eater. I didn’t like everything, but I tried everything. The only time I would really order off the kids menu was when I was out with my friends and I would feel embarrassed ordering something as “crazy” as chicken marsala (with MUSHROOMS?!!?) instead of chicken fingers. However, as I said I didn’t like everything. Driving 6 hours to Johnson & Wales University in August 2008 there were plenty of foods I didn’t like: brussels sprouts, bleu cheese, cottage cheese, Indian cuisine, to name a few. When it comes down to it, though, why does anyone “not like” a certain food? Usually it comes down to the following:
- It looks gross.
- They smell like ________ when you cook them.
- My friends don’t like it so I won’t.
- My personal favorite, “I don’t like that.” “Have you ever tried it?” “No.”
Looking back at the list of things I couldn’t stand before I came to school, I love all of them now. Okay, bleu cheese, I am slowly getting there. The tang in that cheese is just so overpowering for my taste. A little bit, though, I can take. The point I’m trying to make, though, is that I wonder why exactly I love brussels sprouts and cottage cheese and Indian cuisine. I go to a school that’s all about food. Everyone in their chef uniform walking around the halls is filled with their own stories about food. I think the key point, though, is that we are surrounded by these foods every day. Sure, I get that we are lucky to be able to enjoy lobster tail for lunch sometimes. But, is it because of my environment that my love for food has broadened by the thousands?
When we were growing up it was all about socially eating, scarfing down McDonald’s before double sessions of preseason soccer (never again). At Johnson & Wales you will see students, especially the seniors, get served a plate and the first thing they do is put their faces just inches from the food, taking in each and every smell before digging in. When we were growing up, the number 1 hated vegetable was always “brussels sprouts… ewwwww”. At Johnson & Wales it’s as if you AREN’T COOL if you don’t like them! Whenever they are prepared, you see students attacking them first, even before the broccoli that’s smothered in gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs. Is it really possible to “train” your taste buds? I think it is.
I want to someday be able to figure out how.