Monday, March 17, 2008


Recently, in talking with my waitstaff, some of whom have parents younger than me, I realized how much more conversant they are with food than I was at the same age.

I think back to 1980 when I moved back to Virginia at age 18 after my three final years of high school in Alabama. The morning after arriving at my dorm, there was a breakfast reception out front where I saw a tray full of bagels for the first time. I recognized them by their description in my new copy of Beard on Bread, of which I now own a signed first edition, and from articles that I had read in that great and then New York City-centric magazine Gourmet. In a day when bagels (albeit many of them horrible) are found in every grocery store in the land, the idea of an 18-year old encountering a bagel for the first time seems most amusing.

And in a day when my small town of 24,000 people boasts at least six sushi bars (albeit most of them also horrible), it is hard to imagine that Americans didn't eat raw fish when I was growing up. I was 25 before I ever lived anywhere where sushi was served. And it took me four beers to get up the nerve for the first bite, which is a shame, for it was true love at first bite and I have spent untold fortunes on sushi since then. Now my thirteen-year old daughter often accompanies me to my favorite of the local sushi bars.

Finally, my first encounter with Indian food wasn't until I was nearly thirty. In a day when most of my waitstaff could probably rattle off the Hindi names of their favorite dishes, that seems absurd. My children have been eating Indian food since birth.

Even if ubiquity of all these foods may have led to some mediocrity, we are blessed to live in an age in which even our children are exposed to foods that we never saw until adulthood. It may be a smaller world, but then, that's no so bad, is it?

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