Taking a closer look at childhood memories reveals we learn so much more than we appreciate at the time. Perhaps that is the real reason we hold on to those experiences from long ago. If I look closely enough, I can tie food to almost all of my past experiences as far back as 4 years old. Eating dinner at a friend's house revealed a planned and seated dessert course as if we were in a restaurant. We were rewarded with chocolate pudding in fancy glasses on plates. My mother would have skipped this step out of practicality, "Why wash another dish that no one is going to even use?" Agreed.
One of the first school friends of mine who joined us for dinner had never before eaten or seen french fries. We were all amazed and talked about it for years. What child in the 1970's has never had french fries? The modern answer, "a healthy one."
I remember the smell of fresh lobster in a boiling pot of water drove me outside as a young girl. I had never experienced the overwhelming strength in the aroma of seafood before and though I grew to love most fish with or without shells, I was put off for a while by this first experience.
Parents may complain of children being finicky or picky eaters, well, I had my preferences. Pasta was to be coated in butter, never sauce and a bowl of white rice with a butter was also a favorite. My passionate relationship with carbs has hardly diminished, but now I have moved to include multi-grain or wheat pasta with a variety of sauces. Rice is brown and served with vegetables.
A few years older, I had dinner at my friend Michelle's. Well, an entirely new experience had evolved. Wine for the adults with the meal. My family never drank any alcohol. And, dinner music. Purposely selected music to accompany you for your dining pleasure. We all just sat around and talked about our day. Crass? Were we poor? Of a lower social class? Nah, just different. The music was just the background, the family still spoke, but I couldn't take my attention off of the stereo. I knew other television families sometimes gathered around the tv during dinner (we never did that either), but this certainly made an impression. Years later I worked with a woman who also deliberately paired music with the evening meal and her range was from classical to modern to suit her mood.
With a family of my own, we would only choose music once or twice a year during dinner and the television is either turned off or muted. We do enjoy a soundtrack at parties, but I tend to let the music take all of my attention if it plays during dinner.
So for the memory of my first dinner at Michelle's house, enjoy a snippet of Neil... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w-_Vtttrfc