Back in the days when mustard was purchased in glass containers with metal lids, my parents could make a small jar last several years. It was not a beloved condiment; it was just used to perk up a sandwich made with leftover ham. A little dab would do.
When I graduated from mushed carrots and baby cereal to real food, it soon became apparent that my tastes did not always align with my family’s. For my sandwiches, mustard must be slathered on, not dabbed. Ham and cheese were superfluous. I was more than happy with a mustard and tomato sandwich.
My mother is a good cook and my father’s tastes are simple. When I was growing up, most dinners consisted of an appropriately cooked meat with a matching starch. Rice with chicken, potatoes with just about everything else. Pasta was the occasional treat. My job was to grate some cheddar cheese off the block to serve with spaghetti. Lasagna was a more complicated matter, but much more rewarding. Vegetables were either from a can or frozen, (Salads happened, usually with the lasagna) and were at first heated on the stove and then, in my mid teen years, nuked in the microwave. There were casseroles too, which I loved but, of course, my own children do not.
They share neither my tastes nor my parents’.
Sometime in my early teen years, a Taco Bell came to town. Living in Colorado, I knew that Mexican food existed, even though I had no concept of us versus them when it came to the fact that a significant number of my peers were Hispanic. The fact that our next-door neighbor ate yogurt was just as exotic to me at that time.
My mother took my sister and me into Taco Bell, at my request. It was probably lunch time, because my father wasn’t with us. He would not have found anything there he liked. I distinctly remember that the wrapper for the taco had instructions on how to eat it, as if, by taking bites from different parts of the folded, fried tortilla we could avoid it crumbling by the time we were done. This simple feat was beyond me, which is probably why I developed a preference for burritos.
Mexican food was exotic. We didn’t eat there often. Searching my memory, I think my first visit to a Chinese restaurant didn’t happen until I was in college.
Today I still love Mexican food. My daughters’ favorite is Chinese, especially if it is a buffet. I also discovered Greek and foods of other ethnicities when I started feeding myself instead of eating what my mother cooked.
A developing palate is a mystery of nature versus nurture. One cannot expect one’s own child to enjoy all the same things the rest of the family loves. Sometimes, out of nowhere, kids develop tastes for foods that are rare and exotic.
Like mustard and tacos.