Chew On This

Chew on This: Does your food make others go ‘yuck’?

andrea.weigl@newsobserver.comJune 4, 2013 

One of many things that define a family is its food traditions.

Your family may enjoy standing rib roast instead of ham for Christmas or serve macaroni and cheese instead of mashed potatoes with the Thanksgiving turkey. Family food rituals can extend to holiday cookies, birthday cakes, even weekend breakfast routines.

But what about the family-defining dishes that make other people crinkle their noses?

I got such a reaction last week over my choice of breakfast.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite breakfasts took advantage of leftover egg noodles. I knew when those noodles appeared at dinner that I would get to have scrambled eggs and noodles the next morning. My mother would sauté those noodles in butter until crispy around the edges and then add a beaten egg or two. The key to this dish is adding a good chunk of butter so that the noodles become a vehicle for that buttery goodness.

When I announced on a recent morning that I was going to make some, my husband’s reaction was: “Yuck!”

It reminded me of an incident when I was in the first grade. I remember our teacher asking us what we had eaten for breakfast. My truthful reply was: hot dogs. There was a chorus of disgust from my fellow first-graders. (What can I say? We’re German. Casing hot dogs, knackwurst and other sausages were often served for breakfast. Those were about the only meals my father ever cooked.)

That incident has stuck in my mind for decades because it was the moment that I realized my family was different.

I would eventually learn that other families didn’t eat potato pancakes and rouladen, a dish of thinly sliced beef rolled around onions, sautéed and served with beef gravy. Other families didn’t celebrate Shrove Tuesday with fastnacht küchle, a thin fried dough and cousin of the Polish jelly doughnut called a paczki. Those differences, even the yuck-inducing ones, defined us as a family.

When I asked my husband whether he had any family food traditions that produced such negative reactions, he claimed to have none.

Share your stories

I know my family isn’t alone. These food traditions reflect the experience of most American immigrant families who struggle with assimilation while maintaining cultural heritage. It’s the classic story of the child of recent immigrants who opens her lunch box to find kimchi (Korean sauerkraut) or moussaka (a Greek eggplant and meat dish) when all she really wants is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread.

I would love to hear your stories. Tell me about the dishes that made you realize your family was one-of-a-kind. I promise not to react with a groan, and I will share a few of your stories in a future column.

Weigl: 919-829-4848, mailto:aweigl@newsobserver.com, on Twitter, @andreaweigl

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