That made me kind of unique among some of my friends, particularly those from families that may have been hard-pressed to travel to the neighboring county, let alone another city, state or country.
I grew up in the kind of place where if it wasn’t meat and two veg, it wasn’t a meal. Chinese was looked at with skepticism. Sushi? That’s bait.
But at home, that wasn’t my experience.
Sure, growing up outside Philadelphia, we had our share of hoagies, cheesesteaks and pizza, but going out was different. My dad did his share of traveling for work, and got the chance to try a lot of food around the country. He would seek out places to take us. Today’s kids are used to having any number of regional and international chains at their fingertips, but back then, you had to find restaurants, and they weren’t always nearby.
That suited my mom. If she was going out, she wanted something special. “Chicken?” Mom would say, “I can make that at home.”
And it suited me, too. From the time I was old enough to go out to dinner with my parents — and by old enough, I mean able to behave myself in public, there were no high chairs, bibs or children’s menus for me — there were only a couple of rules.
- Take all you want, eat all you take — that was a rule of thumb dating back to Dad’s Navy days.
- Try it. Dad let me experiment. I always knew if I wasn’t a fan, Dad would swap with me. That only happened once, when I wasn’t quite ready the first time I ordered gumbo.
The net result? I jump at the opportunity to try new things, new cuisines and new flavors. Food, for me, is a way to travel and experience the world on a limited budget. I’ve spent many hours watching Anthony Bourdain, or the original Iron Chef, where the secret ingredient was something I never heard of and somebody would create squid ink ice cream.
Which is the long way round to bring me to the point of this column.
Even I have my limits.
You might have seen last week that French’s — yep, the mustard people — teamed up with Los Angeles’s Coolhause Ice Cream Company to create, you guessed it, bright yellow mustard ice cream. The flavor made its debut for National Mustard Day, which, in case you didn’t know, is the first Saturday in August.
Now, I’ve had my fair share of ice cream in my time. I’m fond of a Japanese creation of green tea ice cream wrapped in soft rice dough called mochi. The ladies in the house think I’m on something, particularly the teenager who sniffs everything before she eats it.
Back when I was slacking off in elementary school, they had me shadow the kids who needed extra attention for a day. They were doing an ice cream flavor survey and I suggested adding peppermint stick to the choices. No votes. I didn’t get invited back. I think they figured out I was just lazy.
That said, I’m drawing the line at mustard ice cream. I’d say “who knows where this will lead,” but, I already do.
Just days later, Oscar Mayer taunted French’s and introduced hot dog-flavored ice cream. It’s all part of the Ice Dog Sandwich, made with candied hot dog bits, hot dog sweet cream, spicy dijon gelato, and a cookie bun.
Dijon. I suppose plain old yellow just didn’t cut the mustard.