In Friday I sat down at my favourite Turkish restaurant, Zara's in Upper Hutt eating a falafel Iskender. Gorgeous thing. There was a side made of mint leaves wrapped around rice of some description, served cold. It was wonderful, but while eating it I realised we hardly ever had rice growing up. True, we did have "Rice Risotto" in a box, and rice pudding... But not the range of rice flavours. Now with a pantry with wild rice, basmati rice, brown rice, and jasmine rice, it's amazing to think that I'll eat it a couple of nights a week.
When did I first eat falafel? Well, it was a trip to Wellington with a friend and his mother, to buy a suit for a wedding. We had kebabs for lunch. I was a vegetarian so just ordered the vegetarian option, and my love of Turkish food began.
My other favourite is Mexican food. Normally at the Martinborough Fair which we attended yesterday, there is an amazing Mexican man serving traditional street food from Mexico. He runs a business in Wellington, and I always try something new every time I go there. But a toasted flauta or a breakfast burrito fill me with spicy joy.
When did I first have Mexican food? I was staying in Christchurch on a school trip, and the mother of my host family made nachos with corn chips, canned beans and sour cream. The spice changed my life, and not long after returning home, I was making it for the family... Slowly trying new meals. Now I have several traditional Mexican cookbooks and my own tortilla press.
And then Indian food. We never had curry growing up.... Well... I lie. My grandfather used to make a cabbage and raisin dish with plenty of curry powder and whole chillies. Once in a while a wonderful Sri Lankan woman stayed with my grandparents, she would make a curry on occasion. It was spicy and I liked it.
Pass over the next 10 years and I married an Indian. His family and manny many cookbooks, as well as tips from every Indian restaurant I have visited, and now I can make so many wonderful curries, sides, breads and dips.
Growing up we never had onions, garlic, pasta unless it was mac 'n' cheese, brown bread, couscous, lentils, spinach, chillies, zucchini, coloured lettuces... The list goes on.
So why think about this today?
Yesterday eating Swiss rosti... And Thai flavoured nuts.... And weeding my bok choi.... Talking Hot Pot and Steamboat with a Cambodian and a Phillipino, reminiscing about living in China... That's when I realised I need to keep branching out and trying new things.
Bring on Hungarian Langosh. Deep fried, garlicky, salty, and light. Gorgeous I could have tried the chimney cakes, but why? I know I love cake.
I guess the moral of the story is this: expose yourself to food. I've eaten foods I hate, but at least I know why I dislike them. Expose your children to different cultural food experiences. You never know when you will find yourself eating taro leaves or dragon fruit. Try something new every single week... Whether it's a food, a meal, a cuisine, a drink, a spice. Something. Life will be all the better for it.
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