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French Food

French Food

Everything that they prepared had this green stuff in it

French Food

It's totally amazing to me that we pass up so many wonderful things with the explanation of, “I don't like that,” when truth be told we have no idea as we'd never gave ourselves a chance to experience it, especially when food is the subject and we have never even try the smallest bites.

I look back now, and I think of all of the wonderful tastes, the marvelous dishes and the most fabulous memories that I missed, all because I was afraid of what I'm not real sure.

If you didn't like the taste, all you had to do was spit it out, if you didn't like the look, change it.

Why is the first thing we say is, “I don't like that?”

A year or so after we were married, we went to New Orleans to visit my husband's parents. I knew his grandparents came over from the old country and spoke mainly French but that his mother, Anna Mae, and father, Sylvester, had both been born in the USA. Therefore, I wasn't too concerned about cultural differences. My husband had told me about a lot of their ways, hoping I wouldn't make to many “social errors” and being a country gal I thought they all sounded really stuffy and needed some change. Little did I know my main problems would be in the area I like most, eating. I also learned that French people eat nothing like folks from Arkansas.

First of all, everything that they prepared had this green stuff in it and on it, even mashed potatoes. I didn't want to appear ignorant so, of course, I never asked what the green stuff was, but later found out it was parsley. I would just announce, with all the courage a 16 year old wife can muster up, no matter what they served, “I don't like that.” Then I would make myself a bologna sandwich. Every meal but breakfast, I ate a bologna sandwich.

One evening, we sat down for supper, there was some kind of meat that had the green stuff all over it, a bowl of rice, salad and pickled beets. I calmly got up and found myself a bowl, fill it half full with rice, covered it in sugar, poured on some milk and preceded to eat my cereal. I literally thought my mother-in-law was going to have a heart attack, she was sputtering away, “Mike, (my husband) what is she doing?”

He calmly looked up at her and replied, “How in the world would I know, I just married her, I didn't raise her.”

As I look around the table at everyone I asked, “What's the problem? At home the only way we eat rice is for breakfast with milk and sugar. It's really very good, even better than a bologna sandwich.” I was now laughing, because I realize I just messed up big time and they are never going to let me live this down.

Anna Mae replied sarcastically, “We put the gravy over the rice and eat it with our meat.”

Not to be outdone, I calmly replied, “I guess that's one way of doing it and mine is another.”

About week later Mike and I were invited over to his Aunt Grace's house for dinner. My husband calmly tells me, “Whatever she serves please eat some of it, you will insult her if you don't at least try.”

As I sat down at the table I saw two huge bowls sitting in the middle, one was filled with what appeared to be some kind of red beans, the other was the world famous bowl of rice. By this time, I am totally confused why they always have to have rice. Maybe they are poorer than I think they are.

I should just eat and be grateful that we don't have to eat rice every meal at home. I have to say, some fried potatoes with onions sure sounded good about then.

As the food was passed to me, I took a spoonful of the rice and put it into center my plate, followed by a spoon full of red beans. As I watched everyone at the table, they acted like this was a wonderful meal and, to my total surprise, appeared as if they all were enjoying it immensely.

Aunt Grace commented on the fact that I had taken such a small portion of food.

I told her very politely, I just wasn't very hungry but everything looked fabulous.

I took a small bite of the beans and rice, and I can't even describe the delicious taste in my mouth.

I have had a lot of beans in my life and I can't say that I was very thrilled with any of them. But I had just been introduced to something totally new, and ever harder to believe it was called beans. I quickly polished off the small amount on my plate and asked if I could have some more rice and beans.

I placed a huge pile of rice on my plate and add even more of the red beans.

Everyone at the table was looking at me, but no one said anything, until I took the third helping of rice and beans. Mike's aunt calmly looked at me, smiling, and said, “Cheryl, I'm glad you weren't hungry, dear or we would never have had enough food.”

Somehow, as I say say this now, I guess I should have been embarrassed, but I had youth on my side and I just laughed. I told everyone I have never in my life had beans that tasted that amazing.

To my great relief my husband didn't find it necessary to tell his mother about my experience at his aunt's.

Much to my mother-in-law's surprise, that evening as we eat, each and every bowl and platter that was passed in front of me I took my share. Everyone just kept glancing at me, but no one commented about anything.

The meal was wonderful, she had made a leg of lamb. I had never tried it before but it was out of this world. I loved it and the green specked mash potatoes.

After dinner I was helping to clean the table, my mother-in-law said, “I can't stand it anymore, what happened that made you decide to eat my cooking,” I confessed up about our dinner at Aunt Grace's and how spectacular her red beans and rice had been. To my amazement she just smiled.

Over time, I found out that my mother-in-law was truly an awesome cook. Not that I didn't still question some of the dishes that she made, one that really sticks in my mind was her Drunken Chicken.

What an experience that was watching her make it. First she would make a roux that's used to thicken sauces and soups. After the roux was nice and brown, she would fill the pot halfway up with hot water, constantly stirring so there was no lumps, and added a healthy dose of white wine. Then she would add her cut up chicken, raw, along with the vegetables and cook this over a slow heat until the chicken was falling off the bones. It was exquisite and try as I may mine has never tasted like her's.

She is gone now but always remains in my thoughts, especially when I try a new recipe. For years, all I could think about was all those wonderful meals I had missed while I ate my bologna sandwiches.

If this story has a moral I would have to say open up your minds to new experiences, whether it be food, trips, ideas, or prejudices. There's a world out there that there's no way we can know all about everything. Some of those new experiences could change your whole life, like eating French food and, as I later found out, German food is out of this world, too.

I still like, on occasion, a good old beef bologna sandwich.

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