I’ve spent the better part of my life saying you should live your life with no regrets. What I mean is, don’t waste your time looking back and regretting the things you did or didn’t do. Of course, that’s not entirely reasonable. We all have a few regrets. I’ve managed to find the silver lining in most of mine – a clear indication that I am an optimist. Take my first marriage for example. I was too young. I made the classic mistake of thinking I was in love and within three years I was a divorced single mom. The glistening silver lining is my now brilliant, beautiful adult daughter.
BUT … and there’s always a “but” isn’t there? I do have regrets. Lately I’ve been realizing my youth was a bit misspent. It wasn’t in the way most people would think. I got good grades, didn’t get into trouble (well, not much anyway), and made friends I’ve kept throughout my life. Growing up on military bases, my friends were a true American melting pot of national and international culture. As is typical for me, my thoughts wander to food … essential for life, the flavors of places, and the triggers of memories.
Our neighbors were from Southeast Asia, Europe, South America and every part of the states. We should have learned about every kind of food imaginable. But somehow, we didn’t. I don’t remember ever tasting Korean food until I was on active duty and a fellow serviceman’s wife made bulgogi. She was Korean and it was VERY authentic.
My best friend’s mom was born and raised in England, but it wasn’t until we were adults that I learned how to make scones and where to find clotted cream to slather on them. I never learned the proper way to make a cup of tea. Mummy and Melissa were exceptionally particular about their tea! I didn’t know that until I was well into my 40s.
As a pre-teen we lived in southern Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. I learned how to shuck fresh shrimp like a native, but I never learned how to make proper cornbread or collard greens and I still can’t stand grits.
My regrets are that I never learned about the flavors of the world until I was old enough to travel it on my own. We had all these different cultures on our block and we were all simply roasting hot dogs and flipping burgers at the block parties. Everyone wanted to be American. As I discover the foods of other cultures, I am enthralled by the flavors and in love with incorporating them into my all-American past.
I’m grateful for being able to call on some of my childhood friends and ask … how do I cook a fresh pineapple? What do I do with a star fruit?
And I am even more fortunate to have new friends and neighbors willing to share their skills … like making Pad Se Ew or Corn Chowder.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Why did I wait so long??
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