I concur wholeheartedly!
My biggest influences were my epicurious parents (who were both good cooks) and my own curiosity. Then I found my first Sterns book and the rest is – as they say – history.
The Travelling Trencherman is at your service!
Hungrily (Mentally AND physically!), Ort. Carlton in Lovely Athens, Georgia.
My Mom and my maternal Grandmother for baked goods and preserves. For all things involving eggs, burgers or steaks……….my dad. For my love of every imaginable cuisine, twas my neighborhood, filled with representatives of so many tasty heritages: Italian, Lebanese, Russian, Greek, Polish, German, Irish, Asian, Jewish, Indian and down home Southern. [:D]
My Dad- he was brilliant[8D] He did 99% of all cooking in our house. When we lived in Memphis he mastered the technique of smoking two pork shoulders in two Weber"s overnight, setting his alarm to wake up and check it out when needed- Awesome Q!!! He made the slaw, fries (unreal)!, taught me how to do that. When we lived in Wilmette IL he would leave every Sat morn and would return with corned beef from Kaufmanns and long johns from Gladstones. Not to mention the hundreds of other things he found. My Dad spent thousands and thousands of dollars roaming the streets of Chicago and always finding something new and delicious. Money was no object. He was often home from his Company around 1:00 pm and always had something going- always incredible. Mom was always a bit jealous on his skills and mad about his spending, but she was ok as she was a teacher and usually got home late. This guy would be on a business (road) trip and would come home with Steak N Shakes, Maid Rites, BBQ sauces etc. He had a whole room in the house with boxes of sauces, dressings, grits, you name it. My Dad never skimped- ever[8D], and since we lost him in ’95 he’s always been involved in the cooking process in our lives.Since i was a kid, everyone always told him he should be in the restaurant biz, but he had another plan. My Dad was a Huge influence on my cooking and eating habits! Soooo much more to say but thanks for letting me finally brag on this Great thread![:I]
My influence has to be my Mom. We were talking on the phone last night and were talking about how we prepare certain foods. I use the same type breading for okra and squash(combined cornmeal and flour )
that she does and I think that certain foods have to be served along with certain entrees. She mentioned that she always served the ones together that I think have to be served together. When you are young, you are going to do everything different than Mom, but as you get older you realize how much like your Mother that you become.
My influence would be my dad, He Never let me be a "picky" child. I have 3 older sisters and none of them are like me in my food tastes, because my dad somehow chose me to bestow his knowledge and love of food on. I felt like i was in on a cosmic secret!. He showed me his love of Oysters fresh and grilled in our backyard, He took me to our local thai restaurant and i ordered things i still cannot pronounce, he loathed liver and onions but knew how to cook them so well, We would butcher our pigs and cows and chickens together and savor the fresh meat, He would hunt and fish and we would have a huge freezer full of venison, wild boar,rabbit, squirrels, fish, and frog legs, He refused to take us to fast food joints called them "gutbombs", We ate pizza from a local place called Loritos it always had huge chunks of garlic on it…..still to this day we meet about once a month and go eat sushi, thai, vietnamese(he still tells me about when he ate dog while in vietnam),Real Italian…..He has blessed me with an open Food mind!
My influence is my brain. I read, read, read, read….the papers, cookbooks, magazines, everything I can get my hands on, and watch that crazy Food TV, which is basically like the 1981-era MTV of the foodie generation…all they need now is a station sig with a space shuttle heading off to space with a few dozen cheesesteaks and some Old Forge pizzas crammed inside…now that’s influential!
Thanks, meowzart, it’s one of those warm and fuzzy topics that’s so interesting to read.
I am so glad that someone revived this topic!!! I loved reading everybody’s stories. I would love to hear from the Sterns and Grampy and i95 and Sundancer. From everybody, actually. There are some really wonderful and fascinating and touching stories here. Maybe Grampy could write the Roadfood Diaries when he is done with cocktails.
My family wasn’t well off when I was little. We had a big garden and several relatives who were farming, so much of what we ate was home-grown as well as home-cooked. I wasn’t a very adventurous eater. I remember turning up my nose at a lot of things, especially vegetables, probably because my mother subscribed to the "boil it until it’s limp and flavorless" school of vegetable cookery. It was pretty basic meat, potatoes and one vegetable kind of stuff. I do remember going out once in awhile, though, almost always to a Friday night fish-fry.
When my sister was in college and living at home she started expanding our repertoire with things like lasagna and tacos. They seem pretty tame now but they were exotic to us then. My own college-era repertoire consisted pretty much of macaroni and cheese with the occasional fish sandwich from Mickey D’s, because I never had any money.
When I got my first library job (and had a little grocery money!) I started reading my way through the cookbook section and trying out new things. I just got more and more adventurous through the years. As more ethnic, gourmet and/or organic ingredients became available in the local stores, I’d experiment with them.
A few years ago I started a little club with some friends. We go out for a leisurely meal and drinks once a month and try out as many new restaurants as we can, although we also have a list of old favorites that we’ll go back to now and again. We’ve driven up to two hours one-way to go to a restaurant we’ve heard about. I also try to hit as many Roadfood sites as I can when I take a vacation.
Definitely my family and culture in that my family is typical of Chinese families when it comes to food:
1. Everything edible can be eaten. It just depends on HOW you cook/prepare the particular ingredient that makes it eatable.
2. Food is precious. Always finish what’s on your plate and throwing anything away is SACRILEGE!!
3. Celebrating anything is never complete without a lavish feast.
4. When you have guests, feed them until they pop! When you are a guest, eat and appreciate everything that’s served to you (unless you have religious restrictions or allergies to the particular food).
5. Live to eat rather than eat to live.
6. Both traditional dishes and innovative ones are just as good.
7. The mixing of cultural influences in cooking is normal and NOT sacrilege unless it tastes bad.
8. The kitchen will always be the heart of the home.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that my family and culture shaped my attitude towards food and cooking and even though I now eat more European fare than Asian fare given that I live in the UK, these 8 principles still guide my life as the consummate foodie [:D]
My grandmother was my influence when it came to full on home cooking.. I don’t remember ever having a sandwich at her house.. even lunch was a bicuits and chicken kind of deal.. For my love of fancier stuff I credit Julia Childs and a family friend (former Alioto’s chef turned garbage man (no kidding)), and for my restaurant obsession of course, Jane and Michael. I wasn’t nearly as obsessed with food until I read Roadfood for the first time.. it started this odd little habit I now have of not being able to eat without reading a menu or food reviews. I spend of lot of my lunch and breakfast time on this very website…hehe.
Like some others here, I’d have to say my roadfood influence was just the neighborhood around me as I was growing up. In my case, it was a suburb of Washington, DC with a substantial Jewish population. My family was not Jewish and my mom was a classic meat and potatoes goyishe cook. Nothing special–or very interesting. So I’d look forward to "roadfood" meals at delis and restuarants in the area: not only delifood, but sub sandwiches (sooo much better than Subway), archetypal pizza (made by a guy who sampled the real thing in Naples during WWII, came home and opened a restaurant in which he tried to duplicate it), the forerunner of the Big Mac at a place called Topp’s which was the first independent car-hop burger joint in the DC "burbs" (at least the first one I experienced), and all kinds of seafood on trips around the Chesapeake and to Ocean City in the summer.
Then I went to school in Baltimore. As a single student away from home for the first time, I was "forced" to sample the divine roast beef sub at "the B&M" (a little place in the basement of a row house), the etherial hamburger sub at Harry Little’s (Baltimoron alert!–is it still there?), more fantastic Kosher in East Baltimore, luscious sauerbraten at Hausner’s, Italian soulfood at more little holes in the wall in East Baltimore and all that the North Avenue and Lexington Markets had to offer (a lot of what we now call artisan foods).
Finally, I went south to grad school in N. Carolina and grew aquainted with pulled pork, grits and all manor of vegetables fresh out of the summer garden. By this time I think it’s fair to say I was in love with all manor of "roadfood" and I still am.
You know…I grew up in a house where home-cooked, home-canned, home-grown EVERYTHING was. I hated it. I would go to my friends’ houses just so I could have jelly from a store, or cookies from a package, or pickles from the store. I spent the first, oh…I’d say 25 years of my life knowing how to cook basic things, but not doing anything special. Most of what I cooked came from a box or the freezer, although I did have a couple of dishes I was darn fine at making.
And then I joined this message board, on a whim basically. It’s a tech site, but they have a Kitchen forum. And I started looking around. And then I started wanting to share my mom’s, my grandma’s, my great-grandma’s recipes with these new friends I’d found that I loved. But I felt wrong about posting family recipes I couldn’t make. So I started cooking, and experimenting, and I’ve branched out from there.
So while I would technically say it was my family (mom, grandma on dad’s side, great-grandma on dad’s side [who I never actually met, she died long before I was born]) who originally influenced what I cook…it was a man who became a good friend although we never met, who got me interested in the other site, who got me "hired" in as a moderator (I still "work" for them, three 2 1/2 years later), who unfortunately passed on about a year ago, who influenced me to start cooking for real. Online, he was known as Ralf_Kramden. Some of his recipes have found their way into my family’s traditions, so I know he will always be remembered.
There were several influences on me. Everyone raved about my mom’s cooking and baking. I loved it as a child. I later realized that my parent’s friends and relatives were so impressed by my mother because they couldn’t or wouldn’t cook at all. I also learned her heart was in the right place but her skills and courage were limited. Bless her.
When we were teenagers, my brother was ill for many years. He required several hospital stays that lasted weeks and months. Money was usually tight and we used to beg to go to restaurants. When he was hospitalized, the routine was that mom would stay at the hospital all day. Dad would come home from work, pick me up, we’d go out for a quick dinner and then on to the hospital to visit and pick up mom. Eating in restaurants so often made me appreciate home cooking and eating. I prefer a family meal at home to this day.
I got lucky with my wife. She turned out to be an extraordinary cook and baker venturing into many genres at any skill level. She could not only make just about any recipe successfully, but she had a knack for making food tasty by knowing just what seasoning or flavoring to add. She improved many recipes in her time.
The most notable influence on the two of us took place on a road trip we took before we were engaged. We drove from to Chicago to Cape Cod stopping for breakfast at Joe’s Diner in Lee, MA. A few years later we realized that of all the restaurants we ever visited that one was the one that stood out. It was a good full breakfast highlighted by great American fried potatoes, but it was the best experience. After that realization we always sought out roadfood finds locally and when traveling. Stern’s first edition of Roadfood came when I was traveling around the country on business. Many good meals were had in those days.
So for the past 25 years I have had a wonderful time chasing magnificent meals in roadfood joints. For me, it’s my collection.
My Roadfood inspiration isn’t a person — it’s geography. In my early 20s, I moved from the small town where I grew up to a large city. I’ve never regretted this, but found over the course of years that I missed the simplicity of some of my hometown eateries. Ultimately, I began seeking out those kinds of places everywhere.
Over time, I also began discovering the wide variety of simple food available where I live now, although it bothers me when a lot of these foods — such as doughnuts — are treated ironically, with a (virtually) condescending wink that seems to say, "Oh, look at us, we’re eating the same food as the rest of America. Isn’t that funny?" Just shut up and eat. Please.
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