When my son Alex was 6, I was tickled to read his "about the author" blurb in his first-grade book. "My favorite foods are shrimp scampi and pesto pasta," he had written. As the food editor for an international daily newspaper, I felt vindicated. All those efforts to steer him away from typical kid foods, to cultivate an adventurous palate on a single mom's budget, were starting to pay off.
Not long after that, on Mother's Day, he made me a perfect, half-moon-shaped omelet, garnished with strips of fresh basil. I took a picture to capture the presentation and even better, his ear-to-ear, bursting-with-pride grin.
When other parents complained that their children would only eat pizza and macaroni and cheese, I felt a little smug that mine loved lobster, Provençal olives, and stinky cheeses.
Little did I realize then that I was creating a food snob.
Alex is now in college, and when he comes home he quizzes me on the contents of our refrigerator: Is this sauerkraut the real thing? How was it fermented? Instead of romaine lettuce for salads, why not get some dandelion greens, escarole, or frisée? And forget the button mushrooms, Mom. Let's experiment with the wild ones that are in season.
For his 21st birthday, Alex bought himself a German-made chef's knife on eBay. He asked to take the marble mortar and pestle back to college after a break. And he was ecstatic when, on Christmas Day, he unwrapped a shiny, stainless All-Clad sauté pan.
Alex is a math major and approaches cooking the way he does everything: with precision – but also with lofty standards. He has always been one to aim for excellence in the classroom, on the running track, and now, in the kitchen.
He claims that he's recently taken up cooking because the food at his fraternity house is so awful. The "chef" there buys 100 pieces of chicken that are "all stuck together," he tells us. The fact that Alex is not showing up for meals with the brothers, opting instead to cook at his off-campus apartment, hasn't gone over too well at the frat house.
But I'm proud of my budding chef. My French husband insists that after Alex occupies Wall Street for a while, he'll realize his true calling is in the kitchen, open a restaurant, and become the next Top Chef.
For now, we'll keep cooking together from my vast collection of cookbooks, our current favorite of which is "All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking." On tonight's menu: Caribbean Pork Shoulder with Braised Green Cabbage.
I know I'll savor every last bite.