Happy Thanksgiving to All....I'm Thankful for Generational Grub
One of my best friends happens to be 40 years older than me. She also happens to have birthed me, raised me, and fed me for the past 37 years (yes, she still cooks for me; at least on holidays). It is obvious we have a larger generation gap than most parent/children. And if I’m graced with the opportunity it will be the same with me, with maybe a couple of years short. However, our situation is even more unique because at times we seem worlds apart. She is a very old school, country raised farm girl from Clay, Kentucky. She got milk fresh from the cow, vegetables from the ground, and literally strangled the chickens she got to eat. What would be an awesome convenience to most of us now, was everyday life for her even though they were still poor. Food was a luxury to her and with 7 other siblings at home, with her the youngest, she literally sometimes had to fight for that strangled chicken’s leg.
Growing up she and my grandmother (who was 76 years my senior) kept those old country ways. There are some deep and interesting stories I have between the two, but the food experiences are some of my most memorable. My grandmother lived with us until her death in 1990 when I was 8 so I still have a few memories of her locked in. Especially her cooking. Everything was homemade. I didn’t even know what a canned biscuit was until I was around 10 because my mother became too busy trying to keep up with the home cooked biscuits and being a single working mother with 2 jobs. But before I was introduced to those tasty Hungry Jack flaky biscuits, I had the pleasure of having home cooked meals on a regular in my childhood. But because of that, we did not eat out often and when we did it was pizza, the REAL Kentucky Fried chicken, or McDonald’s. We didn’t go to sit down restaurants often except for the black Louisville staples Ryan’s or Jay’s cafeteria on a Sunday.
“I omitted my future dining experiences with her, speaking and going unless it was the usual fast food or occasional Golden Coral (which she also does not care for). “
Up until I was in my mid 20’s the fanciest restaurant I had been was the Old Spaghetti Factory in Downtown Louisville and that was on a school field trip. I felt light years behind my other counterparts once I got into the real adult working world. Most of them had grown up eating out in at least semi-fancy restaurants or had been introduced to a fine dining experience by a certain age. Most of the “college educated” I was around had a different growing up experience than I did. But not once did I ever feel ashamed; just out of the loop. I was raised like a country girl just in the city. Except for a mound of Barbies and Nintendo games, I was raised very old school and simple. Very little was “extra” or fancy including food. My mother was very funny about food and I didn’t understand why until I was much older. She wasted nothing! I was a small kid and didn’t eat much so I was never a part of the “clean plate club”. However, she made sure nothing was wasted one way or another. She gripped about the cost of food on a regular but was over the moon when McDonald’s got a $1 menu. The first time I went out to eat at “fancy” restaurant (Revue’ at the Galt House) I went and told her of my experience. I heard about it for days. I made the mistake of telling her the price, which admittedly took be aback as well. But her reaction was almost one of disgust. I omitted my future dining experiences with her, speaking and going unless it was the usual fast food or occasional Golden Coral (which she also does not care for).
There were special occasions where she would go to a new sit-down restaurant if our extended family was getting together for a big meal. But even then, she could not look past the pricing and always seemed uncomfortable. Our times eating out together were admittedly frustrating. She was always unhappy with the choices, comparing it to her own home cooked meals or she was back to the disdain of the cost. So, when I was given this assignment or “challenge” as I like to think of it, I was not looking forward to it. At all. To my surprise, she was happy to come with me on a new food adventure, but I was still leery to how she would act when we went. I spent a few days mulling over where I could take her. Couldn’t be “fancy” or her idea of it. Couldn’t be expensive, couldn’t be too far, and couldn’t be seafood or anything out of the ordinary. I remember she occasionally liked Taco Bell when I was younger. Plus, even the pickiest of eaters enjoy some form of a taco, right? I felt like I couldn’t go wrong with my decision, so Taco Luchador was the winning choice.
“However, she stated dining out is still a luxury and that you don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to eat well.”
I admit that my choice was a little on the self-serving side. I love tacos. Almost as much as I love fish and seafood and I could eat both almost every day. And Taco Luchador is my favorite place to get them. They have a few locations in the city but the one I frequent most is the one I was introduced to which is located at the beginning of the Highlands on Baxter Ave. It’s a small establishment and easy to get in and out so I knew my mother would have no problems with the steps or sitting out on the patio. We went early on a Monday afternoon which was perfect because I know she wouldn’t like the crowd on a weekend or later in the day. She really liked the décor even though it was a little “busy”. She also loves the outdoors, so the patio was a real treat. The menus were large enough for her to read but didn’t quite help with the understanding of what was on the menu. Her biggest surprise was that there were no ground beef tacos. She scanned the menu for 10 minutes before I realized what she was looking for and she said, “These are some spiffy tacos”. She had questions about almost everything on the menu, turning her nose at some options and intrigued by others. “Fish in a taco”? “They do that”?
After mulling over the menu for a longer than what my stomach was prepared for wait, she finally settled on one carnitas and one vegetarian taco. I had the Baja fish taco, al pastor taco, and the elote callejero which is Mexican corn on the cob. If you ever want a life-changing food experience an elote corn on the cobb is a must! It is corn on the cobb smothered in mayonnaise, Mexican spices, and cojita cheese. Even if you do not care for Mexican cuisine, I promise you will love this. Of course, all our tacos were delicious as well. I was very shocked but pleased when my mother was so happy with her food. She even tried (and ate half of) my fish taco. She also loved her vegetarian taco and how it was prepared. The vegetarian taco is prepared with corn and roasted poblano, rajas, black beans, sweet plantains, guacamole, creama, and queso fresco. She got everything but the queso. She raved on and on about how fresh the ingredients were in all the dishes and how perfectly they were cooked. The best part about it all was that all the tacos were under $4.00 each and the corn was around $4.25. With drinks and a tip, the meal was over $20.00 (my mother’s breaking point) but it was well worth it and not overpriced.
As we had lunch, we discussed restaurants and costs and she started to understand that food is just more expensive now as well as going out to eat. However, she stated dining out is still a luxury and that you don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to eat well. Her real disdain is with places where one person’s meal is $40-$50 alone. She feels it to be glutenous and unnecessary. Almost like a display of greed. Although I don’t fully agree with her, I do understand. For my generation, food and dining is a form of entertainment. An experience. Almost like the movies or theatre and some are willing to pay a healthy price for it. If anything for the Instagram of Facebook likes and post or for bragging rights. For my mother’s generation, food was survival. Good food was a privilege. Going out to eat was more about conversation and fellowship and to give the main cooks of the family a break. Not for bragging rights and going places just to be “hip” or seen. But I mostly believe her feelings come from the state of society overall and she really made me think. We have increasingly become a society that has the need to be indulgent and greedy. Do any of us really deserve or need a $50-100 meal? What makes us think we deserve a $60 steak dinner when there are people who could have used that money to buy a month’s worth of groceries. Honestly, who do we think we are? Only the individual can answer that for himself. But maybe the old school way of thinking about some things can bring some of us back to reality. Food is just the tip of the narcissistic ways about our culture. Starting with how we use it to indulge ourselves and others can possibly help change the cultural mindset of unwarranted extravagance that for many of us, is undeserved.