Every once in a while, I am reminded that I was very spoiled to have a mother with a degree in home economics who taught "foods" and "sewing" and various other skills that were not commonly acquired in a formal manner by American women my age.
I did 4-H as a kid (primarily because my father had done it his entire childhood until college). Many years my mom would lead a 4-H group on a topic of her choosing that I had to participate in and many other young girls (always girls) joined.
I have strong memories of the bread group, the preserves group, and the international foods group, all led by mom. (I also have strong memories of the unicycling and clowning group, the rabbit group, the stained glass group, and others, but those memories aren't centered around my mother.)
Last night, at the last summer barbeque of the season, I was reminded again of the blessing that is my mother's formal training in foods.
I had made gazpacho from garden tomatoes, garden cucumbers, garden hungarian carrot peppers, and grocery store onions and bell peppers (plus the required olive oil and spices). I offered it to everyone who attended.
Gazpacho is E's favorite soup, and easily one of my top 3 favorite soups. Early in our relationship, he made me ask his mother for her recipe and I was amused to find it almost identical to the recipe (if you can call it that) I know from my mother. Given that his family is from NY and the South and I'm a west-coaster through and through, since we both considered it a staple, I guess I assumed gazpacho was ubiquitous in America.
But at last night's BBQ, at least 15% of the recipients (in this so-called land of the foodies) had *never* had it. And many of the others were pleasantly surprised, saying things like, "I hope this doesn't offend you, but this is like the best salsa ever" or "Wow, this is amazing. I've never liked gazpacho before." This reminded me that when I made it once for my childhood best friend, she said, "Doesn't gazpacho have garbanzo beans?" In other words, last night, I realized that almost everyone I know isn't as familiar with gazpacho as E and me.
Today, after giving it a bit more thought, I realized the reason I'm so comfortable with gazpacho is that my mother went out of her way to expose us kids to international foods. She went out of her way to educate us on foreign culture in areas where she had expertise. And she did such a good job that I am occasionally shocked to learn that despite my rural upbringing, I was given a much more worldly perspective in childhood than I ever realized. When a group of professionals in Silicon Valley from all over the country and the world don't know the name of the food you are serving, you quickly realize that your food knowledge is more extensive and worldy than you thought.
Also, there is nothing like getting a group of folks to agree that Californian grown gazpacho is delicious!