Growing up my culinary experiences were limited. Part of this was due to our financial situation. Farming in Colorado during the 70's and early 80's wasn't the most lucrative profession. My mother didn't work when I was young, so we survived on the farm income. With six mouths to feed eating out was pretty much limited to the occasional Friday night pizza and McDonalds after church on Sundays. Being on a tight budget also doesn't give much latitude for experimentation. The other major reason for our standardized menu was my father's tastes. Dad was a meat and potatoes kind of guy (he has advanced somewhat as he's aged), and by meat I mean ground beef. He didn't care much for pasta, chicken or even cheese.
One of the results of this sheltered existence was a lack of exposure to Chinese cuisine. My idea of Chinese food was ground beef mixed with La Choy Bean Sprouts, topped with La Choy Chow Mein noodles and covered with soy sauce. It's not that this wasn't good, but it wasn't my favorite dish, and based on this I wasn't keen on trying additional Chinese recipes. As a result, I ended up being 20 years old and hadn't really eaten at a good Chinese buffet.
One day I was going to meet a friend for lunch, he suggested Chinese. Due to some problems with my bike, I ended up being late. My friend had to leave, but he had already paid for my lunch. I thought, “what the heck, I can eat some bean sprouts”, so I stayed and ate lunch alone. The food was excellent, and at the end of the meal I started looking for something to finish off the experience. I noticed a pan full of some kind of red stuff at the beginning of the line, next to the soup, so I tasted it. Having never been introduced to sweet and sour sauce I made the logical assumption – this must be a Chinese dessert. I'm sure everyone else at the restaurant thought I was insane, but I went and got a bowl me a bowl of sweet and sour. It wasn't until I later related this story to some friends that I realized Sweet and Sour wasn't normally eaten from a bowl…
Last Friday I had lunch at a Chinese place with my sister and nephew. John, who just turned two, makes a total disaster out of Chinese food – rice and noodles go EVERYWHERE. The thing I found funny was his love for sweet and sour. He started using his fork (Chinese restaurants don't seem to like to give you spoons) to eat the Sweet and Sour all by itself. I'm not sure if I should be proud that my nephew and I share the same good taste in food, or be embarrassed that as an adult I behaved like a two year old.