“Ewww Mommy” is a phrase that played over and over in my head as a child while sitting at the dinner table. Usually this was due to a dish that contained cream of mushroom soup, or hot dogs, or bell peppers. However, later in life I learned of a word that sounded exactly the same: “umami.” It’s a Japanese word that describes the phenomenon known as “deliciousness.”
For you foodies out there who have never heard of umami before, let me enlighten you. Wait a minute – as if foodies would actually read this blog, I don’t think there are any recipes here that a true foodie would be interested in … well, maybe the Gourmet Top Ramen. Perhaps they’d prepare it with a little truffle oil to make it fancy.
In the late ‘90s I worked in Marketing for Robert Mondavi in the Napa Valley. It was a great place — we’d have Wine Tasting meetings at 9:00 in the morning. Of course after we tasted each wine, we were supposed to spit it out. I can’t speak for everyone, but I did because I’m not fond of wine (remember, beer snob). I will say it gave me an appreciation for wine, and when confronted with only wine choices, I will lean towards a lovely Sangiovese. Our Marketing Team once had to attend a training hosted by Mondavi’s Sommelier at the time (that’s fancy for Wine Wizard). Essentially, he wanted to teach us that it wasn’t necessary to limit wine choices with food — that we weren’t required to have red wine only with beef and white wine only with chicken or fish. Oh yes, it’s true. He reviewed the four taste components: salt, sour, bitter and sweet. Then we were served various meat dishes with red or white wine. Then he’d have us add salt to the dish and then have us drink the opposing red or white wine to show us that one wine was just as lovely as the other. It was very educational. During the training, he introduced us to the fifth, and mostly unknown, taste: “umami.” He defined it as deliciousness. Imagine your favorite food … the one that makes your mouth water just thinking about it, and the one that makes you close your eyes and say “MMMMMM” when you’re eating it. That’s umami baby.
Perhaps you’re now all curious of what I consider umami. This is a small list:
Malfatti (watch for this post in the future)
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
The first ripe tomato from my garden
And this is a very small list of my “Ewww Mommy” foods:
There are about a thousand foods I don’t like. I’m a very discriminating eater. But if I like something, I REALLY like it. Take crab for instance. If I was stranded on a deserted island and could only eat one thing, it would be crab. Then again, I did see “Castaway.” So maybe not. But for now, it’s still my number one umami food. I don’t remember the first time I had crab. It certainly wasn’t as a child — the only seafood my Dad could handle on the table was fish sticks. My only memory of crab is this:
That’s one of my favorite books from childhood. It’s lasted all these years.
Every time I fix crab legs now, Jay will actually wait to eat so he can watch me take that first bite. It’s always a spiritual experience and I “ooh” and “aah” like an audience member on “Wheel of Fortune”. When John-boy was home with us and I’d make crab, I’d ration out the crab legs (always giving him just a little more, because that’s how unselfish I am). We would scarf them down blissfully and then we’d fight over any tiny little pieces that we could find hiding on the serving plate.
Last week my sister, Tracy, and I treated our nephew, Logan, to the Family Fun Center for the go-carts and kid-gambling (video games that spit out tickets). Forty-something dollars later after he cashed in 745 tickets for a squeezey ball, a light-up spinning top and five pieces of candy, we headed over to Red Lobster. Logan wanted to try crab because he liked some ‘crab’ puffs he tried at a Chinese restaurant earlier in the month, and because he had heard me rave about crab. He’s a great eater and will try (and like) just about everything. I wasn’t sure he’d like crab, especially since I didn’t have a lot of faith in the crab that might be served up at Red Lobster (no offense Red Lobster, I’m just a snob). Logan and I shared a big plate of shrimp scampi, salmon and snow crab. Here’s the verdict on the crab:
(For the record, that isn’t a beer bottle next to Logan’s plate—it’s an IBC root beer. Though a beer bottle was in front of my plate. Yes, Tracy was driving.)
I was able to salvage about one measly crab leg for myself, as Logan was devouring them, and having fun cracking the shells. But I was thrilled — thrilled that he loved crab as much as I do, and thrilled that I was able to see him enjoy crab for the first time. I can’t wait to get some Alaskan king crab legs and prepare them for him with some clarified butter. Oooo Mommy!!!
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