Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Breaking the Sour Cream Barrier

I am that rare individual who possesses a California birth certificate and yet does not care much for avocados. I'm often asked, and these are the exact words, "How can you be from California and not like avocados?" Well, I only lived there full-time when I was a wee tot, and back in those days, Angie Dickinson had not made those 1970s commercials that resulted in the avocado becoming an object of culinary desire. In later years, when I would spend summers in the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County, I was more enamored of Thrifty ice cream and whatever nibbles I could pick up around town while riding my Spyder bike. Food was an afterthought -- sunshine was first on my mind.

Over the years, there have been certain foods which have just never had much appeal to me. In some cases, I downright fear a food, but that's getting better as I get older. And it's about time, since in many senses of the word, I guess I am a senior citizen. My latest personal victory has been sour cream. I've wondered for years why people like to dabble this appropriately-named concoction onto otherwise delightful Mexican food, but it took a to-go order mistake for me to acquire a taste for it.

One day during the height of the pandemic, I placed an online to-go order at my local Chipotle, during a brief interval in which it was not shut down because of lettuce or salsa contamination. I ordered my usual: a bowl with black beans and cilantro-lime rice, with barbacoa for the protein, and corn salsa, grated cheese, and salsa verde. When I picked up the order, I didn't check the contents, and I arrived home with a chicken bowl, pinto beans and white rice, pico de gallo, and a topping of SOUR CREAM. In a bout of both horror and hunger, hunger won out, and I started eating, realizing that I actually liked this, so much so that on my next online order, I intentionally ordered what I had been served in error. And that was the beginning of my sour cream fascination.

Now, a year or so later, I cannot order the #1 combo at Taco Bell (three crispy Supreme beef tacos with a beverage of your choice) without sour cream. In fact, I've started saving the little bits of taco that crack off as you're eating and using them to scoop up more sour cream. In so doing, I tell myself that I am actually eating a taco salad, which is kind of healthy, I think.

This experience with crème fraîche makes me wonder what else I may be missing. I recall vividly sitting in front of an order of KFC mashed potatoes one night in the 1960s and being told by my mother (an otherwise gentle and caring individual) that I could not leave the table until they were finished. I sat there for an hour, probably missing much quality television, until I finally dipped my spoon into the potatoes and gravy, put it in my mouth, and experienced what can only be described as a religious awakening. Since that evening, I have been a huge fan of mashed potatoes, and also now enjoy many other foods that I once feared, among them broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, and even tater tots. I try not to even think about all the years without tater tots.

One day last summer, I was having lunch with my daughter Hannah at Mi Vida on the waterfront in Washington, D.C. It is referred to online as "Celebrity chef's high-end Mexican fare in a glamorous bi-level setting with killer waterfront views." Without my even thinking about it or paying much attention, Hannah ordered guacamole. When it arrived, I took a bite and found that I actually enjoyed it. This meant that in a sense, I had achieved something major, since guacamole contains more than a little avocado. Hannah was elated and immediately snapped my picture while I sat there smiling and eating the guac. She then forwarded it to our whole family, including our daughter Sarah, whose homemade guacamole I had often refused. I was reprimanded by Sarah, who said something like, "Oh, sure, you won't eat mine, but you'll eat it there. Fine."

I really do try to keep an open mind about things, but I know that food remains a weak point. My kids tell me I eat like a teenager, but I don't think that's necessarily true. For example, I tend to favor those things that McDonald's has on sale in the mobile application, not just any random old thing on their menu. And I almost always, practically never, ok, maybe once in 2019, order large fries.

Wait a second. Can you put sour cream on top of guacamole?