By Eleonora Baldwin
hen a 10-year-old refuses broccoli and feeds exclusively on pizza and hot dogs, no one bats an eye. When my son wants to know the kinds of olives in a particular tapenade, both host and dinner companions go quiet.
This is the child that at age four ate not one but three portions of polpo alla Luciana in a seaside tavern in the Tuscan town of Castiglione della Pescaia (the owner still remembers us and demands to treat my son to the savory stewed octopus dish each time we visit). The same year, at a posh seafood restaurant in northern California, the kid ordered spear-caught grey snapper and steamed asparagus spears. The chef came out and shook my hand.
On a recent business trip, he impressed a seasoned cheese-maker when he tasted ricotta forte — a ricotta that's been aged five months to the point of becoming pungent and spicy. My son asked for seconds.
My boy is a bizarre alimentary wunderkind, but it's not all his doing. As a child, I was a picky eater who whined a lot. I didn't eat tomatoes, fish bones scared me, and I ironically dreaded cheese. I didn't want him to be like me.
So I encouraged him to try different flavors and foods. I never forced him. Nor did I lazily fall back into the trap of routine meals. He tasted his first fast food "Happy Meal" at age nine and loved it. On nights when I don't feel like cooking, dinner is popcorn and milkshakes. We're not food snobs. When we dine out with friends, seeing him experiment with new foods is beautiful. He's partial to bold flavors and has always loved fish. These are my gourmand son's top 10 dishes.
They say your palate changes every decade. Who knows what's next for my son. I raised him as an international kid so you'll get no resistance if you offer up burgers, French toast and PB&J sandwiches. But that's another story.
Every year, Umbria blesses its hard-working tractors. Thankfully, it doesn't eat them.
A medieval creation, Ciaramicola is rustic cake that conceals Umbria's red-hot heart.
Ten-year-old boys are fussy eaters who say "no" a lot, right? Now. meet one who asks for steamed asparagus, mussels and octopus salad.
Italians are no longer eating the kinds of massive meals guidebooks suggest. Now, mixing and matching rule.
Beets are now the cat's meow, at least to some. But it wasn't always that way.
Life begins with bread and bread begins with dough, so let's get started.
Wine, like music, has tone and personality, but you need to learn to read its notes.
Wine lingo can sometimes unsettle non-experts, but understanding it isn't hard.
Barbarians at the gate — otherwise known as a birthday sleepover — can drive you to drink, specifically vintage rosé.
Paying parking tickets in Rome is a nightmare in the making, but wine can dull the pain.
Family anecdotes bring the author's 19th-century great grandfather to life.
A cooking seminar sees a home chef frolic with the masters and emerge drenched in new ingredients.
IN THE STICKS
As always, the long trip Down Under widens the distance between here and there.
A lifelong relationship with Spanish brings a stunning realization: you were never friends.
Italy may overstate its insistence on"bella figura," but it beats pajamas and slippers.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Finding solace and silence in Japan also means coming to accept smiles as a form of expression.
FOOD & WINE ARCHIVE