In addition to my mother, my interest in the culinary arts was driven by my grandmother and my father.
My grandmother would plan a semi-annual excursion to the McDonald’s on Regent St in Sudbury, Ontario. I didn’t complain about cold fries or the fact that were onions on my burger. I craved the experience……the toy, the cash register, the other patrons. I prayed for the first time I would experience the Big Mac’s special sauce since to me it was evidence of a transition to adulthood. I did, however, never want to hit the age where, with all the offerings, I would chose the Filet O’Fish like my grandmother. Fish and cheese don’t mix.
My dad brought a different perspective. When he and my mother divorced, he made it a habit to treat my sister and I to supper at a restaurant every week (FYI- most Suburians call it supper, not dinner). It was at this point I was introduced to the concept of the sit down dinner. This involved a table with a cloth, appetizers and dessert other than McDonaldland cookies and soft-serve ice cream.. I remember sitting in Frank Vetere’s..a now defunct pizza restaurant with carnival like mirrors which made me look fat, skinny, tall or short and a toothpick dispenser I managed to destroy as an eight-year old. Otherwise we’d go to Ponderosa where I watch my dad order a steak which looked like a shoe to get the free salad bar which had magical things like shredded carrots, chick peas and three types of lettuce.
While at McDonald’s, I do remember looking out the window and seeing Deluxe Hambugers across the road. Boasting the best fries in Sudbury and selling T-shirts suggesting that “Sudbury is a one arch town”, I was introduced to the concept of competition. The big chain versus the little guy. My experience since has been that despite celebrity endorsements, flashy ads and menu descriptions with no spelling mistakes, few chains hold a candle to the uniqueness and passion of a family run joint.
Today, despite the McDonald’s attempts to localize itself by encasing nickles in the tables, I do believe Sudbury is a one arch town. I go there every time I visit my mom. The chicken on a bun dinner (complete with fries and coleslaw) is a must. I mean Diners, Drive-ins and Dives calibre. Hell, I can’t be wrong..It’s ranked 8 of 178 on trip advisor (more about trip advisor to come….)
So between my mom, dad and grandmother, by age eight I had everything I needed to progress to the stage of food aficionado. It wasn’t until age 15 that I really learned the inners of the culinary world. Why? I got a job.