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Front Porch: Life’s better as a flavorful adventure

Now that you’ve had your fill of succulent roast turkey, savory stuffing and pumpkin pie, it’s time to focus on the food ahead. The Christmas season stretches before us, rich with the tasty promise of candy canes and cutout cookies washed down with gallons of eggnog.

I hesitate to address the F-word (food) in this column because when I last wrote about a related topic (Pig Out in the Park) a commenter speculated about the status of my muffin top. And I don’t think he was talking about my homemade blueberry muffins.

But an article I read recently in Ladies Home Journal caused me to reflect on the gift of properly functioning taste buds. The 53-year-old author wrote that she only eats four foods: bread, French fries, potato chips and milk. She said she’s never tasted a fruit or a vegetable (unless you count wine).

The poor woman is what’s known as an “adult picky eater.” Apparently, her weight and blood pressure are within normal range and she’s healthy, but her taste buds stalled in toddlerhood.

Imagine never knowing the fiery heat of authentic Thai curry or the smooth decadence of milk chocolate melting on your tongue!

My mom says I was a picky eater as a child. I disagree. Does anyone truly enjoy cooked canned peas or lima beans washed down with a glass of milk?

Thankfully, Mom is a wonderful cook, so there was always something on the table to enjoy.

I married a fellow foodie and together we’ve explored exotic cuisines from traditional Norwegian fare (pinnekjøtt, anyone?) to Moroccan lamb tagine. A bowl of pho here, a smattering of sushi there – sampling new flavors gives us a window to the world.

When cooking at home I stick to family favorites. With four sons, cooking on a budget is a must, otherwise we’d go bankrupt filling their always hungry tummies. Consequently, I’ve prepared vats of spaghetti, oceans of beef stew and gallons of chicken and dumplings.

By the time our youngest was ready for table food, I yearned to expand my cooking repertoire. I mean, a person can only stand to make tacos and sloppy Joes so many times.

I found several great cooking websites and vowed to prepare one new entrée each month. New Recipe Night proved to be a big hit with the boys. If they raved about the new dish, I starred the recipe and kept it. If the meal got a thumbs down, I tossed the recipe.

As a result, none of my sons is a picky eater. Of course, they all have unique likes and dislikes, but none of them is afraid to pick up a fork and taste the unknown.

In addition to exposing my family to different foods, New Recipe Night relieved me from the boredom of cooking the same meals every week.

That’s why I’m flummoxed when I encounter adults who genuinely prefer processed “foods” like corn dogs or chicken nuggets. Even more bewildering to me are people who simply don’t enjoy eating at all. For them food is just a way to fuel their bodies. A thick, juicy T-bone or ground beef patty is all the same to them. That’s like participating in choral music though tone-deaf.

Oh, I’m aware of the statistics about the national obesity epidemic. A preoccupation with food isn’t healthy, but since we have to eat to live, why not enjoy the experience?

Last week I got out my Christmas linens. As I ironed the festive tablecloths and cheery placemats, I thought about the people who would gather at my table and the meals we would share.

Sorting through holiday recipes, I set aside a few new things to try. Who knows? Maybe this will be the year I actually enjoy fruitcake.

If life is a banquet, this season is the perfect time to treat your taste buds to a flavorful adventure.

Bon appétit!

Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

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