Tasting Life

I have a very special friend named Ethan, and in just a few days, the grownups in his life will be celebrating his first birthday. Plenty of my friends have children, but this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve been so intimate with the day-to-day, inch-by-inch development of a human tadpole.

In the few months that my friend’s diet has expanded beyond the bottled facsimile of breast milk, I’ve had the privilege of observing his experiences with this thing called food, a front-row seat at the high-chair theater, complete with bowl tossing, high-pitched screams and other primal expressions of gustatory joy.

One night, I cooked a small pot of red lentils, suggesting to his mother that it’s baby food as Mother Nature had intended, self-pureeing in about 25 minutes. She agrees to the experiment, eager for variety beyond sweet potatoes and applesauce, but me, I’ve got bigger aspirations. I’m secretly hoping that on some level the kid will intuitively understand that his auntie is trying to expose him to the world, that lentils just aren’t lentils; they’re culture and history and nutrition and agriculture. (I also plan to introduce him to the sounds of Miles Davis before his second birthday – if Mister MA doesn’t beat me to it.)

I wait for his reaction. At first, he grimaces, a sign of cranky uncertainty, but he forges ahead, masticating like a champ. He sings that “num, num, num” song and the chubby legs begin to swing in excitement beneath the counter. He grins wide, with all four teeth, and readily receives a second helping. Folks, I think we’ve got a winner.

As I prepared for today’s final entry, I thought a lot about Ethan and the purity of his experience with food. It’s free of judgment and pre-conceived notions and instead filled with wonder, joy and openness, a sensory interaction of the highest order. And now his tongue knows lentils, something my tongue didn’t experience until I was in my 20s.

Ethan may grow up to hate lentils -- and kamut bulgur and all the other things I’ve got planned for him to taste. But taste is all you can do in this life. My father was insistent that we try everything at least once before deciding we didn’t like something on our plates, and I think that’s a good rule of thumb for many aspects of life.

Try everything once. Be open to the flavors, textures and aromas that life presents you, both smooth and velvety as well as sharp and bitter. Open your mouth and taste something new everyday -- or something familiar in a different way.

When was the last time you bit into a radish? Really tasted mustard from a spoon? Listened to the crunch of a potato chip? Smelled the perfume of sauteed onions?

Life is delicious, every minute of every day. Life is also precious. So let’s get busy.

Thank you for spending three years with me in this space. Stay in touch for news and updates about the next chapter.

Keep the spirit of cooking alive!

By Kim ODonnel |  July 10, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Kitchen Musings
Previous: Ask Kim: For Old Times' Sake | Next: This blog is no longer active


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Congratulations on an excellent final column and for touching so many lives throughout your tenure here. And yes, Meatless Mondays had the overall effect of reducing my meat consumption and heightening my awareness. Keep up the good work!

Posted by: davemarks | July 10, 2009 7:34 AM

Beautifully said, Kim! All the best for your next adventures. Xoxoxo

Posted by: Elizabeth_Terry | July 10, 2009 10:01 AM

Did you share your parents' favorite teething toy? ;-)

What a great story. I can practically see his legs and teeth. It's a classic "num num" reaction. So fun.

Another stellar column and one that rings true with many of your readers, I'm sure. Reading the comments over the last few days, I realize you have created a space for people to bring questions and to explore new foods. Your chats were often filled with happy discovery stories. That is such a gift! If you weren't so young I'd call it a legacy but that's a term for folk older than we are, right?

I look forward to following you at Culinate and True/Slant. You can count me among the followers!

Jacqueline Church
The Leather District Gourmet

Posted by: ldgourmet | July 10, 2009 10:12 AM

Perfect ending for MA. Well said. Might just print and hang this one.

Thought of you last night as I fed my 2-year-old (tomorrow!) whole wheat rotini with hot chorizo cream sauce cream sauce creation. People keep telling me to not give her spicy stuff - and this was VERY spicy chorizo - she gobbled it up, only spitting out the raw tomatoes I tossed in. She still, though, won't eat anything green. So funny.

So many assumptions about food, and kids just throw it all out the window.

Thank you, Kim, and see you in webland

Terp in the Kitchen

Posted by: alisoncsmith | July 10, 2009 10:34 AM

Thanks, hon, for teaching me about food ... and life.

-- Mister MA

Posted by: Russ_Walker | July 10, 2009 11:15 AM

Aw - outstanding final MA and such a sweet note from Mr. MA. I can't wait to see where things go next. Big Hugs!

Posted by: Lizka | July 10, 2009 1:49 PM

i know i will continue to encourage my *mighty appetite* but i'm sad to see this space go. but i promise to follow the notorious KOD to more delicious places.


Posted by: skgans | July 10, 2009 3:56 PM

Goodbye and thanks for all the fish.


[Sorry, it had to be said.]

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | July 11, 2009 2:27 AM

Oh Kim, I can't believe this blog has come to an end after all this time. You will be followed. And missed.

Posted by: ShaniG | July 11, 2009 12:29 PM

Sad! I had no idea that this was coming to an end. I was a religious reader/chat contributor when I lived in DC 5 years ago. Since leaving, I peruse AMA and read the chat transcripts. Best of luck to you!

Posted by: ElizabethF | July 15, 2009 3:00 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company