Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Brother

Now, I know what you're thinking -- this is a food blog. You'll eventually see my point, though.

My brother, Michael, is three and a half years my junior and was supposed to be a girl. My parents tell me all I talked about was how I wanted a sister, just let me have a little sister. The ultrasound showed a girl, but out popped a boy. I did not take it well and held him accountable for about a decade.

He got me back, though. First, he was a boy. If you come from, or are close to, an Italian family you'll know being a boy equates to being a saint. Second, he was the pickiest eater to ever grace this planet.

The only vegetables he would touch were raw carrots, canned corn and broccoli, if it was smothered in cheese sauce. Guess what three vegetables were served in a never ending circle, despite me liking everything from asparagus to zucchini? Now, I'm not saying the other vegetables were never served, but his preferences definitely were a priority. I distinctly remember him trying salad for the first time. He was probably 7 years old and would carefully inspect each piece of iceburg lettuce (aka water) before dipping it, ever so sparingly, into ranch dressing. He'd then take these tiny rabbit bites and chew and swallow like it might explode in his mouth. And this was him liking salad - a huge milestone.

Nothing could have any sauce or condiments on it. Plain spaghetti, no dips, plain hot dogs and plain hamburgers. My mom would plead, in vain, at fast food restaurants for a plain cheeseburger. She'd say "Just the bun, the meat, the cheese - NOTHING else, please." Inevitably, he'd find some little fleck of an onion or trace of ketchup, that forensic scientists would have difficulty seeing, and the whole burger would be inedible.

Corn on the cob was cut off the cob, or little handles were used. My parents had to wrap a napkin around the "handle" of a drumstick or rib so he wouldn't get his fingers dirty. If his napkin had a crumb touch it, he'd need a new one. Everything was dissected with impeccable knife skills, rivaling a surgeon's precision, leaving any little tidbit of questionable food pushed off to the side, never to be eaten.

Of course any casseroles (one of my personal faves) were out because the foods were "touching." We could eat plain macaroni and cheese, but not Hamburger Helper because it was mixed in. Again, sometimes these were served, but working around his preferences.

Suffice to say, my parents and I suffered through a lot of repeat vegetables and toned down meals so my brother would also eat them.

Fast forward to 2005. Michael will be graduating high school soon and is going through all the financial and application processes...

For the Culinary Institute of America.

My brother, the pickiest eater to walk the Earth, wants to be a chef, at the top culinary school in the country. I guess if you think about it from a psycho-analysts' standpoint it makes sense. The ultimate picky eater aspires to become the best chef so he can control all the ingredients and taste of the food. Right?

A few months ago, Johnny and I drove out to New York for his college graduation and celebrated with family and friends. We enjoyed many meals together and I watched in disbelief as my brother smelled, tasted and ate everything put down in front of him. Where was this kid when we were growing up? He's making ME look like a picky eater now, poking fun of me for not eating mushrooms and insisting I try them. He has eaten, and enjoyed, things I would never be able to swallow down. (Foie gras and sweet breads, anyone?)

Michael graduated August 15 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park with an AOS in culinary arts.

No longer is he my brother, the picky eater. Now, he's my brother, the chef.

He's working at a highly acclaimed and awarded restaurant in California. In a few months, he will continue his education at CIA's sister campus in California in professional wine studies.

And, he even occasionally lets me bug him with stupid questions like "where's the best place to store garlic," and "how do you say quinoa?" He also passes on great sites.

Oh, and did I forget to mention he also cooks really great meals whenever we happen to be at my parents' house at the same time?


LizNoVeggieGirl said...

So great about your brother!! Great photo too :-)

Nowheymama said...

This post should give hope to mothers of picky eaters everywhere.

Great picture!

Dad said...

AND I am the extremely proud mother of both very talented, artistic and creative children.
What a life!

Anonymous said...

That's amazing! Who would have thought it? That's such a big accomplishment. If I could do it all over, I would be a chef too! He's so lucky! And, now you can eat normal food with him!