Most of my family members refer to me by the colloquial expression "foodie," but I think of myself as more of a gourmand because it's not just that I like food, but rather I like great food. Any title is well-earned growing up in a family consisting masterful cooks. They think nothing of preparing meals of pit barbecued pork, cornbread-dusted catfish, buttermilk batter fried chicken, accompanied by macaroni & cheese, sweet potatoes, and greens. With a lifetime of exposure to such delicacies, what other title should one expect for any sane man?
Some of my earliest memories of foods that I have found comfort with were on the outer banks of North Carolina during summer vacations with my father's family. There, my relatives made a ritual of barbecuing a whole pig. After splitting the pig open, cleaning and spicing it with a mixture of vinegar and peppers, a big pit was wheeled out in to the driveway of our rented beach house. The rack of the pit was well oiled and the pig, so big that it covered the entire surface of the rack, was splayed out. Over the course of the day, the aroma of the roasting pig wafted through the open air surrounding the house, into any open window, door, or crevice of the house, and beyond the shore of the beach. Inquiring minds passing nearby, whom I encountered throughout the day while frolicking in the ocean in anticipation of the coming feast, never hesitated to invite themselves. I relished denying them an invite knowing that otherwise would have meant less for me. At day's end, when the smoked pig reached the goals of my male elders, and my mother and cousins put the finishing touches on the accompanying medley of dishes that typically included, bacon and onion enhanced baked beans, sweet corn on the cob, and far too many desserts. I was able to partake in the most joyous moment of what seemed my existence of the year by filling my belly to its depth with God's gift of all of these delicacies.
Unfortunately, the reunions came once a year, but Adam Richman, star of Travel Channel's Man v. Food, has enlightened me to other comparable culinary delights. When planning college tours, I have studied episodes to find eateries in the area. I never intended to match Richman's prowess at devouring massive amounts of food, that would have been an impossibility, but Richman was, after all, another gourmand whose opinions I valued. Thanks to Richman, I let my hunger loose in the 'cuse with some falling (off the bone) ribs at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que and frittata at Mother's Cupboard. I also indulged with chili dogs at Skyline Chili in Cincinnati and, somewhat ashamedly, the RU Hungry grease trucks on Rutgers' campus.
Unlike Richman, my food battle is not a matter of the quantity I could consume in a matter of time, but rather a quest to find food that my family has taught me to love.