My passion for food began at a young age. Born into a Jewish family, I was constantly surrounded with, "Do you want more? What else can I get you? You didn't eat enough. Where should we dine next?" Food created memories, encouraged family time, spread love, showed comfort, shared traditions and honored celebrations. It still does.
Growing up, my kitchen was like a Starbucks as far as choices were concerned. My vegetarian mother often made four different dishes to accommodate everyone (and PS makes the best meatballs and chicken soup she's never tasted!). My father's car has been fondly named "The Food Wagon," which frequently stopped at various restaurants in the city to pick up dinner on his commute home from work. For us, take-out didn't mean ordering from the typical Chinese or pizza places that offered this as an option. Take-out just meant we took it out of the establishment, which included formal, sit-down restaurants.
We always had choices. It was never, "This is what's for dinner, like it or leave it." Thanks to my parents for not being advocates of the clean plate club, I remained eager and willing to try anything put in front of me. They always encouraged me to taste and experience all types of dishes, reminding me if it wasn't to my liking I could order something else. I relished in this adventurous mindset that I still carry with me today.
Even before I was a food writer, restaurant managers would ask me what publication I was with when they noticed the amount of dishes at the table sufficiently exceeded the amount of people in the chairs. "We'll have the left side of the menu" or just a simple, "Yes, thank you, this looks delicious" in reference to trying it all, have been common catch phrases amongst my family.
Sometimes we would literally finish dining at one establishment and walk a few blocks to have another meal somewhere else. Or we would leave a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, typically an event where guests leave stuffed for days, and go out to eat.
As my brother and I expanded our social lives and respective after-school activities, we were never required to all sit down to a meal or come home for supper. My parents understood that we were running in different directions during the week and chose to make plans with friends over the weekends. However, we all agreed upon -- and looked forward to -- our Sunday night dinners. We shared quality time, inside jokes, great stories and, of course, food. This was the perfect way to end the past week and begin a new one, talking, laughing and eating long after the check was paid.
While many families sit at their kitchen table discussing politics and breaking news, our little foursome had Godiva tasting nights. My parents, brother and I would gather around a newly packaged gold box of Godiva chocolates with a sharp knife and tiny tasting plates. My father would open the cellophane wrapping and allow us to select our truffles of choice. We would then reference the enclosed description booklet to learn about what was inside our delicate treat, taste and discuss. To us, this was culture. And I'm OK with that.
"That's SO Jenn, Confessions of a Foodie" mirrors food to life through step-by-step recipes with photos, restaurant reviews, chef and celebrity interviews, coverage of food-related events, party planning tips, personal stories and anecdotes. Jenn Press Arata also appears on regular cooking and party planning segments on CT Style WTNH News 8. She has been a writer and red carpet reporter for "Life and Style Weekly Magazine," and worked in production on Food Network's "Iron Chef America" and "Chopped." Visit her blog at www.thatssojenn.com.