The Perils of Raising a Foodie

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The other day there was a great piece on the Atlantic Food Channel by Lesley Freeman Riva, "A Foodie Parent's Biggest Worry: Can My Teen Feed Herself?" It got me thinking. Like Lesley, I am a foodie. And like Lesley, I have a daughter, Emma, who can barely be bothered to pour herself a glass of water.

But it's not that daughter I'm worried about. Emma, a senior in high school, will (God willing) head off to college next year. I know she will somehow get by: Since she doesn't care that much about food, she will always find something to eat. Even though she's been brought up on guinea hen, farro, and heirloom tomatoes, she's just as happy with Chicken McNuggets or a handful of Cheerios.

No, it's my other daughter, Sophie, that I am worried about. Sophie is the one who inherited the foodie gene. She has just left to attend university in London and the calls have already started. "Do you realize how much fleur de sel costs?!" "Where I am supposed to find fresh mozzarella?"While other mothers are baking brownies and chocolate chip cookies to fill care packages, I'm looking up the regulations for shipping guanciale.

Sophie didn't just inherit the foodie gene from me. She also—unfortunately? —likes to be in control.

I worry about Sophie getting enough to eat simply because she refuses to make do. Like me, Sophie has low blood sugar, so when she gets hungry she goes slightly mad. Does she grab the nearest pretzel/apple/bag of potato chips to bring her hormones back to normal? No. She would rather suffer till she makes it to the farmers' market to pick up a week's worth of perfect plums.

She realizes she is borderline obsessed, and that none of her other friends are like her. And whom does she blame? Her mother, of course. I was the one who dragged her to the Salone del Gusto every other year, where she explored things like ricotta forte (ricotta aged until it reeks of ammonia) and collatura (the liquid left after curing anchovies). Before she could walk she was already eating fresh sea urchins at the pier in Bari.

Of course, Emma was also along for the ride. Emma ate—and also enjoyed—her fair share of tripe. Emma was there when we sampled bootleg grappa in a hidden attic in Lazio. And Emma likes nothing better than to slurp up sea urchins by the sea in Puglia. So why does one daughter turn foodie, while the other turns down the supermarket aisle more travelled?

Sophie didn't just inherit the foodie gene from me. She also—unfortunately? —likes to be in control. This means it is Sophie who is already cooking for friends in her "flat." And it was Sophie who figured out where she and her buddies would eat every night of their recent vacation in Greece. While she complains about the responsibility of being the one to make sure her friends are eating, and eating well, she also realizes that she is converting people to a whole new world.

So should I worry that Sophie will find herself at school with the offerings of the cafeteria and local fast food joints just too horrid to contemplate? Not really. You see, I've got the care package already taped up and ready to go. So at the very least she'll have a chunk of 36-month-old Parmesan cheese to nibble on when her blood sugar dips.

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Elizabeth Helman Minchilli

Elizabeth Helman Minchilli is a Rome-based writer who contributes to over 40 publications including Food & Wine, Town & Country, the International Herald Tribune, and Architectural Digest. More

Elizabeth Helman Minchilli is a Rome-based writer who contributes to over 40 publications including Food & Wine, Town & Country, the International Herald Tribune, and Architectural Digest. She is the author of six books, including her most recent Italian Rustic: How to Bring Tuscan Charm into Your Home (Artisan 2009). Minchilli recently founded One Book Press (www.1bookpress.com), which produces custom-published, image-driven books. Her blog, www.elizabethminchilli.com, explores the good life, mostly in Italy.
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