A new foodie is born

Published 9:43 pm Thursday, September 15, 2011

I don’t like to go on about things, so I won’t. But I feel I should pay Saturday’s Taste of Suffolk event my last and greatest compliment for the year.

Have I ever told you all about my niece, Samantha? I know I’ve mentioned that she literally has not stopped talking since the year 2000, and there’s no sign of an end to the jabber on the horizon.

What I may not have mentioned is that she has been the pickiest eater on the planet since her pre-teens. Her mother’s friends have made her some of the most awesome French toast I’ve ever smelled. She turned her nose up at it.

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I’ve taken her to some of my friends’ events that were catered, serving things like roast beef, roasted vegetables and shrimp cocktail. She sat and pouted, waiting for the chance to get out of there and go to a fast food joint. And the only thing I’ve ever been able to make for her that she’s found remotely palatable is my soon-to-be-world famous spaghetti with ground turkey. Even then, she’s only picked like a mouse that was already full.

The rest is all “Take me to Burger King for chicken nuggets” and “Can we get some Chick-fil-A?” Not that I’m knocking either establishment. I’m a big fan of both menus. I just want my niece to broaden her culinary horizons.

When you’re a foodie with such a niece, you don’t expect her to enjoy an event like Taste of Suffolk. Early on, I thought my assumption was right. We made our first trip down Main Street on Saturday, and all the familiar facial expressions were there. Sam’s nose was already heading skyward. And my patience with her was growing thin.

But on the way back down Main Street, we stopped at the Mosaic booth so I could get a look at the spread. They had pecan-crusted chicken and waffles, bread pudding with raisins and pineapple and a warm caramel sauce and, last but not least, shrimp and grits.

As I marveled at the outstanding spread, my eyes widening and my mouth watering, it happened. My niece, her nose finally descending from the clouds, showed her approval by whispering to me, “Can we get some of that?”

And even though she’s an honor student and probably brighter than me already, I have never been prouder of her in all her 14 years. She actually wanted to try something different. It didn’t require barbecue dipping sauce, but an actual fork. And I didn’t have to shout her order two or three times over a loudspeaker. She wanted to try some actual food.

After her bowl of shrimp and grits, she was sampling bam-bam ribs at The Catering Place’s booth and even wolfing down baked ziti from Al Forno’s.

So, there you have it. Taste of Suffolk may have succeeded in doing something I’ve been trying more than a decade to accomplish. The groundwork was laid for my niece to become a foodie. Or at the very least, the event has made her more open to trying new things.

And I’ll definitely take that over winning the jalapeno-eating contest … that I forgot to enter.