The French Laundry

In the spring of 1995, I was fortunate to experience my first dinner at The French Laundry.

I was in my teens, had zero clue what I was eating, but remember thinking: wow, I’m drinking wine and eating French food in a fancy restaurant. Most would assume this was a life changing experience. It wasn’t. I wasn’t taken by the experience. I was grateful to be dining with my mother and her boyfriend.

On our drive back home, the three of us were drunk and for some odd reason had the munchies. We stopped by the grocery store and picked up Ruffle’s (it had to be the Reduced Fat ones because they aren’t as greasy as the regular chips and also has a firmer crunch) and Granny Goose’s Green Onion powdered dip we mixed into sour cream (reduced fat sour cream because it’s less heavy; nowadays a Greek yogurt would suffice).

My mother, who was thin and elegant barely ate junk food but made exceptions for the above combination. We took the goodies home and sat around our kitchen island, devouring junk food with bottles of wine. We talked, ate and laughed until the sun rose.

To this day I still search for Granny Goose’s Powdered Green Onion dip, Reduced-fat Knudson sour cream and reduced fat Ruffles for comfort. Sadly, Granny Goose and Knudson are only available on the West Coast.

Since then, I’ve been to The French Laundry and all of Thomas Keller establishments, but The French Laundry will always have a special place in my heart because of this night.

Oh, the things we remember.

Two Meals. One Table.

My picky palate is my mother’s doing.

Growing up my mother always prepared two meals. One for herself and another for my father. Strange as this sounds, it was because my parents had opposite tastes.

My father’s family were rooted in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. During World War II, my father’s father and mother just happened to be in Edo (what Tokyo was historically called) when the atomic bomb was dropped, wiping out their entire lineage. My grandparents were the only survivors and started a new life in Tokyo. Tokyo or the Kanto area, as the Japanese call it, are known for bold tastes. They use more soy sauce, salt, condiments, etc. than other parts of Japan. So my father preferred things with huge tastes.

My mother’s family is a bit of a mystery. They didn’t speak much of their past and from the little understanding I have, were originally from Southern Japan (Kansai-ish, I think), and somehow ended up in Yokohama. I was always too scared to pry but looking back, I should’ve asked my grandmother more questions. My mother grew up with delicate tastes. She was extremely sensitive to taste and smells. Super picky about what she consumed – complete opposite from my father.

Why my parents married is a bit of a long story but this flashback is from the days they were still together and what we endured as a family.

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