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The Ruttle Report - Food has a bigger power than taste

Memories and moments come to mind with certain dishes that we enjoy.
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Our tastes change as we get older.

When you're a kid and your parents have decided to treat you and your siblings to supper out at a restaurant, it feels as if alarm bells are ringing inside your belly.

"Oh my God, a place that's NOT HOME! We get to eat somewhere different! Ooohhh, I can't wait!!!"

You go to the restaurant, but not before Mom's made you put 'something nice' on; ie: something that doesn't have dirt and grass stains, something that doesn't have a bunch of holes in it, and something that makes you 'look presentable'.

For crying out loud, Ma, we're going somewhere to just sit on our butts and eat food, we're not meeting the freaking Pope here.

But alas, we do as we're told. After making oneself look as presentable as can be, we go to the restaurant. It might be a steakhouse, it might be a buffet joint, or it might be a Chinese restaurant; no one cares because we're too preoccupied with what we're going to eat. It doesn't matter what they cook in here, folks; all that matters is that it's different from what we get at home, so we're going to eat it all in spades.

Out come the drinks. Iced teas, Cokes, a beer for Dad and a coffee for Mom. I swear, we could be eating outside in Las Vegas in the dead of August and that woman would still order a hot cup of joe. We're still browsing the menu, and when it comes time to place our orders, here comes the tantalizing assortment of culinary delights that my brothers and I have ordered for ourselves:

Cheeseburgers, chicken fingers, and French fries.

Ooohh! Slow down, you're getting too confusing there with all these foreign foods!

Yes sir, when we went out to eat with our families as young kids, we probably just ordered stuff on the menu that Mom could just as easily whip up for us at home. Burgers and chicken fingers, really? But hey, that's your palate when you're a kid; you want something that's familiar and tastes good. Show me an 8-year old kid who's ordering steak tartar with edamame and a French onion soup to start and I'll probably be turning around and showing you the most pretentious child in the world.

Our meals come and they're delicious. Can I get a refill of Coke, Mom? Can you pass the Heinz ketchup, Dad? The burgers go down easy, the chicken fingers are finger-licking good, and the fries are eventually gobbled away. Mom and Dad seemed to enjoy their meals too, but we kids were too busy with our own plates to notice.

Flash forward to today, and I've realized that I'm now ordering the same kind of food that my old man would order if he was still around. Take this past Saturday, for example. Brendon and I decided we'd go for a bite to eat before the movie here in town, and we decided on the Matador. Perusing the menu, I decided to get the same thing I ordered when we were there a couple of weeks ago; hamburger steak.

Let me explain what hamburger steak is in this particular establishment. It's two burger patties, cooked to perfection, served on a slice of bread, and then smothered in gravy and onions.

Man, I'm telling you, it's almost heavenly. It just hits the right spot.

It's rare that I'll actually order a burger or chicken strips in a formal restaurant anymore, unless I'm reeeeally craving it. Oh, and for the record, when you're a kid, they're chicken fingers. When you get old, they're chicken strips. It's just another one of those things where you get older and life gets a little more adult.

That's the thing about food, and it goes deeper than just what that Chinese food, that chicken, or that soup tastes like. Sure, of course we love the taste of it all, but when you sit and think about one particular dish, what comes to your mind? If I were a betting man, I'd say it's probably a flood of memories that come to the forefront. That great day with your mom that ended with an awesome burger at your favorite place. That memorable trip you took with your dad that included some tasty fish and chips. That classic family trip where you all enjoyed a delectable supper of Chinese delicacies.

I think back to one time when my family was taking a trip through Alberta, and we stopped at a restaurant in Drumheller for lunch. I think I was about 8 or 9 years old, and I remember being fascinated with this spoon on the table that didn't look like any of the other cutlery. It was red and white, plastic, with some Chinese wording on it. I later learned it was a wonton soup spoon, but I didn't know that then. To me, it was just a cool-looking spoon. My dad noticed my undying curiosity with this odd-looking cutlery, so he smiled that classic Jack Ruttle grin, took a swig if his Molson, and asked the waitress if I could have it. She said sure, no problem.

Today, that spoon is sitting beside the rest of the cutlery in a drawer in my apartment. Yep, I still have it. I think I'll put it to use tonight when I heat up that wonton soup in the fridge.

Food comes and goes. Literally. But what stays behind are the memories that are created from cooking it, sitting down to enjoy it, going out to enjoy it with family and friends, and discussing where that next meal is going to come from and with who it's going to be enjoyed.

Before that next forkful of sweet and sour pork or shrimp medley goes in your mouth, take a pause and think about the memory being created around you.
For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.

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