For the Love of Words

A few years back when my grandpa passed away I not only lost my last grandparent, but the world lost one cool cat; a man who not only played trombone in the Sooner band, but married his college sweetheart who was, in his words, “the prettiest girl in Norman,” and he had a penchant for saying, “Dear Gussie!” in his measured Midwestern lilt whenever you impressed or shocked him, which delighted me to no end. He was known as a man who had a way with words and he could spin a tale that kept the rapt attention of all his grandkids, especially me.

When the extended Graves family got together to say good-bye to Daniel Maloy Graves II we each took turns sharing a favorite memory. My dad shared several memories, but one in particular made a lasting impression, “He had the best vocabulary and a system to improve it. When he would come across a word he didn’t know, he’d look it up and write down the definition. He would then make a point of using that word in conversation at least three times the next day to commit it to memory. I always admired that.”

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Grub It Up

While I do appreciate a good meal, I would hardly consider myself a foodie. But then again, when in Bavaria…

Day 11: Feast

For some of us, food isn’t just a part of our travels, it’s the reason why we travel. Whether you travel the globe to try new foods and use food to form a deeper connection with the culture or just eat to live, food plays a big part in the travel experience. Share a food-related story from your travels or describe your best meal.

If you were to trace my culinary journey, it would read like a Pygmalion tale. As a girl I was extremely naive and obstinate in my food choices. Family road trip to Ohio? The obligatory stop at the McDonalds drive-thru would put my dad behind in his driving schedule as we were made to park in the stall for “special orders” a.k.a. a plain cheeseburger. No mustard, ketchup or pickle would pass my lips and certainly not reconstituted onion slivers that resembled mini Chiclets. No, no, no.Β Fast forward to college and a decision to eschew all meat and embrace a vegetarian lifestyle. Suddenly all the “sauce” and flavor became mandatory to transform tofu into something palatable.

If I think back to the moment when I became more adventurous in my food choices, it would have been during the Graves family European vacation. My brother and I were still riding high on the restrictive condiment diet and traveling through Western Europe, we encountered enough diversity to properly horrify and scare us. Bright orange hot dogs in Paris and brown mustard — how does that happen?

The pivotal moment took place in Germany. We were en route to Munich, deep in the Bavaria when we found our accommodations in a small village. As we sat down at the local restaurant in town, we pored over the menu. My mother, the source of our eating persnickety-ness, had firmly settled on the spaghetti bolognese, which had become the standard meal to order when the menu was perplexing. As I was scanning the menu, my brother interrupted.

“They have knockwurst, Erin!”

“Ew, what’s that?”

“It’s just like a Costco hot dog.”

With that kind of endorsement, how could we go wrong?

Very wrong apparently. When our waiter, who bore a striking resemblance to Weird Al, brought out a large silver platter, my stomach sank into my feet. We quickly discovered this aforementioned knockwurst dish was a creamy dish that was the furthest thing from a Costco hot dog. My brother soon broke out his, “I’m the youngest, please don’t make me eat this” routine. Alas, my parents revealed to us the cardinal rule that I abide by to this very day. “You order it? You eat it.”

Sure it was direct and a little curt. My brother refused, of course, refused. The kid had his standards. As the first born and one to always follow the rules, I tucked into my dish. And it was…delicious.

Since that time, I’ve always been willing to try a local dish or delicacy. After all, you never know when your desire for a Costco hot dog will turn into something unexpected and better than you could ever imagine.