Are your parents unadventurous eaters?

My mother, whom I love dearly, is profoundly unadventurous when it comes to food -- anything other "American" or red-sauce Italian fare tends to spook her. In our house growing up, it was all breaded and pan-fried chicken cutlets, slow-cooker beef stew, and white-bread American cheese-and-bologna sandwiches.

Now I'm a devoted and enthusiastic home cook with scores of African recipes, a pantry stocked with exotic herbs, and take-out Chinese menus with things like "fish-head casserole" circled on them. I kind of have no idea how this happened!

First question: If you grew up in a white-bread home, how did you learn to love exciting and new foods?

Second question: Is there any way to get a sweet Panera-loving mom out of the suburbs and into my favorite Indian restaurant? (This question is particularly timely: She's coming over for a home-cooked lunch on Saturday!)


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