I was never really a picky eater when I was a kid. Not too bad of one, at least. For instance, I used to hate any condiment that wasn't ketchup or barbecue sauce; but I when supper came around I would be just fine eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bowl of cereal.
Getting me to try new foods was always tough. That's fairly common for most kids though. But the one person who could get me to try almost anything as a toddler was Grandpa Joe.
To me, he could do no wrong. Grandpa was (and still is) the best cook in my immediate family. The man has been feeding me ever since he held me in his arms. My mom loves telling the story of how I refused to eat vegetable-based baby food after my grandpa fed me homemade potato soup. Apparently, I wanted the good stuff.
I used to despise mushrooms (still don't really like them that much) and everyone in my family knew it. Yup, even grandpa. Somehow he got me to eat a whole plate of fried morels by tricking me into thinking they were chicken. After the reveal, I was dumbfounded. But I think from that day forth I trusted my grandpa with anything related to food. He could have me try and love every food imaginable.
I was reminded of that fact this past weekend when I ventured to Orange City, Iowa, for the first time. As soon as I entered the town of 6,000 to conduct an interview at the Dutch Bakery, I immediately recalled my first visit to Pella, Iowa, another dutch community.
Grandpa took me there to get a haircut at a barbershop. Another first for me. After we were done, he said he'd take me to the Dutch bakery in town. He had a treat for us to share: Dutch Letters. I had never heart of these peculiar treats. But it wasn't a brand candybar and it didn't include the words "chocolate" or "strawberry" in its name, so I immediately poo-pooed it.
He told me what was in a Dutch Letter -- "pastry and filling," I believe is what he said. How vague. I probably shook my head a few times. Grandpa was never stern when getting me to try new things. When I said, "No!" he challenged me and simply asked, "Why not?" I don't know. That was always my answer to everything.
So there I was. A little kid with a giant, sugary "S" in his hand, not sure what to make of this thing. I took a bite. The flaky pastry reminded me of a Toaster Strudel... except way better. As a kid, I never knew the flavor of that almond filling. It didn't taste like anything else I had before. But it was sweet and sticky and oh-so-good.
When I walked into the Dutch Bakery in Orange City last weekend, I was immediately greeted by the buttery smell of freshly made pastries and donuts. Then I saw those Dutch Letters behind the glass in the front counter. I was immediately reminded of my grandpa and I eating those all the time.
We would never just buy one per person. That would just be silly. We had to get a dozen or so. Eat a few now, save the rest for later. And we did. We snack on those all the time. I remember drinking mine with a glass of milk. And to think I wasn't going to try it.
Would grandpa ever let his grandson down like that? Of course not. Especially when it came to food.
This little story doesn't really have a point or anything. I just got all nostalgic after seeing Loren Mulder make Dutch Letters last weekend. I might have to make a trip to the Tulip Festival to have more.