By Patrick Barney
At the age of 6, I made my first Foodie decision and unknowingly began my Travel, Eat, & Learn journey. It seemed innocuous at the time. I took a stand as I stood at the movie concession counter, said no to popcorn, and began my obsession with RAISINETS®. I chose sugar over salt. Never would I have popcorn stuck in my throat, nor would I spend my evenings trying to get corn shells out of my teeth. Rather my tongue would forever be clothed in chocolate and the enamel on my teeth would begin their lifelong struggle to survive. My fondest childhood memories are punctuated with food. My first date with Irene featured a milkshake and burger at the great Greenway Drive-in in Delaware in 1957.
Unfortunately, neither Irene nor the drive-in survived. Then, one day my aunt introduced us to the first McDonald’s on Long Island. The burgers were 15 cents and they had sold more than 500,000 nationwide. Imagine that! The thrill was repeated when they came out with the secret sauce and the Big Mac. Come on, you remember: “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” And let’s not forget the anticipation as we waited, in the car for my father to return with a bag full of Dilly® Bars from Dairy Queen®. I beat you to them Warren Buffett! As I joined the adult world, my business obligations put me on the road and in the air and a new component was added to my culinary adventures.
New scenery, new culture, new foods. I realized you could experience and enjoy new types of food if you just got out of your neighborhood. I adopted an old saying of St. Augustine (trained by many years of Catholic school): “The world is a book and those who do not travelread only one page.” I vowed to read as many pages as I could. My classic culinary education began in an upscale restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. Right in the middle of the meal, as I awaited my meat and potatoes, they served me SHERBET! The Brooklyn kid in my head said, “What the hell; why did they give me dessert now?” As my big mouth was about to open, my host mentioned he always enjoyed a soft palette cleanser between the salad and entrée. The words, “palette cleanser” and “entrée” were added to my culinary dictionary.
Next lesson—Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Surrounded by “Cheeseheads” (at the time I was a Vikings fan), I found myself at a fine, hilltop, continental restaurant that served classic European dishes. This night it was Steak Diane! Medium rare, with a sauce to die for, prepared and flamed at tableside. I curse every city regulation that bans tableside cooking. Europe has been doing it for more than 1,000 years and they have not burned down a restaurant yet. If a restaurant does burn, it is usually from a grease fire in the kitchen. Bring back tableside cooking. If it starts a fire, I promise to put it out with a nice Bordeaux wine. While sitting in an airport bar (I always learn when I travel), it dawned on me that it would not be an affront to my Irish roots if I drank wine. Beer and the traditional highball were always my standard beverages, with the occasional ice cube in the highball to keep me hydrated. But people were serving more wine and I was beginning to like it. As the light from the bar lamps washed over me, I had an epiphany: I could have my Irish whiskey before dinner, enjoy a fine wine with my meal, and finish the evening with a bold coffee complemented by a Grand Marnier up! I had become cosmopolitan! However, if you ever see me drinking a Cosmo, shoot me. By the mid-‘70s my life decision was made. No matter what I did to pay the bills, I would travel, eat, and learn. After 40-plus years, I realize it is a book I may never finish, but I’ll have a helluva time trying. Please accompany me on my culinary adventures, past, present, and beyond. Perhaps, you will share some of your own experiences, so we can all Travel, Eat, & Learn.
Join Patrick Barney as he explores his love of travel & food around the world & in his home town of Las Vegas.