Brains and Watermelon


There are foods in cultures that are just not desirable. Rollkuchen in Mennonite culture is not one of them. Imagine a carnival “elephant’s ear” meets donut with a side of hot vanilla custard and paired with a ripe juicy watermelon….unimaginable bliss!

The first time my husband had a taste of this was during a Sunday dinner get-together. We sat down for lunch and he looked at the table with a perplexed look on his face. “Where’s dinner?” – he asked. “This is dinner” I replied. I think he was overwhelmed with joy – Dessert for dinner!!!! Awesome! He was more than willing to try it.

Growing up we didn’t eat luxurious foods regularly. Our staple food was potatoes. Mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, French fries, baked potatoes, oven fried potatoes, etc. My grandfather was a potato farmer. Yes, we ate other things but that was the go-to for a main course or side dish (And I still love potatoes).

When my husband and I got pregnant for the first time, my mother-in-law, and sister-in-law came for a visit from out of province. They brought with them, a lambs head. Eh-hem. A LAMB’S HEAD. Apparently, lamb’s head stew is a delicacy in Iran. Brains and all. Being Mennonite, my aptitude for trying new things was not very high. Being pregnant and Mennonite, left no aptitude for trying new things AT ALL. We eat dessert for dinner, not brains. I was not trying to be rude, but the smell was making me nauseous. As a lot of pregnant women can attest to, any food, and even smell, can throw you off. Simple saltine crackers can curb the urge to be best friends with the toilet.

In my husband’s culture, there is no such thing as being picky with food. Especially in a refugee camp where food is scarce. Babaganush and sardines become very tasty when you haven’t eaten for a while. So, whenever something new is made, my husband is more than eager to try it and does not usually allow me or our children the choice not to at least try it. I’ve now tried a vast many flavours and can say I have not enjoyed all of them, but my palette has definitely expanded further than potatoes and rollkuchen. An Iranian dish called gormesabse (traditionally lamb stew infused with tons of herbs, but Canadianized using beef meatballs) is now my favorite dinner dish.

Now, as an artist, experimenting with new techniques and materials should be ongoing. It’s okay to stick with your staples and become masters of them, but you’ll never know what you can do or what you may be better at if you stop trying new things. When I was a child and began to draw, I got really great at detailing and shading. I could make things pop out of the page and I thought color would spoil it. It wasn’t until my first year of college that my art program forced me to paint and use color. Oh boy I was hooked! Now, I can’t get enough of color but primarily with acrylic paint on canvas. Not acrylic on panel or Ink on stone….but when I go to the art store, I look at everything wondering – what does that do? what does this do?….and occasionally pick up something new to try. And I know financing usually plays a factor in how much experimenting one can do, but a little here and there can create quite a collection.

For the last sale I was in, I created a bunch of original art cards with ink and watercolor. It was such a great change from my usual materials. The break from doing what I always do gave me a chance to freshen up skills I hadn’t used in while. So change it up, get wild and go for brains once in a while!