Sunday, November 4, 2007

My Favorite Things: Food Edition

It was a wonderful day with church community, and I have visions of this beautiful post about community and church and the Eucharist...another night perhaps. I'm too tired. In lieu of that, I dedicate this post to food, in particular, my favorite foods to eat when we go out.

First, I love good Chinese food, and I don't mean General Tso's breaded, sticky, spicy chicken with fried rice and a fortune cookie. I mean go to the restaurant and ask the waitress to bring you whatever the staff is eating in the kitchen Chinese food. My first trip to China taught me many things, but one of the most important was that "Chinese food" in America has little resemblance to the stuff in China. You can get the real stuff in Chinatowns in big cities or by getting to know your local Chinese restaurant owner really well and convincing him/her that you really will like the real stuff. Some of my favorites: egg and tomato, mapo dofu (Szechuan style spicy tofu), and a big steaming plate of jiao zi (dumplings). I could go on and on...

And on this side of the planet, I love good barbeque. This is controversial issue in the South. What is barbeque? Is it large hunks of meat on the grill like in Texas? Is it vinegar-based spicy shredded meat like in North Carolina? Is it smoky dry-rubbed ribs like in Memphis? Where I come from, it is beef or pork, smoked all day, sliced and slathered in sweet, spicy, tomato-based sauce. This place is a legend in the part of the world where I grew up. Their baked beans and big, greasy fries are to die too much and your heart might just agree.

Last, but not least, I love a traditional Southern "meat 'n' three" restaurant. (That's one meat and three "vegetables" for those of you who aren't lucky enough to have one of these.) My Grandma's Sunday country fried steak with mashed potatoes, greasy green beans, creamed corn, and biscuits definitely trumps any restaurant, but this isn't a bad substitute. The cornbread salad and soup beans are so yummy, and the sweet tea is like syrup. We ate here on our trip last weekend, and ordered up a family style meal. Hobbes gobbled up the country ham and cooked apples like he hadn't eaten in weeks. If you eat dinner there, you may even get some old-time or bluegrass music to sweeten the deal.

Those are just some of my favorites, though my culinary tastes do go beyond Southern, lard-fried delicacies. My brother is a chef, and I can enjoy fine food and wine any time we get away from the kids. Our family favorite is a local Indian restaurant. Basically, I will try anything once and usually end up liking it if the food is decent quality. The places above are just the ones nearest to my heart. What are your favorites?

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