antonellomusina / flickr

According to Pinterest, Thanksgiving is upon us. I know that it seems like several weeks away, but for those of us in charge of the meal, the planning begins now. I grew up eating the same huge meal, very traditional-- turkey and all the trimmings, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, the works. We had so many dishes to do, and so many courses. My mother is from the east coast and she made all the things from her childhood. We ate oyster casserole with creamed corn and saltines, bread stuffing with sage, sweet sweet sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows.

Luis Mazier (mazemet) / Flickr

The Wichita Asian Festival is coming up this weekend, and I’m excited about it.  I have attended nearly every year since it started 32 years ago.  What began as a small celebration with a smattering of food vendors and a beauty pageant has grown into a huge multicultural event.  There’s still a pageant, but now the entertainment ranges from East Indian dance troupes to martial arts demonstrations.  It’s a blast, but the best part for me has always been the food.

Want to step into a time machine? I know how. Go to Doc’s Steakhouse on North Broadway and hold onto your hat. Doc’s is retro all the way, from cobbled exterior to entirely brown interior. This is old-school Wichita.

Doc’s is a real experience, in every sense of the word. It is located on North Broadway, between a couple of Mexican restaurants, a Vietnamese market, and a pawn shop. It is a part of Wichita history, where our Mad Men would drink and eat meat and drink martinis, and deals of all kinds were brokered. Nothing about it is modern in any way, except for the televisions.

I have talked often of my love for very spicy food. I like to eat things so chili-hot that my eyes water and I get a sort of sparkly endorphin rush. I don’t like heat for heat’s sake, though, so the dish itself has to be delicious and well made, and the chilies need to enhance rather than obscure the flavors within. You aren’t going to see me judging jalapeno eating contests any time soon. I’d much rather be slurping up Thai noodles and curries at Chiang Mai.

I was on a judging panel for the Orpheum’s annual “Celebrity and Chef Cook-off” a few days ago. I have graduated from contestant to judge in the last few years, and I have to say that judging is no less stressful, but it is less sweaty, and I smell better when it’s all over. As a general rule, I dislike cooking competitions, particularly the ones on TV, but the live ones are exciting, with ingredients flying around, and the smell and sizzle and quiet cursing just adding to the party.