I am often asked what my favorite restaurant in town is. It’s an impossible question to answer. There are too many excellent places to eat here and what I think is wonderful in a restaurant might be a total turnoff to someone else. I have a penchant for dives, messy food, sketchy neighborhoods, unpronounceable names, and I don’t care a bit about décor if the food makes me drool. For me, it’s all about the food and the love I feel from the people who make it. If the love’s not there, the food’s not good.
Does anything smell better than a bakery? I can’t think of any other place where one can walk in and be enveloped with an aroma that gives such a feeling of goodwill and welcome. Every bakery I have ever visited has a yeasty, sweet, warm fragrance that immediately puts me at ease, no matter where in the world I am. I have been to ancient French boulangeries and brand new upstart artisan bakeries and they all smell like heaven.
I love noodles. Like Sophia Loren famously said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.” Except me, I don’t draw the line at spaghetti. I never met a noodle didn’t like. I like them skinny, wide, flat, shaped and everything in between. The only noodles I don’t like are the ones that are limp and overcooked. Soggy noodles make me sad.
I was fortunate to have been born into a family of adventurous, free-wheeling eaters. We have incredible appetites and meals can stretch over hours, sometimes blurring into each other. We plan meals while eating meals. We are never far away from a snack. My husband calls this trait “eating like a Tandoc,” and it’s a foreign concept to him. He’s one of those people who eats only when hungry, and then only enough to be full. He also has distinct preferences about what he actually will eat. He and I are truly from different universes. Luckily for him, I didn’t marry him for his eating habits.
I love spicy food. I love it when I eat something so hot that I get a little high from it, or start to hallucinate just a little. I want to sweat and pant as I eat. It may seem sadomasochistic to you, but it’s my kind of fun. If I eat enough chilies, people seem funnier and prettier and project fuzzy pink auras. I’m not kidding. I do it all the time.
I have found that most people like to talk about food. If you can’t think of anything clever to say at a party, you can always break the social ice by asking people what they like to eat. It’s a nice way to start a conversation, and you might even learn something.
I’ve been walking a lot lately, and not just because the weather is finally behaving. I’ve been trying to balance the amount of exercise I get with the number of popsicles I have been eating. This summer was the summer of the the paleta for me. A paleta is a Mexican popsicle, and I have been quite obsessed with them, to the point where I was eating one a day during the month of August, hence, the new exercise regime.
If you didn’t already know this, I’m half Asian-- half Filipino, specifically. I grew up eating rice with every meal, fish with heads on, chicken with feet on, fermented things, and every soy product known to man. My parents are adventurous eaters, so my brother and sister and I ate all kinds of weird stuff from the get-go. There is no food I won’t try at least once.
I have good news. We are seriously blessed with wonderful Vietnamese food in Wichita.
If you are unfamiliar with Vietnamese cooking, it is easy to like, even for a beginner. It’s fresh and healthy, relying on noodles and rice, small amounts of meat, and lots of vegetables and fresh herbs. Oftentimes raw ingredients will be used to garnish cooked dishes by the diner to her own tastes, so it’s a great cuisine for people who like to play with their food.