Tuck inBy Wade Kwon
I fancy myself an up-and-coming cook. I practice, though not as much these days, in the kitchen and unleash my recipe-based dishes on unsuspecting guests.
But eating is where itâ€™s at. I like new places, new cuisines, new adventures.
Except Indian. Everyone hates Indian.
Part of the fun of travel is sampling the native dishes, whether itâ€™s in distant parts of America or all around the world. If the locals swear by it, thatâ€™s good enough for me.
Even here, I would prefer to skip the chains for something different. I donâ€™t care if itâ€™s new fusion or old-fashioned. I really donâ€™t care if itâ€™s bad for me.
Gimme, gimme, gimme.
I have a sweet tooth, so I could probably sustain myself for considerable periods on desserts, pastries and assorted goodies. And I have no qualms about butchering animals and sea creatures to fill my plate.
If you taste good, youâ€™re fair game.
(Try not to read too much into that.)
Some people remember their lost loves or dead pets. They remember a certain lake or antique store or great aunt.
I remember the meals. The truly outstanding ones where eating becomes this exquisite tension of every bite surpassing the previous one. Until no more bites remain.
The first time I ever went to New Orleans, more than 10 years ago, my colleagues and I had dinner at Nola in the Quarter. This was before owner Emeril Lagasse was that primetime staple on his cable cooking show.
To be honest, I canâ€™t remember the dishes, though I know my dinner was pasta with seafood. But I distinctly recall two impressions from the evening.
First, it was by far one of the best meals I had had in my young life. Growing up in a Korean household, I had already been exposed to Western and Eastern dishes all my life, so I had a leg up. But I hadnâ€™t truly savored the global palette of palates.
Iâ€™ve almost never had a bad meal in New Orleans during my many visits. My mouth waters just thinking about being there.
Being in that Cajun/Creole place took my dining to a new high. I didnâ€™t have to be stuck with fast food and barbecue (not that I donâ€™t enjoy greasy burgers and pork everything, too).
Second, the food alone didnâ€™t make it a great meal. The shared experience among familiar faces and new companions made it a treasured memory. You canâ€™t be grumpy or anti-social when the dishes draw you out. It wouldnâ€™t be right.
Being able to share something like that is intimate, it binds us together.
I could tell you about the great places where Iâ€™ve dined, the fabulous meals and wonderful service. But Iâ€™d rather have you there with me, sharing the experience, trying the unknown, enjoying the company.
Food may sustain us, but it doesnâ€™t have to be so basic.