Tuck in


dining.jpgI 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 it’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 it’s in distant parts of America or all around the world. If the locals swear by it, that’s good enough for me.

Even here, I would prefer to skip the chains for something different. I don’t care if it’s new fusion or old-fashioned. I really don’t care if it’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, you’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 can’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 hadn’t truly savored the global palette of palates.

I’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 didn’t have to be stuck with fast food and barbecue (not that I don’t enjoy greasy burgers and pork everything, too).

Second, the food alone didn’t make it a great meal. The shared experience among familiar faces and new companions made it a treasured memory. You can’t be grumpy or anti-social when the dishes draw you out. It wouldn’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 I’ve dined, the fabulous meals and wonderful service. But I’d rather have you there with me, sharing the experience, trying the unknown, enjoying the company.

Food may sustain us, but it doesn’t have to be so basic.


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