Imagine a time before Thai. Before bureks, pierogis, pho.
That was me growing up in the 60s and 70s in the land of meat and mashed potatoes. I think the most exotic thing I ate before age 23 was pizza. Americanized pizza.
Since coming to Chicago in 1982 my palate has experienced a food revolution. Down the street from me is a gyro joint and then down the block is the best Thai food ever—Siam Noodle. Once when trying to decide with local friends where to eat I began to talk up my favorite noodle place—of course, there are hundreds here in Chicago—and the person on the other end of the phone equally advocated for theirs. Come to find out we were talking about the same restaurant. We have here in Uptown one of the BEST Ethiopian restaurants. Eating Ethiopian is an experience on par with transcendence. This weekend I visited the Lebanese Bakery a bike ride away in Andersonville. They sell the cheapest lamb and potato pies (also the spinach and feta are out of this world) for less than $2. They are as big as your hand, less than a meal but a filling snack. I’ve also had Turkish and Greek food, which share many of the same qualities though they might not want to hear that.
Even bread. I grew up eating Wonder bread. It’s a wonder I lived. It was possible to smoosh the whole loaf and roll it into a tennis-ball size. Ask me—I did it once it much to my mother’s horror. It was 90% air and chock full of unhealthy carbs. Here in Chicago you have your choice of naan, pita, several different kinds of injera, and barbari bread from Iran just to name a few. And you thought there was only white and dark.
That’s the problem: We get in a rut, and we have no idea that there is more out there. When did you discover there was a whole world of tantalizing flavors? Leave a comment!