Constant Craving: The Food I Left Behind
Every Monday is fish day in the school cafeteria. It’s not just any fish, either. It’s bony fish. Bony fish covered in red sauce.
I have to go through the sauce, peel out the spinal cord with my chopsticks and carefully pluck out stray shards of vertebrae.
Yesterday’s fish was especially bony, so the de-boning took a while. My co-teacher noticed my meticulous work.
“You can eat the bones,” she said. “The small ones are safe.”
I don’t eat bones.
That’s when I started daydreaming about sandwiches. More specifically, a Hoosier Hoagie from Dagwood’s in Bloomington, Indiana. Ugh. I just looked up the website and now I’m lusting after turkey, roast beef, and my choice of cheese. (In case you’re wondering, I would probably go for provolone or pepper jack.)
As I’ve moved from country to country, I’ve developed a love affair with food around the world. Food that I will have to be content with dreaming about, food that I should have appreciated more while it was within walking distance. Get ready for a smorgasbord of international goodness.
Kumara Fries & Aoli from Burger Fuel
Kumara is a type of sweet potato that was born to be made into fries, chips, or chups, depending on where you’re from. They’re orange and taste like crispy fried heaven. Best eaten with aioli, a mayonnaise-like sauce, only better.
You can get Kumara fries all over New Zealand, but I remember them best from Burger Fuel, an NZ-based burger chain. I usually paired these with a Chignition Pear, a surprisingly good chicken burger topped with pear and brie. Apparently I was one of the few fans, as the burger no longer seems to be on the menu.
Another NZ-based chain, this one serving up pizzas named for the 7 deadly sins. If you’re not feeling particularly sinful, there is also a gourmet range with names like ‘Pandemonium,’ ‘Mordor,’ and ‘Sinister.’ Hell Pizza’s pizzas come in a takeaway box that can be folded down to look like a tiny coffin. It’s not often that you find cute and morbid all in one place.
They used to do fantastic dessert pizzas, but I can’t seem to find them on the website. Either I have weird taste or New Zealand’s restaurants are making poor choices when they pare down the menu.
Banana Smoothie from Foreshores Café in Coffs Harbour
Fact: you will never have a smoothie this good again.
I think it’s just a mix of banana, vanilla ice cream, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg, but I have never been able to replicate it at home. The smoothie (in the US we’d call it a milkshake) comes in a tall metal cup, the kind that goes all beautiful and icy on the outside. I drank these like water in 2005. Delicious, delicious water.
The smoothies also go really well with their crispy wedges, served with sweet chili and sour cream for dipping.
That Thai Place in The Churchill Arms in Kensington, London
To the untrained eye, The Churchill Arms is a typical London pub on Kensington Church Street. An especially pretty one, but still – a pub. But go past the bar, under the copper pots and past the portraits of Churchill, and you will find a Thai restaurant. I don’t even know if it has a name – I just called it ‘that Thai place at The Churchill Arms.’
The food was cheap (around £6-8 per dish last time I checked in 2008), which was handy when I was a broke temporary expat in Notting Hill. It was also good. I hate to use the term ‘authentic Thai food,’ but that’s what it tasted like to me. I usually got the #11, a mix of chicken, vegetables and insane spice paste. The only downfall is that they’re always so busy it’s difficult to get a refill on the water that you so desperately need.
Food for Thought in Galway
Even though I worked at the Mocha Beans coffee shop in Galway, I don’t rate it as highly as Food for Thought. It’s a vegetarian sandwich bar/café, hence the hippy-ish vibe to the name.
It was one of those places where I always knew I’d find something that sounded good. The day’s offerings included create-your-own sandwiches, casseroles, salads, bread and muffins. Everything was on display behind a glass counter, so you could see exactly what you were going to get. The curried chicken and vegetable quiche were always favorites of mine.
I already mentioned Dagwood’s in Bloomington, but there are two more meals that I never miss when I’m stateside.
Cherry Kijafa Crepes at The Original Pancake House in Fishers, Indiana
Okay, so I like chain restaurants. The cherry crepes probably taste the same at every Original Pancake House across the nation, but that is a good thing. They are hot, sweet and perfect. Plus – the main ingredient is fruit, so they’ve got to be healthy, right?
Don’t answer that.
The Cheese Wheel in St. Augustine, Florida
Although I never actually lived in St. Augustine, my mom grew up there. Nearly every summer growing up, my family spent a couple of weeks visiting my grandparents. My main activities included getting sand in the crotch of my swimsuit, keeping a constant vigil for stray alligators and eating turkey ryders at The Cheese Wheel.
I’m not sure what a ‘ryder’ is, but it tastes so damn good. The best way to eat it is with an order of fries (cheese fries if you’re being sensible) and a large root beer with plenty of ice.
When I was a kid, there was a mini-farm in the back of the restaurant. While we were waiting for our food to come out, my sisters and I would mingle with the chickens and bunnies. We ran at them until one of the chickens inevitably turned on us and chased us back to the restaurant. Usually by then the food was ready, so it all worked out for the best.
Are you hungry yet?
I am, dammit.