Fat Kid Friday: Food I Will Miss
I think it’s come up once or twice in the past few posts that I’m moving to Tennessee… as in, this coming Sunday I will be rolling out of my parent’s driveway in New Hampshire and not returning anytime soon.
When I made the joke about being a boomerang kid I had no idea how quickly I would be leaving the apartment in Manchester and returning to the Big House. My whole big adventure lasted three months. Of course, I didn’t exactly come crawling home with my tail between my legs– this return was more of the glowing bride-to-be variety. And God bless my parents for not batting an eyelash. I have been sleeping on an air mattress in their living room for the past two weeks, and we are all ready for this road trip to start!
My dance card has been pretty full this week, as I bid farewell to my closest friends and family. All of my stars aligned, and I have been able to see all the people who mean the most to me and spend some QT with them. I’m not good with goodbye (really, who is?) and so I’ve treated each of these moments as if I will see my buddies or my grandmothers again next week. It’s it self-deceiving? Sure. But it’s also better for all of us not to make a big deal, when we know that this is really just see you later.
Saying goodbye to my favorite foods, however…
A lot of people seem to think that there is no regional food anymore. That America has become so culinarily homogeneous as to render obsolete the differences in our food heritage. I whole-heartedly disagree. Coming from good New England stock I can tell you with certainty that NO ONE outside of New England knows how to make a decent bowl of clam chowder.
And all you people who say that Manhattan-style Clam Chowder even compares can just cool it right this minute.
Don’t get me wrong– I have cravings for both styles of chowder, and I will eat it with gusto. But when I want real, thick, creamy chowder loaded with clams, potatoes and pepper…. nothing out of a can will do. C and I ate our weight in chowder at ChowderFest in Portsmouth, NH back in May. You pay $10 to get in. They give you a button and a spoon and they unleash the hordes into Prescott Park, which is filled with local vendors all dying to give you a sample of delicious chowder.
I have a spoon and I know how to use it!
My favorite was from The Riverhouse Restaurant on Bow Street. They won best chowder in ’09/’10, and I can see why. It was thick and creamy without being too heavy, and had sweet clam meat and tender potatoes. Om. Nom. Nom.
I know that places like Red Lobster exist, and that when pressed with a craving it would probably do. But the fact remains that I have spent the past week and a half doing my damndest to OD on seafood, because I’m going to a place where “seafood” = “catfish”. I had clam strips, mussels, and seafood stuffing last night at Al’s in Hampton. I’ve eaten lobster rolls, steamers, swordfish, salmon, scallops, scrod… anything I could get my hands on. All of it was sweet, and tasted just slightly of the ocean. The way good seafood should. And I’m eating it now because this is where seafood is best– near the shore, off the boat.
When I officially become a Southerner next week I will be shifting my mindset in terms of food. I can’t wait to discover all of those good things that Southern cooks are famous for. Some of them I already love (fried green tomatoes and Sweet Tea… yes, please!) Others I have never tried… black-eyed peas, grits, red-eye gravy. Up until this point, I have been very strict with myself about eating anything “chicken fried” ONLY once a year. Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to pull a full Paula Deen… but I might.
New culinary experiences broaden us in the same way that learning other languages does, because food is an expression of who we are. What people eat says so much about them, and where they live, and what matters to them. Trying new foods can be a risk– maybe it will be too spicy, or flavored with herbs we aren’t familiar with. What if it’s… gross?
Then there’s the other half of that question. What if it blows your mind? What if one bite of something you’ve never eaten before could change your life?
I think it can, and it does, and it has.
And I can’t wait to dig in.