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Playing with your food, and other causes of blindness

flavoredsoup.jpgWhen you live in a quaint (read: boring) little town, the great thing about traveling is the opportunity to try new restaurants. So, when I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming yesterday (not far from Denver) I was giddy as a schoolgirl to treat my palate to something uniquely local. Bison meuniere, trout lyonnaise, oysters Rocky Mountain--basically expecting something from the Ted Nugent school of culinary delights.

Imagine my shock and awe when my traveling companions all wanted Chinese. I’m part Chinese and I’ve eaten a lot of funky food––chicken feet, abalone, tripe, jellyfish. As Chow Yun-Fat said in The Corruptor, "if you wanna be Chinese, you gotta eat the nasty stuff." He ain’t kidding. Still, I’m wary of Asian food in western towns. So I attempted a little dinner misdirection by asking the Pakistani woman at the hotel desk what she'd recommend. Sure enough, she mentioned a Chinese place. (Insert Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho sounds here). I’m not a food critic, but a Chinese restaurant recommended by a middle-eastern woman in Wyoming has a hard time getting past my deflector shields.

But, I was outvoted, so I girded my loins. How bad could it be? I’ve already eaten at the worst Chinese restaurant in the Western hemisphere which happens to be in Hope, British Columbia. Hope, for those Rambo fans keeping score in your fortified bunkers at home, is where the movie First Blood was filmed. I should have known the Chinese food would be lacking by the framed photos of Pope John Paul II that graced every wall. Nothing against Polish people by any means, but let’s settle this here and now. If you promise to never again make Peking duck, we’ll step away when it’s time to make the pirogues.  Deal?

Turns out my night in Cheyenne had a happy ending. The Twin Dragon restaurant was wonderful. Run by a family that spoke chopped Mandarin and little else. The food was spicy-hot, authentic Szechuan style, unlike anything I’d had in a while. I was so happy I even ordered a few things to go, for the desk staff back at the hotel.

Why am I telling you this? Partially because I’m home now, blearily looking past a slice of cold pizza and cruising Emily’s Parisian lunch blog, but I also just finished reading Hush by Anne Frasier on the plane. Whether consciously of not, Anne sprinkled food throughout the story. Even ending on some interesting spaghetti sauce, which you’ll have to read the book to appreciate.

It made me look at the sense of taste that I tend to inject into my own writing. Whether I do it to enhance a cultural setting or simply to establish a time of day, I have food everywhere. Maybe too much food. Maybe I need to switch to Jenny Craig. Joe Konrath says to ask questions on your blog. So I guess I'd better end with a question. Does my butt look fat in these jeans?

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Reader Comments (14)

"I’m not a food critic, but a Chinese restaurant recommendation from a middle-eastern woman in Wyoming has a hard time getting past my deflector shields."

That was hilarious! Sometimes America actually does feel like a melting pot. Even in Wyoming.

Great to hear to liked Hush! If you haven't done so yet, I highly recommend Before I Wake. Her best so far, in my opinion.
April 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjason evans
"Does my butt look fat in these jeans?"


But the post was funny as hell. Cooking is all over my writing because cooking is therapy for me. Just like writing is, or was, before I actually thought about... publishing.

How was the client pitch?

April 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Hurtubise
Time to see if Blue Cross will cover some butt lypo. Since this is the year of my 20-year reunion, I might as well throw in some pec implants while I'm at it.

The pitch went well. Thanks for asking! It's for a statewide campaign. We'll find out in about two weeks. Very cool peeps. I enjoyed them very much. Lively, engaging group.
April 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie

would you believe my brother sent me a jar of Mom's Spaghetti Sauce and a box of lady fingers -- and I DIDN'T GET IT?!! :D my excuse is that i was two books down the road and i tend to forget a book as soon as i'm finished with it.

i love your writing style.
April 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranne frasier
oh, yeah -- and i snorted at the image you posted.
April 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranne frasier
I'm laughing aloud...funiest thing I've read in a long time. I needed it, thanks!

April 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkathie
Now that you mentioned it, I notice food everywhere in my writing. As a matter of fact, before I got 'serious' with writing, hubs urged me to be a food critic for some local mags. I never did it, but I do have a personal journal of all my food adventures.
April 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdana
Thanks Anne and Kathie, I appreciate the kind words.

Dana, I think the food critic thing would be a blast!

Growing up in a Chinese household you just naturally eat a lot of strange things. It got stranger in college though. For some reason I developed this dare/habit with a friend. Whenever we went out to eat, we would try to order the freakiest thing on the menu, basically to outdo each other.

That's how I got to try my first steak tartar, squid luau, dinuguan, and other "memorable" dishes.
April 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
You know that picture of the Cock Flavored Soup Mix - SPICY is just - sick. Reminds me of those fire roasted Turkey nuts I had one time when I was on a road trip with hubs. Hubs couldn't eat it, but it was yummy - tasted like chicken giblets.
April 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdana
I wrote a book about Italians. All they do is eat. Sort of like our home movies. It's one long Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter Dinner in those things. Same Aunts in their Sunday dresses, same balding uncles pouring out the homemade wine, different tables covered in best lace tablecloths. We watch, and we comment, trying to date the photos by the degree of baldness by who's still in the images.

They're mostly all dead now and the movies are on video. I want to transfer them to DVD.
April 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm.g. tarquini
the cock flavored soup mix...so, is it, um...salty? =)
April 14, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjackt
Thanks; that was funny. I was in Cheyenne, Wyoming, once or twice, ordered a medium-rare steak there, heard the strident Psycho violin sounds beneath the wildly swinging naked light bulb as a piece of misshapen charcoal was set before me.
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRoy
Great post, Jamie. Ever tried liver, with onions and fava beans, and a nice Chianti?
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjude hardin
I suggest trying a new pair of jeans, maybe in black, with a slimming line around the butt area. But jeans in black are getting pretty damn hard to find.
April 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Hatadi

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