El Rey

I am a Mexican food afficinado. My love affair began in Utah, much like my love affair with a lot of things, continuing to this day. I’m not talking about drive through after the bar Mexican food or what you find at a chain restaurant. 

I’m talking the real deal. I unfortunately am the only family member who has this romance going, so it’s a solitary pursuit. Living in the Midwest, authentic anything was in short supply for a very long time. That is slowly changing as diversity begins to take hold.  
There are more ethnic restaurants in Sioux Falls now, and as a vegetarian, it makes my tummy very happy. I used to struggle with eating the same thing all the time (it’s not discipline, it’s boredom). Going out to eat was a challenge, since I had the choice of only a few places.

I had real burritos with real you could actually drink it, it’s so good, salsa the other night. It was that good, that I am actually planning on it for my next taco Tuesday. If not sooner. 

Like music, food provides visceral memories for me. I can tell where I had a certain food for the first time: 

  • Falafel. In a middle eastern restaurant across from Columbia University at a high school journalism conference. I met several really cool presenters and I thought if I ate what they did, I might absorb some talent through osmosis. 
  • Bamboo rat. Hunan province China. They lied & said it was chicken. I’m sure they loved pulling a fast one on us American tourists.
  • Paneek paneer. A little out of the way Indian restaurant in Philadelphia, with my former college boyfriend who was angry about being taken to such a dump. My grandmother was recovering from open heart surgery and I was gutted. He could care less about my feelings or what I was going through. He was upset over me making him eat such slop. Indian quickly became my favorite cuisine. 
  • Authentic Mexican-a lot of my high school friends were of Mexican descent (we went to a catholic school in Salt Lake City) and we would trade lunches in the cafeteria. I loved learning about their cultural traditions behind some of their favorite foods. 

I try to recreate certain moments in my life by cooking the foods that bring me back to that freeze frame. I can tell you what first meal I’ve made for any boyfriend I’ve had (it’s always the same-some sort of parmigiana with spaghetti, home made sauce & broccoli, because broccoli is the bomb). However, I can’t tell you what the last one was. I made frozen pizza for the first meal in my house. I had chicken parmigiana as my last meal before I became a mother. The night after my grandma died, it was a sampler platter at Denny’, at 2 am, wondering if the funeral home would close her slack jawed mouth. Whenever I need to grieve, I need mozzarella sticks and onion rings. 

I can’t find my car keys or glasses some days, but I can tell you what I ate 30 years ago before a concert. That’s just how I roll. 

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