I’m rounding out this week with the Oklahoma Women Bloggers and their Valentine Blogging Challenge. Today we get to talk about food! Yum!
by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador
I love food. Who doesn’t? I’m an adventurous eater, and I have to attribute it to two things:
1. My mother required us to try one bite of every food that was put on our plate. If we didn’t like the food after one bite, we didn’t have to eat it. But we had to eat that first bite. Funny thing was, about 98% of the time, my sister and I liked the new food, and we happily added it to our repertoire. The other 2% involved certain beans and peas that will remain nameless as to not unduly influence future food testers.
2. I’m very curious. People completely fascinate me – their behaviors, belief systems, and cultures, which includes food. I had a relative ask me once “Why don’t you like your own food?” I told him I didn’t know what he meant. “American food. How come you don’t like American food? All you eat is all that weird food.” Hmm. Weird food? Spam, turducken, pickled pigs feet, fried cheese curds, Rocky Mountain oysters (and they ain’t oysters, folks), cheez-wiz, and marshmallow fluff. Yeah, ended that conversation.
My lack of cooking expertise hasn’t stopped me from food adventures. I just let someone else draw the map. And I’ve been all over the map discovering new tastes. Have you ever had a food experience that was so amazing you still remember it twenty years later? I’ve had a few. Keeper Hubby and I have moved around quite a bit during our twenty-five years of hanging out together. If we mention a place we’ve been, do I think about the weather, the landscape, the people, the traffic? Nope, my mind goes straight to the food.
Here are the top 10 food adventures that have shaped my palate:
- Joe Tangaro’s South Broadway, St. Louis, Missouri – Boiled shrimp by the pound
Joe Tangaro was a professional wrestler who started a restaurant in South St. Louis where I grew up. Shrimp was one of their specialties, and you could buy boiled shrimp by the pound with tons of homemade cocktail sauce. I remember I was about six years old, my dad used to get it to go, and it came in a bucket, like KFC. This began my love affair with seafood, and one of the few types of food Keeper Hubby and I battle over. He does NOT have a love affair with seafood. Sadly, Mr. Tangaro passed away and the restaurant closed.
- Wong’s Inn, Manchester and Big Bend Maplewood, Missouri – St. Paul Sandwich
In the early 80′s after high school I got a job, moved out, and started commuting to a local college for classes. My job in retail had crazy hours, and my culinary skills were so lacking at this time, it was usually sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, or affordable take-out for meals. I had discovered Chinese food, but stuck to things I could recognize, fried rice, lo mein, egg rolls. One day I decided to be brave and ordered a St. Paul Sandwich.
Never heard of a St. Paul Sandwich? I’m not surprised. I’ve only found them in St. Louis, and none of the chinese restaurant owners there I’ve asked has been able to tell me where they came from and why they are called St. Paul sandwiches. What is it? Basically, it is an egg foo yung patty (scrambled eggs mixed with onion, bean sprouts, meat of choice and spices, and fried, no sauce) on white bread with lots of mayo and tomato slices. It was the perfect on-the-go cheap meal for a broke college student. I still eat them when I go back to St. Louis. Wong’s is still there, right behind the White Castle on Manchester.
- Gutierrez y Rico’s, Salinas, California – Carnitas
After Keeper Hubby and I got married, as a Marine he got stationed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. We lived in base housing and it was only about a 15 minute drive to the beautiful blue waters of Monterey Bay. I know, it’s a hard life. Hubby’s brother lived in the area, and told us we had to go try a place called Gutierrez y Rico. Mexican food was not plentiful where we grew up, and what was available was very Americanized. Think lots of Velveeta.
One day we drove through the mountains to a farming town called Salinas, and found Gutierrez y Rico. It was a hole in the wall, everything was in Spanish, and everyone spoke Spanish. Keeper Hubby was learning Russian at DLI, so he was no help at all. We smiled, we pointed at the pictures on the wall, and in just a few minutes the biggest platters of food you ever saw appeared at the pick-up window. Keeper Hubby had to carry them, they were too heavy for me. Succulent meats, seasoned like we’d never tasted before. Smoky refried beans. Puffy handmade tortillas. Perfectly cooked tamales. REAL Mexican food! We were in love. We gorged ourselves, and still had enough for leftovers for the next two days. This hole in the wall must be keeping up the standards, because after 25 years they are still around!
- The Palace Indian Restaurant, Norcross, Georgia – Saag Paneer
When we moved to Georgia, all we heard from the people we met at church, through work, and in our apartment complex was ‘You can find any kind of food in Atlanta’. It was true, they did have a lot of different ethnic restaurants that you couldn’t find back in the Midwest in those days. And no matter what kind of restaurant it was, they served the famous sweet tea of the South. You never called it iced tea, it was sweet tea, y’all.
We lived in Decatur, home to a large enclave of Indians. A Hindu temple, the first I’d ever seen, stood on the corner next to our apartment complex. Many of our neighbors were Indian, and advised about the best places to try the foods of their homeland. We discovered The Palace. Their Sunday brunch made me want to go back to church and have someone pray the glutton out of me.
Here’s where I found saag paneer, a wonderful melange of spinach and homemade curd cheese; meats roasted in the tandoor, a special clay oven, biryani, naan, tikka masala, I loved them all. And for dessert gulab jaman – sweet, fluffy, deep-fried, sugary-syrup is good in any language! The Palace is still around.
- Momo’s Pizza Tallahassee, Florida – A slice as big as your head!
Tallahassee is a college town, so they cater to college tastes. Lots of sandwich shops, sports bars, etc. But one place that stood out when we lived there was Momo’s. It was your average pizza place, except for the pizza. It was beyond average. They were huge! Their claim to fame was ‘ a slice as big as your head’ and it was true. Once I went to pick up two pizzas for a get-together my teenagers were having with their friends, and I couldn’t fit the boxes in my car. The slices were a bit smooshed, but teenagers don’t care, they eat anything. Momo’s is still around, check it out if you’re ever in Tallahassee.
- The Back Porch, Destin, Florida - Oysters on the half-shell
We discovered Destin while living in Tallahassee. It became our refuge when life got crazy. We were blessed to visit three different times. There’s something about walking in white sands along the edge of that big blue ocean that helps priorities fall into place. One of my priorities while there was enjoying oysters on the half shell at The Back Porch.
Raw oysters are an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, the fresher, the better. The Back Porch had them fresh out of the Gulf of Mexico each morning. The Back Porch is one of those touristy kinds of places you expect in beach towns, but if you can manage to learn to tell ‘locals time’, you can really kick back and enjoy yourself. 3 p.m. was a great time, all the tourists were snoozing in the sun or conked out in the their rooms after a day on the water, saving their strength for a night of partying. So 3 p.m. found Keeper Hubby and I sitting on the back porch of The Back Porch, which we had all to ourselves, enjoying oysters and Coronas. Okay I enjoyed the oysters, I think he got a French Dip or something. I relished those fresh gulf oysters. Slurp!
- Pho Vietnam II, Southhaven, Mississippi - Pho Ap Chao
On the drive from Florida back to Oklahoma one year, we discovered Vietnamese food, in of all places, Mississippi. A delightful place off the Interstate just south of Memphis, we needed to eat, and we were tired of Arches and burgers and such. We hadn’t really had Vietnamese food before. I know, a lot of Americans think Vietnamese and Chinese and Korean and Thai food are all the same. No, no, dear food-deprived. Be adventurous! Try them all. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I had Pho Ap Chao, which ended up being crunchy little patties of pan-fried rice noodles with shrimp, beef, chicken and piles of fresh veggies. Everything was so fresh, and we vowed if we ever came back through the area, we were definitely stopping at Pho Vietnam again. Sometimes food adventures have a sad ending. We did go back about 3 years later, only to find that our original experience must have happened in a dream, because the restaurant was only a shadow of its former self, and a very bad shadow at that. I wasn’t surprised to find that the restaurant is now closed. But since that experience I know I like Vietnamese food and seek it out whenever possible.
- Meers Restaurant, Meers, Oklahoma – Buffalo Burger
Keeper Hubby was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma when he was in the Army. No, you didn’t read that wrong, even though I said earlier he was a Marine. This man was a glutton for punishment. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge sat right next to the artillery practice field (still not sure how that works). It’s a great place to see buffalo, longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, and all sorts of southwestern wildlife. It’s also home to a strange little town called Meers. Meers was a gold-mining town that popped up at the turn of the century, but after the gold was gone, the town got smaller and smaller. Today all that is left is one building that is a grocery, post office, restaurant, and has a seismograph installed by the U.S. Geological Survey.
After his army days, Keeper Hubby took the kiddos and I on a day trip there (it was a ‘field trip’ because homeschoolers use everything for a ‘field trip’ dontcha know) and that’s when we were introduced to a MeersBurger. A MeersBurger is served on a pie tin and fills that tin to the brim. Back in the day, they used to serve buffalo burgers (not anymore) so of course I had to try one. It was melt-in-your-mouth and unbuckle-your-belt delicious. This is a photo of a MeersBurger I had last year when I took a solo trip to the refuge for some writing research. There’s nothing like a giant pile of perfectly cooked ground Texas Longhorn with melted cheese all over. Getting hungry yet?
- The Spudder, Tulsa, Oklahoma – The Gusher
The Spudder is one of those places that even long-time locals have never heard of here in Tulsa. Of course, this being a steak and potatoes kind of town, there’s a steakhouse on just about every corner. And if they aren’t grilling steak, they are chicken-frying it, which I won’t discuss because I don’t particularly care for chicken-fried things, except for chicken of course, but chicken-frying is a religion here, and I’m a heretic. The Spudder doesn’t really advertise, is in a weird spot off the main streets, and you can’t even see it’s sign. It’s surrounded by homes and apartment buildings. It’s been there long enough that the city grew up around it.
Keeper Hubby and I, always on the lookout for bloody meat (really K.H.), found The Spudder about ten years ago. The theme for the restaurant is the oil boom days of Tulsa. It has an actual oil rig out front. In the middle of a neighborhood. Told you it was weird. But the food wasn’t weird. Velvety potato soup like you’ve never had, fluffy dinner rolls served in black metal lunch boxes, and then there is The Gusher. It’s a 22 oz. bone-in ribeye steak, cooked to perfection, whatever your perfection is. I like it medium rare, Hubby likes it well done. My father-in-law likes it to moo; it looks like a slasher movie when we take him there. This is the place we take out-of-towners. Because it’s awesome like that. It’s headed for its forty year birthday, so I guess some other folks must think so, too.
- Dairy Queen, anywhere in the world – Peanut Buster Parfait
I love Peanut Buster Parfaits. I grew up with Dairy Queen, and the Peanut Buster Parfait was their piece-de-resistance. A sweet treat perfectly proportioned with hot fudge, soft serve ice cream, peanuts and whipped cream, the Peanut Buster Parfait will always be my one true love. Why? Well, besides the fact I love me some chocolate/peanuts/ice cream, I was eating this very treat, sitting on the top of a wooden picnic table, on a busy city street, on a certain spring afternoon, bought by a certain young man who plied me with said treat and then proceeded to ask me to marry him. That was the start of our food adventures together and that’s why he’s a Keeper.
Got any food adventures to share? Tell us your favorites in the comments!
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