The countdown has officially begun on my return date to the US. It has been nearly two years since I’ve been home–and above all I miss the food.
Not all of it, to be fair. Americans seem to have a sick fascination with creating “new” foods that seem to exist for no other reason than to kill us faster. I’m looking at you Naked Chalupa and Hot Dog Pizza Bites Pizza. And over the last few months, I’ve to appreciate the fact that la mayoria of Spanish food has actually been alive at some point.
Nevertheless, here are the foods that I can’t wait to taste as I land stateside:
1. Ethiopian Food
So, here’s the thing. I am well aware of the fact this isn’t American. I never said that I wanted to eat American food, I said that I wanted to eat food in America. There is a difference.
The fact is, I miss the vast cultural array of fares available in places like my home state of New Jersey. And whatever I cannot find there, I can find across the border in New York City.
A typical weekend for me back home generally meant consuming cuisines with origins from at least three different countries. Here in Minorca, not so much. The most exotic I’ll go is paprika peppered octopus, a la Galicia, a region in norther Spain. While it is delicious, I am anxious to sample something further away from the Spanish peninsula.
Of all these types of foods, Ethiopian food is the one that I miss the most. As I have not been to Ethiopian (yet,) I cannot vouch for the authenticity of the dishes served in America, but I can say that they taste amazing regardless. A personal favorite is Inguay Tibs, which is a dish of portobello mushrooms served in a spicy sauce. Yum.
It is so delicious that I think I’m going to reserve my table at “Mesob” in Montclair, New Jersey before I disembark from the plane at JFK.
2. General Tsao’s Chicken
There is an entire documentary on Netflix explaining the history of this dish, so I won’t go into it here. I’m not even going to argue whether it is Chinese, American, or some sort of hybrid. All I know for sure is that it tastes good and that it doesn’t exist here in Spain.
While I can’t imagine myself eating this dish more than a few times while I’m home, those few samples will be a welcome addition to my diet.
3. A Fish Sammich
Yes, I meant to spell it that way. If you don’t get it fine. It’s a cultural thing. For those who don’t know, it is usually served in a fish market or soul food restaurant. The fish of choice is always whiting and it is served smothered in tarter sauce with sprinkles of hot sauce between two slices of wheat bread. The best part is when the oil from the fish seeps into the bread, making it a little soft, yet not too soggy. All this is wrapped in aluminum foil with some napkins and preferably a grape soda on the side.
The funny thing is, I hate wheat bread. No, that’s not true. Let me rephrase: I hate any type of bread that is pretending to be healthy just because it has been dyed brown. I love baguettes, whole grain bread and pumpernickel rolls. I am quite rather a hipster when it comes to bread–except when it is served on a fish sammich.
There is something about the combination of these generally low quality ingredients that makes a fish sammich a magical creation.
4. Soul Food
While I am a proud Jersey girl, my southern roots run deep. As a first generation Northern, I like my grits not only with butter and salt, but with some shrimp and/or catfish. And no holiday meal is complete without collard greens, macaroni and cheese and candied yams. Almost anything else, I can live without. I don’t need the chicken, black eyed peas, or even cornbread, but I must eat these three foods together at least three times a year.
Since arriving in Spain, I have missed two Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters. That means I’m due for at least 6 servings of my magical soul food trinity. While, I probably won’t indulge that much, while home, I will help myself to a special welcome home meal with these dishes as the main event.
There is something about bitterness of the greens, mixed with the savoriness of the macaroni and the sweetness of the yams makes a perfect trifecta of flavors. I don’t know how I’ve been able to survive this long without the magic of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, but I plan to rectify it as soon as I get to my momma’s kitchen.
5. An Italian Hot Dog
This is the quintessential New Jersey food. Chicago and New York have their respective pizzas, Philly has its cheesesteak, California has wheatgrass and New Jersey has its hot dog. But not just any hot dog. It is a hot dog (or two) on a roll with green peppers, onions, fried potatoes (not french fries), ketchup and mustard. It is a classic and it is beyond delicious.
Much like the fish sammich, this is something that I rarely eat. Because much like the food at Taco Bell, I am convinced that it is trying to kill me. But once or twice a year it is a welcome treat. There are few foods more connected and integrated into my childhood more than this one. You can find an Italian hot dog or nearly menu in any Pizzaria in Northern and Central New Jersey. (I don’t know nothing ’bout South Jersey. They are on their own.)
One of the reasons why I love this food so much, is because there used to be a restaurant behind my school in Newark, that sold the BEST Italian hotdogs. They have been closed now for nearly twenty years, but I still remember the tanginess of the mustard on my hotdog. Now, when I am feeling nostalgic, I will visit Dickie Dee’s on Bloomfield Avenue. It is the only place to get an authentic one nowadays.
6. A Gym Membership
With the exception of the Ethiopian food, none of my selected treats are healthful. In fact, all are overly caloric and full of carbs, fats, sugars and all sorts of nastiness that isn’t good for your heart or waistline. Luckily, I won’t be in the US for more than a few months, so hopefully I won’t do too much damage. (I can’t afford to buy new pants.) But to help counter any possible weight gain or other health damage, I’m going to the gym. Everyday.
What are some of your quintessential comfort foods? What foods do you miss most from your native country?
Tell me in the comments down below!