Why go out to eat? There are many reasons, such as not having time to prepare a meal, not wanting to cook every single day of the week, wanting to get out of the house, and my favorite, not having to do the dishes.
When my husband and I go out for dinner we both want healthy and clean choices, but mainly we want variety, something we can’t get or cook at home.
Last weekend my husband and daughter ran errands and I joined a friend for our own activities. We ate out in separate restaurants, cultures and countries. My husband and daughter went to a Vietnamese place. Laura ordered a soup in which the ingredients were all listed in English except for one item –Gan. Laura asked, what was Gan? The owner/waitress shook her head and, said it was tendon. She offered to serve the soup without tendon, but Laura loves to try new things, and despite being asked twice, she ordered the soup with all the ingredients and enjoyed the meal. The waitress checked several times just to be sure.
Later in the week they brought me to eat at the same place and the waitress remembered Laura and her meal. The day I joined them we were the only customers that had to speak English to order, at least at first. While we were eating another English speaking couple entered and sat near us. They eyed our meals and asked what we were eating. I’m not sure they liked their food as much as we did. I think some people try food of other cultures expecting it to be the same or very similar to what they are used to.
We had summer rolls on our table, beautiful food works of art. The bread that held the veggies and shrimp was clear, like cellophane, yet it tasted good, like bread. The soups had cold noodles in broth, with bean sprouts, vegetables and large chunks of peppers. A plate of fresh cilantro and mint was included, and the bright green leaves contrasted in texture, color and taste with the soups.
Chatting with the owner we learned she had just made a Vietnamese cake. We showed interest and on our way out she made us wait while she heated some of the spongy green bread for us, served in a paper bowl. I’ve never eaten moss green cake before, but it was excellent.
On the first day that they were discovering this place, my friend and I decided to eat at a Central American Café we knew about. We would probably be the only non Hispanics in the place and we were eager to try our language skills and enjoy the meal. When we pulled up to the building it was closed, and the lights were off. Disappointed we drove on. At the end of the street, at the last minute, we decided to at least have ice cream, and we stopped at a little cement building with pictures of ice cream cones painted along the walls. At the door a printed sign said, “We do not serve ice cream – We serve Hispanic foods.”
Inside several customers were chatting in Spanish while waiting to order. The building was small, with only 3 tables. My friend and I chose our food, ordered in Spanish and enthusiastically soaked in the languages around us. One lady was the sole employee. She stood behind a cabinet and took orders. Soft drinks and jarritos were in a cooler at her feet. A butcher’s block held fresh cilantro and a package of corn tortillas. On a griddle she warmed the tortillas, added pork or chicken, sauce and cheese. To the plate she added a salad, and lemon wedges for dressing. We ate, dripping juices and cheese on our faces, plates and laps. The food was excellent. On the way out we thanked the cook/ owner for being patient with us in speaking Spanish. She smiled and laughed a little and said no problem.
Why go out for warmed up pre-cooked lasagna’s, and yesterdays meatloaves, or the many varieties of chicken and sauce, chicken and noodles, chicken and cheese, or chicken burgers and fingers when you can experience a new meal and a new culture all at once. Here in South Carolina the culture and food is unique, with the Gullah influence and the fresh vegetables and fruits. Gullah food is the local culture, and it can’t be found anywhere else, at least not with the South Carolina twist. Why eat the same food in every place, when visiting other countries or new states?