The fact is, I don’t think I’ve ever met a cuisine that didn’t offer at least one dish I felt I could sink my teeth into. For me, one of the best parts of visiting a place I’ve never traveled to before is eating where the locals do. I used to be too shy to ask random people on the street for recommendations. But after doing it a few times, I came to realize something – most people don’t mind being accosted by a stranger if the stranger is asking for a restaurant endorsement in the town they love.
My husband, Neil, and I have what we call our “benchmark” foods. When trying a new restaurant, we order some go-to dishes to do a quick assessment. If I’m having Mexican, for instance, I have to start with black bean soup. And if I’m eating anything Cajun (a personal favorite), there’s got to be crawfish at some point during my meal. Neil and I debate this one. He’ll fight for his jambalaya with his dying breath.We would love for our kids to be miniature foodies, too. We recently started doing something new with them. Whenever we travel to a new state, we pick a food the state is known for, ask a bunch of locals where we can find the best (fill in the blank), and set off in search of the place that got the most votes. We’ve only done it a few times so far, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the locals are ALWAYS right.
And the kids get a kick out of asking strangers for their suggestions, since under any other situation, that’s a total no-no, of course.
It shouldn’t have been a huge surprise for me to see that a love of food came through in my writing. But when I finished my first draft of At This Stage and read through it, I was hit with my characters’ eclectic eating habits. I realized that, though unintentional, there was actually a part of me (and Neil) in them.
So we’ll keep exploring different dishes and bothering unsuspecting people with our questions. If there’s a great dish in your town, let me know where to go and save a stranger near you.