recent food obsessions


There’s this place in Rice Village, in Houston, called Istanbul. They make Turkish food, which I guess is kind of like Greek food but not exactly. Case in point: their dolmas taste like the ones I’ve had at Greek restaurants, except sweeter, more subtly spiced, and more awesome. The first time I had them, it was 2 AM and I’d been drinking, so I wasn’t even sure if I was imagining how awesome they were. But I wasn’t. I went back there the other night and got three orders of them. The menu says “with sweet spices and fresh dill.” They taste like cinnamon and maybe anise. I’m kind of obsessed with them.


Similarly… Usually there is no good food to be had in my suburb. However, you can drive there on any given weekend and find a million billion children begging for money. They beg for bands, for choirs, for baseball teams, for Jesus, or anything. I usually give my cash to the kids who ask in the most professional way, or else kids who don’t know at all how to ask for anything and subsequently get scolded by their parents and peers.

So, the other day, I was accosted by children in front of a chain store, and I gave a dollar to the kid whose older brother yelled at him, “You’re not even doing it right!” Right after I gave that kid a dollar and he took it in a silent daze, I saw that there was also a bake sale. I walked over to examine the goods and let the very professional parents pitch to me. I bought a lemon bar and a piece of baklava. “Oh, those are interesting,” one of the dads said. “[So-and-so’s] mom makes those.”

I don’t know who so-and-so’s mom is, but that woman made the most awesome baklava I’ve ever tasted in my life. I ate that stuff two months ago and wish to this day I could find that woman and buy a whole pan of it from her. Again, there were secret spices. I divined that there was grated pistachio, plus the normal baklava ingredients — honey, butter, walnuts, philo — but there was also something else. A spice, and not a sweet one. A very subtle bit of it. Was it coriander, maybe? Turmeric? Maybe it was fresh dill.


Oh my god, I am so obsessed with Moroccan chicken right now — the kind with preserved lemons and olives and raisins and olive oil — that I can barely talk about it. First, I had it at this Houston restaurant called Saffron. That was my first time eating Moroccan food, and it totally turned me on to it. But they’re only open for dinner, and we haven’t had a chance to go back.

Then, the other day, we went to Whole Foods for groceries. (No, I don’t buy my groceries there. I only buy a few things there that you can’t buy anywhere else. I’m not rich, and even if I were, I wouldn’t buy all my groceries at Whole Foods.) And, oh my god, Whole Foods’ hot deli had chicken with preserved lemons and olives and raisins. And I was so happy, I almost cried. And I bought a pound of it, then drove it home and put it in the refrigerator, meaning to eat it for dinner the next day. Then, two hours after that, I took it out of the refrigerator and ate it all, cold, and it was so good I almost broke down sobbing.

And then I went back the other day to get some more, and they didn’t have it, and I left Whole Foods without buying anything, and all the way to my car, I sang to that chicken: “How can I live without you? How can I… something, something, whatever? How can I ever, ever survi-i-i-ive?!”

But the chicken didn’t answer.

I could probably go to Central Market and buy a jar of preserved lemons, yes, knowing as I do that that is the secret ingredient. But then what would I do? What are you thinking — that I could use those lemons, and some olive, and some raisins, and some olive oil, to cook my own chicken?

No. That’s never going to happen. Come on. Be serious.


For my boyfriend’s birthday, I took him to Mockingbird Bistro. I had the braised short ribs. My plate looked just like this. I’ll let you imagine how that tasted. (Hint: It tasted completely freaking awesome.)

I felt uncomfortable in the restaurant, however, because as we were finishing our meal, it quickly filled up with the kind of rich people who believe that it’s tacky to care about one’s clothing. Either that or they just had really bad taste. I can never tell for sure. But, either way, I couldn’t stop staring at them. I stared at them and thought that they must have thought I was a tacky poor person, because I’d worn a pretty dress. I was torn between being ashamed of my obvious poor upbringing and very relieved that I’d grown up poor enough to wear pretty clothing in public. I stared at their ugly, old dresses and wondered where on Earth they’d bought them. It totally boggled my mind. I’m not kidding.

But then we left, and the short ribs eclipsed all my thoughts. And they stay in my mind now, and in my heart. (Not just in my arteries, you know.)

The Lucky Shopping Day

The other day I had the day off, because my job is awesome enough to give us random prizes each month, and I won the prize and I chose a day off from amongst the prizes. So I was taking that day off the other day, and, of course, that meant I had to go to my favorite thrift store for several hours.

Sometimes, when I shop for clothes, I notice there seems to be a certain color motif happening in my selections. That day, at the thrift store, I was working a Calvin Klein-esque neutral pallette. I found a million, billion skirts, pants, and shorts in beautiful taupes, muted browns, and creamy stones.

Then, magically, every single thing I tried on fit perfectly. It was only a matter, then, of picking my very favorite skirts, shorts, and pants. So I did.

Then, I found these shoes, in my size, in almost perfectly new condition, for five dollars and forty-five cents.

Then, to top it all off, I decided to scope out the men’s jeans. I scanned the racks for my oldest son’s size, and came away with one pair of Guess jeans and one pair of Lucky jeans, for ten dollars each. I’m not even kidding. And my son isn’t a label whore, and neither am I (relatively, I’m not), but I couldn’t pass that up. Who would have?

I left the thrift store and went to Starbucks to get a latte. While they were making my drink, someone accidentally made an extra shot, and they offered it to me for free. Yay, I said, as they poured it into my venti iced skinny hazelnut extra special double special drink thing. Yay!

Then I went to Payless shoes, just for the hell of it. Because my friend Brie always wears awesome shoes, and when I ask her where she got them, one out of ten times she’ll say, “Payless,” and I’ll say, “Dude, you don’t have to lie. If you want to keep your shoe sources a secret, just say so.”

But she claims she’s telling the truth. So I went in there to find out for sure, and I got two awesome, awesome pairs of shoes with the buy-one-get-one sale working for me. (One of them being the same pair I saw Brie wearing. Sorry, Brie! I bit your flavor. But it’s okay because my feet are way bigger than hers, so they don’t look the same on me.)

Then, because I was on a roll, I went to Big Lots and scored another beach umbrella, which we sorely needed, for eight freaking dollars.

Then, I went to Old Navy and, miraculously, they had more than one cute thing in sizes that fit me. (Granted, they were all different sizes, probably because they were each made in a separate third-world country. But still.)

And, I forgot to say, they had a brand new Benetton suit at the thrift store, and its price was $13. It wasn’t in my size — it was like size 2 or 0, but it was there, and it was $13, and I touched it and marveled at it and gasped in awe. Just wanted to tell y’all that. Just thought you should know.

And then I went home and felt happy.

The End

post script

I searched for preserved lemons online and found this woman’s blog and immediately loved it. I don’t like to cook, but this woman fills my head with ideas. I’m going to show her ideas to my boyfriend and let him cook the things she says.

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Posted in gluttony, Houston, materialism, obessions on 06/29/2008 12:44 am

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