Over Christmas I went to Arizona to visit my Mom. She fed me way too much food, of course. She seems to be getting more comfortable with my choice to eat (mostly) vegan. I think it’s partly because she’s realizing how many of her recipes already happened to be vegan or easily veganized. I requested her stuffed eggplant for Christmas dinner because it’s one of my all-time favorites. She had the idea of also making her curry recipe with edamame instead of chicken, and she picked up a nice focaccia loaf. It was a non-traditional combination but made for a lovely meal with plenty of good leftovers.
On another day my Mom and I went to the Heard Museum of American Indian Art and History. We were thinking that we might also look for a fun restaurant downtown, but when we got to the museum, we hit the jackpot! There was a fry bread stand out front!
I got the Navajo Taco (minus the cheese):
On my last night in town, my Mom made a recipe that she had seen on a local morning news program. It was very sweet of her to think of me when she saw it. It was Israeli couscous with cremini mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and parsley, garnished with fresh steamed asparagus. The best part was that she put the leftovers in a disposable container for me to take on the plane. It was quite good at room temperature. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better on an airplane!
My next stop was New Jersey, where I met my boyfriend’s Mom for the first time! I was afraid that my diet would cause her stress, but she has a sister who is vegetarian and lactose intolerant and seemed to have no trouble at all planning meals. My second Christmas dinner consisted of Noor’s delicious lentils, rice pilaf, and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, plus sweet potatoes with peaches and cashews. It was wonderful.
I had a blast exploring New York City with Noor and his Mom! We had a lovely Japanese lunch at Sapporo Ramen. I ordered the vegetable ramen and liked it enough to go back for more a few days later with my friend Brandon:
Brandon and I encountered an unexpected treat at the Museum of Modern Art: Thai Curry!
There was an installation by artist Rikrit Tiravanija, who cooks (or has assistants cook) food for gallery visitors. You may be asking yourself how that counts as art. He was a pioneer of “relational aesthetics” in the 1990s: the idea of creating social situations in galleries wherein the relationships fostered are works of art. In short, he seeks to highlight the ways in which food encourages a sense of community. It works. As soon as MOMA visitors had food in their hands they started to sit down next to/smile at/talk to strangers they hadn’t noticed before.
Also, during my visit, I received some important lessons about New Jersey culture. When I first arrived, I was taught how to properly fold a slice of Jersey pizza (well, I tried, at least. I’m actually still not sure I was doing it correctly). I did eat and enjoy several slices of cheese pizza. I’m glad I did. As I’ve said before, I’ve found that a little bit of flexibility pays off when traveling. In this case, I discovered that people from the east coast aren’t just being snobs about their pizza; it really is better.
I also learned that bagels are much better in New Jersey. I was told that one doesn’t toast fresh bagels (unless they’re a day old). They don’t need to be toasted. Because they’re boiled before they’re baked, they’re nice and chewy on the outside and soft on the inside…like good French bread. I had picked up some sun-dried tomato-tofu spread from Zabar’s in New York, and it was delicious on an everything bagel from the place down the street.
On my last day, Noor’s Mom took me to a wonderful Indian Buffet called Sitar Palace in Orangetown, NY. They were very kind about explaining which dishes contained dairy and meat, but I did sample a couple of the creamy dishes.
I had a great time visiting with family, but I can’t wait to spend some time with Noor in San Francisco this week! We are definitely planning to go back to La Palma Mexicatessan. My mouth is already watering…