So, I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to my palate. For the most part, when I’m with friends and they ask where we should go for dinner, I’m usually the last to respond because I genuinely don’t have a preference. Wherever we end up, I’m usually able to find something I’ll enjoy. If I do have a specific craving that needs satisfying, I’ll be the first to suggest a place or kind of cuisine.
Recently, I had a craving for a good old fashioned deli sandwich. Roast beef, lettuce, tomato, mayo and muenster cheese on a sub roll. That’s one of my go to sandwiches. My other go to, and actually my preferred combination, is liverwurst with mayo and muenster or provolone on a round roll or plain bagel. Well, the day I had the craving, it was for the roast beef. I’d just run a couple of errands with my son and I had time so I drove by the local deli all set to grab a parking spot, get my sandwich and have at it. Well, the deli was packed and there were no nearby parking spots and when the place is this busy it can be very intimidating there if you’re not a regular. In many ways, at least when it’s busy, it reminds me of the Soup Nazi spot in Seinfeld. Incidentally, I didn’t get my sub that day. The deli, though, is a very popular and famous one that it can be the subject for its own blog post but I’m not reviewing it here.
Instead, I’m want to write about ‘go to’ cravings or comfort foods. Having grown up in Hong Kong and my taste buds treated to a variety of flavours, I’ve grown to enjoy all sort of food. Some days, like the one I described above, I might crave a good deli sandwich. Some days, if I’m in a nostalgic mood, I might crave pizza and root beer like the kind I’d eaten at Shakey’s Pizza during my childhood visits to The Philippines. At other times, I might yearn for Ngau Lam Lo Mein (beef brisket noodle) and take a trip into Chinatown and find a Hong Kong-style noodle shop. What’s interesting, however, is not so much the food itself that I crave from time to time but why I crave these foods at the times I crave them.
Sometimes, the cravings come straight from a sense of palate. In these cases, I’ve usually been eating the same food or same kinds of foods a lot and I want and/or need a different kind of taste. At other times, when my craving has been super specific, there’s usually some kind of emotional trigger. Recently, I’ve taken to having a beer a night. The beer, though, has been Tsingtao. I do prefer Tsingtao to other beers but I tend to want it in the summers when it’s hot out, I’m alone at night and the air-con is cooling the living room. Most of you reading are probably thinking “So what?” Summer is hot and a cold beer is very much enjoyed by many in these conditions. For me, though, the Tsingtao, while tasty, brings me back to my early days in the US and my college years when I’d enjoy a beer at home – underage but, hey, I was home and not out – and I was fit and young and had an entire life ahead of me. So, I suppose, aware of it or not, I turn to Tsingtao when, perhaps, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the rigors and disappointments of my present everyday life and reliving, albeit very briefly, a hopeful time from my youth. Other times, when I hear Cantonese or chat with a friend from secondary school, I’m brought back home to Hong Kong and yearn for my Ngau Lam or Char Shiu Fan (roast pork over rice) and, again for a brief time, I’m brought to a place that’s innocent, free and hopeful.
So, what are your cravings and triggers? Do share. And, if this post conjures something in you and you need to pair those feelings with a meal or beverage, go for it. I hope your palate takes you where you want to go.