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Category Archives: travel

Help Me Pho-bi Wan Kenobi, You’re My Only Hope

Don’t tell Emeril, but four days in the culinary mecca of the South drove us to the brink. One more heavy Southern meal or Creole fry-fest would have pushed me into complete gastrointestinal meltdown. That’s how we found ourselves fleeing the French Quarter yesterday and driving across the Mississippi in search of salvation–a simple bowl of Pho. I know, I know. Vietnamese food in Dixie? But it was our only hope of survival. Minerva, our trusty GPS, found Pho Tau Bay for us. Yes, it was a dive, but I almost cried with joy when the waitress brought a heaping basket of fresh raw bean sprouts and crisp purple-green basil to the table. The steaming bowl of fragrant broth that accompanied it soothed my angry stomach. I’m sorry, but Southeast Asians are the Jedi Masters of food. The Force is strong with Pho.

What is it about New Orleans that makes fried foods sound like a good idea? Not to mention the fact that bacon and pecans each constitute their own staple food group there. I tried to make healthy choices, like ordering a side of greens or mashed sweet potatoes instead of fries. Right. The menu should have read, “A bowl of crumbled bacon garnished with incidental collard greens” or “butter and candied pecans topped with a dollop of sweet potatoes.” My arteries are hardening just thinking about it.

Frog legs and alligator appetizer. It is as sick as it looks! 

Full disclosure. I have eaten all of the following in the past five days: Jambalaya, red beans and rice, gumbo, crawfish etouffee, shrimp creole, alligator, frog legs, cheese grits, black eyed peas, red fish, drum fish–and that was the lighter side. Disturbing quantities of deep-fried-anythings made their way past my common sense and straight into my belly: batter fried shrimp, crawfish, calamari, mushrooms, oysters, powdered-sugar-coated beignets. And don’t even get me started on the pralines–a confection whose only three ingredients are butter, sugar, and pecans–go figure. They really shouldn’t be as utterly delicious as they are, but there you have it.

I woke up this morning in my own bed, delighted to open my battered-and-deep-fried-free-zone fridge and eat a pear. Period. Aaaaah. My close encounter with Cajun cooking didn’t kill me after all. So, if you’re traveling this summer and find yourself completely maxed out on rich foods–use the Pho, Luke. Let the Pho guide you to a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant and you’ll be fine. It’s an old Jedi trick.

Praline Photo Credit:[IMG][/IMG]




And you thought the Filet-O-Fish was a bad idea. McCrustaceans take it to a whole new level of horror. Or maybe it sounds good to you–maybe you prefer your lobster with Diet Coke and fries, Super Sized.  Maybe you need a trip to Nova Scotia. I think everyone needs a trip to Nova Scotia.
Can I tell you I love this place? And not because you can get lobster at McDonald’s. Mostly because you can keep driving north and east until you come to Cape Breton Island, the kind of gorgeous unspoiled place that you didn’t think exists anymore. You could stay in a little town like Mabou, where you can’t find fast food for fifty miles in any direction. The inn where you stay could loan you a couple of kayaks or two bicycles tomorrow so that you could feel the slightly salty breeze in your hair while you pedal anywhere or paddle nowhere in particular. You could watch an incredible sunset and sleep through a sunrise and eat crisp local apples with sharp white cheddar for lunch.
Hopefully the Red Shoe Pub would serve fresh scallops with bacon and creamed peas again and you could stomp your foot while you ate. Because everyone stomps when the teenaged fiddler with the flying fingers cranks up the tempo. It’s the only way to keep yourself from pushing your seat back and dancing on the table. And you could go to bed wondering why you think you need a Target and a cell phone and a three car garage and a Jamba Juice.

You’ll want to find the person who first told you to hurry up or life would pass you by and tell them this: If I hurry up, I might pass by life. The drive through window does not appeal to me–I’m not interested in fast-lane McLife. No thanks. I’ve got time to walk in and sit down and order the fresh catch of the day. I want it cooked slowly, and served with live music. I’m in Nova Scotia. And when I get home, I hope there’s a little Nova Scotia in me.