Food and Me

This morning I made my bed like I do everyday. I completed the first task of my day. It is my element of discipline. I have been making my bed everyday since February of 2003. The Navy instilled that in me when I enlisted. I picked up a few other habits in the Navy. The Navy enhanced some traits of my personality in good and bad ways. However, I am not talked about some of these traits. I am going to talk about food. I am going to talk about various cultures through food.

I grew up in the city of Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Abidjan is a coastal city in West Africa, and fish is a huge staple of diet in Abidjan. I have always loved eating fish more than anything, but fish is not big part of American diet unless you live near a big body of water. I became of big meat eater when I immigrated to the USA, and it is only recently that I have leaned toward reducing my meat intake. In 2004 I started my tour in Yokosuka, Japan. There was McDonald, Wendy’s and various American food chain restaurants, but I did not see the point of going to these American restaurants. I went to a hole in wall in Japan, and I had the best ramen noodles of my life. A few days later, my friend Griff and his girlfriend at the time took me to a Sushi restaurant. It was my first experience with Sushi. I ate various kinds of Sushi (salmon, eel, tuna, lobster). It was overwhelming to say the least. Then I went out at sea for a few weeks. Upon my return to land in Yokosuka, a nice American lady directed me to a restaurant where one cooks on a small stove placed on the table. This restaurant introduced me to Yakuniku (Korean Cuisine). One weekend, I went to explore Yokohama and I stumble in another local restaurant. Once at the restaurant, one of the cooks told me that fish they served was raw. It was my first experience with sashimi. I enjoyed every bite and chew of the tuna sashimi.

In March 2004, I visited South Korea for the first time in my life. We moored in Incheon, South Korea. From there we visited Seoul, the demilitarized zone, and Osan Air Force Base. In true form, I avoided every American restaurant, and I tasted the local cuisine. I tasted Kimchi (pickled cabbage), Bulgogi and Yakuniku. I washed all this delicacies down with Soju (Korean rice liquor). I made several stops in the years after, and I enjoyed Korean cuisine to the fullest. I visited Pattaya, Thailand a month later. I will say the best part of the trip was the food. Tom Yam is always delicious anytime in Thailand. I got also used to the spices used by Thais.

In February 2005, I visited Hong Kong. It is the closest I ever been to China. In Hong Kong, I visited Kowloon and various areas of Hong Kong as well. I stopped at another hole in a wall, and I had some good food. It tasted nothing like the food we eat at Chinese restaurants here in America. Along the way, I befriended people from the Philippines. I understood Tagalog, and I used to speak some as well. The only food Filipino I will not try is Balut, but I am always game for chicken adobo, pancit. In 2006, while visiting the island of Saipan, we encounter a group of Filipinos at the beach. They had a barbecue and they invited us. We had sausages, chicken adobo, and various dishes.

In 2007 I visited Cyprus for the fist time, while there I tasted baklava. Baklava is a dessert from the Levant. Along with baba ghanoush, shawarma, I was reminded that I grew up with Lebanese people in Ivory Coast. The best of visiting so many countries in my younger years was the street food.

Food brings people together. If one happens to hang out with African people, the one thing every foreigner remarks is the atmosphere and the food. There is a combination of spice, roasting and all flavors. I grew up eating yam dishes, plantain dishes, and cassava in the Ivory Coast, but my travels have given me an appreciation for food. There are things I will not eat, and there are food I will eat without hesitation. My favorite restaurant in the suburbs of Chicago is the Shanty. It is not a five stars restaurant, but the food often brought me back. The next time I am in Chicago, I will make a stop at the Shanty.

I have a passion for food. I will eat at a five restaurant, and I will eat what my friend Rahzak cooks any day. My friend Rahzak has his from the farm to the table. He grows his vegetables and cooks them. He buys his meat from the the flea market, and if he ever opens his restaurant he will be successful. Below are some of the food he prepares. There is a lot to say about food though.

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