For the Love of Food

And it’s not all ‘Greek’ to me

February 2020

This is the month that’s all about love. Therefore, I will write about … food.

George Bernard Shaw once wrote or said, “There is no love greater than the love of food.” A dear, departed friend once sent me a card with that sentiment. The illustration showed a Victorian woman licking her plate.

I do not think I have ever licked a plate, not that I haven’t wished I could. But there is propriety to consider, especially if one is in a restaurant or at someone’s dinner table.

I find I spend a lot of time in restaurants. When you live alone, it’s always the easier option.

Folks in rural areas, though, don’t have a lot of choices when it comes to restaurants close to home. Oh, for the times I’ve wished I lived in New York City, where one can pick up the phone and — presto! — filet mignon, shrimp lo mein, probably even a lobster roll can be delivered to your door.

I must drive 100 miles each way to find a lobster roll. It is very tasty, but that’s a lot of driving. I recently ordered a “Maine lobster tail” at a restaurant 65 miles away. It was a puny little, overcooked thing. It took four bites to consume. I used to go to that restaurant whenever I was in that town, but not again.

That’s because, just down the street, I discovered a Thai restaurant. I never thought I’d like Thai food — too spicy, way unpronounceable. A friend recommended this place though, and all I can say is, “Wow!” What a delicious, fresh meal I had, with friendly, attentive service. Who knew a dish called “drunken noodles” could be so remarkable?

I can’t quite remember where or when I first discovered Greek food, but it was love at first bite. I must drive 175 miles each way to find a Greek restaurant, unless it is mid-September, and the Roanoke Greek Festival is happening, just 75 miles distant. Gee, do I ever load up my plate with spanakopita; tiropita; dolmades; moussaka; pastitsio; and my fave creamy, custardy, phyllo-encased dessert, galaktoboureko.

I enjoy Greek food so much that I even went to Greece to eat it at the source. Imagine my surprise to discover that restaurants here offer a lot more variety than in Athens, or any of the small, charming Greek islands. Funny, but the thing that seems most popular there is … toast. Everywhere I looked, restaurant signs proclaimed, “Tost!” Uh, thanks, but I can make toast at home.

I remember the night our waiter came to the table proudly holding a platter of lobster. Imagine my surprise to discover it was octopus. Then, I started noticing octopi, fresh out of the Aegean Sea, draped across clotheslines in the island of Naxos, apparently to dry and then be proudly served. It was tough and chewy, right down to the suction cups. It is not served at the Greek festival.

I will never forget the first night I discovered foie gras. I was in the Provence region of France and cut into what I thought might be pork (any French food is good food). I was thrilled to discover one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I checked the menu and read it was foie gras. It is extremely difficult to find, other than the rare restaurant in Manhattan. I know, I know, there’s a stigma attached to it, but it tastes so darn good I let that go. After all, I don’t fret about the poor other animals on a menu. (Vegetarians, please hold your comments: I’ve heard all the horror stories).

What’s my favorite thing that I can’t find at any restaurant anywhere? That would be Mom’s fried chicken, with mashed potatoes, spinach, and coconut cream pie for dessert. That was always my birthday dinner. Come Feb. 12, I’ll really miss it. Unless my chef sister whips it up … which she might.

To order Margo’s book of columns, “A Party of One,” call 540-468-2147, Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email [email protected]