I don't know exactly when the food bug crept under my skin and burrowed down deep in my being. I guess it had always been there and that over time, the layers slowly melted away to reveal the beautiful and sometimes ugly and demented beast. At culinary school I delved deep. I was 21, surrounded by 17 or 18 year olds mostly. I felt behind in the game. I became a sponge...due to whatever motivation I felt at the time or once again maybe it was already ingrained in me. Recipes, technique, names, restaurants. I marveled over Trotter's 1st book. I had never seen food like that....had never heard of 1/2 the ingredients. I wanted to know, I wanted to taste, I wanted my hands and palate to be able to manipulate food in a new way. Food somehow became 3 dimensional and much, much bigger than me.
Years have passed, things have changed, things are still the same. My list of must dos and must sees keeps growing. One thing I have learned is that for me, nothing is more inspirational, therapeutic, or encouraging than eating someone else's food. I think back to school and my mental list of restaurants I had to try one day. It's changed some but the top 5 or 10, not so much. The food cultures I have most revered are the same. Frontera, Topolobampo, and Rick Bayless sit high up on some metaphysical pedestal. I read his books, marveled along with everyone else at how easily and humbly he mopped the floor of competition on Top Chef Masters. But it was all 2D. Like watching Avatar on a 13 inch black and white TV...with commercials.
That was until last weekend. Finally....two long paragraphs of sappy nonsense just to get to the point. I bore myself, I swear. Anyways, somehow my wife kept 6 months of planning under the radar. I'm very, very perceptive in a kitchen. Obsessively so. Take me out into the sunshine and normal life and I'm a dense, spacedog idiot. So, she had help I guess. Long story semi short, camping turned into "you need to not stay up late cause we're leaving @ 4am and shutup, I'm not telling you where we're going," or something like that. Something kinder sounding at least. I was actually sad that I was not gonna lay drunkenly in a canoe for 2 days. But my bag was packed....had been so for a week I found out. She's sneaky. A short jump to Houston had the wife and I wandering through the airport at a tad before 8am staring sleepily @ people drinking bloody marys and mimosas in terminal connector walkup bars. Insanity I said to myself, what is wrong with these people? It's barely breakfast, the sun and "today" a relatively new concept........Ten minutes later, there I am with the wife and sister-in-law, munching on the celery stick in my bloody mary. Peer pressure....or something. A couple hours and more surprises later, I was walking down the street in Chicago with my boy Brennan and the ladies on our coattails. We were in search of Bayless. All it took was a gust of wind to turn 8 years of sensory input into 3D. I didn't need to see Topolobampo, I smelled it.