Driving last week in Belgium, I drove past an old Turkish restaurant I always enjoyed. Since it was early in the day, I could not tell if the place was deserted or awaiting staff to begin meal preparations. I was reminded of the gregarious host who always welcomed each guest with a stage ready voice and wide arm gestures. Located near a NATO base, the front wall was decorated with money bills from all around the world, many I’d never seen before. He made one feel truly his guest. My favorite dish to order with visiting friends was the hand-patted lamb kofta (i.e. kebab) drenched with peppery tomato sauce over a bed of garlic yogurt to sooth the tongue. Our most excellent host would remove the sword like kebab with a waving flourish not soon forgotten. Accompanying each savory dish was a fluffy rice pilav, sweet carrot salad, and lightly drizzled veggies with plump olives.
The delights of foods from around the world were not common to my rural American childhood, but I’ve tried to make up for any lack during these years abroad. Food can be such an adventure if we’re willing to set our feet in new directions.