Day 97: Dominican Republic
There is a lot of Dominican food in New York. There’s also probably a lot in the Dominican Republic. Sadly, I don’t live in either place, so finding such food has proved quite difficult in Los Angeles. Luckily, my friend Bex has a friend named Alex, who is a New York Dominican, and was willing to get back to her roots a little for us. She snagged her mom’s recipes and helped Bex and our cooking pal extraordinaire Cristina put a meal together for me at their house (conveniently located one block over from mine). Sadly, Alex is so busy working on her dissertation, she didn’t even have time to stick around and eat the food that she helped put together. But she did throw me a couple of great Dominican tidbits before heading out. “We use a lot of garlic and we really celebrate the pig in Dominican food. It’s God meat.” Okay. I’m pretty sure I’m Dominican.
First of all, when I walked into the apartment, it smelled amazing. “What are we having?” I ask, as I poke my head into the kitchen and soak in the wonderful, meaty aromas. “This is sancocho,” says Bex. “It’s a soup with beef, pork chop, pork rib, two sausages, lamb, chicken, sweet potatoes, cassava, plantains, chicken stock and agrio de naranja (literally: acrid orange juice).” So while the soup is cooking, I sit at the table with Man Bites World regular “Danielle” and an amazing array of people I knew from high school, all while drinking a delightful tamarind soda spiked with rum. Soon, the food is ready. I plop some rice and black beans into my bowl, then top it with the gorgeous, dead-mammal filled soup, sit down and get ready to enjoy myself.
The spicy soup, like any good one should be, is immensely comforting. I try all the different meats, gnawing on cow bones and chicken parts, then slurping up the rice and nicely layered broth. My favorite, though, has to be the bits of sausage. In my experience, when you find chunks of sausage in your soup, you know you’re eating well. We’re all having fun as the conversation turns to other foods, with Bex’s brother bemoaning the lack of a good okonomiyaki place in Los Angeles, after having eaten quite a lot of it in Japan. But his sadness turns positive as I tell him about Gaja Moc in Torrance, which makes a really darn good version.
Somehow, the evening has already lasted a couple of hours, and I prove that I can actually have self restraint, limiting myself to just one tamarind and rum beverage. Sitting casually on the couch, we’re then served two different kinds of a sweet rice porridge, in both hot and cold forms. It tastes pleasantly of horchata, but with delicious bits of golden raisins waiting at the bottom. Then “Danielle”, super food-blogger Tannaz and I talk about Top Chef for few minutes before I realize that it’s gotten a little on the late side. This project is starting to wear me down a little (it has been 97 straight days, after all), and I’ve been getting tired pretty easily lately. I thank Bex and Cristina for all their hard work, then ask if I can give them any money for the groceries. “No,” says Bex, “I’ve been wanting to pick up a meal for you for a while, so now’s my chance.” My brain tells me I should insist, but my bank account says “Take the free meal, asshole,” so I accept it graciously. I head home, and it starts to hit me that we’re getting very, very close to the end of this Personal Food Project in Blog Form. It looks like we’ll make it to 100, which has been a goal since the beginning, but not much further. So in the next few days, this may all be over. But then again, I thought that last week too…and here we are. Still alive— even if just on life support.
Food Breakdown: 1 alcoholic beverage (for me), 1 entrée, 1 dessert
Distance From My House: 0.2 miles