road food part III: coming home

I should have known better. For all my disappointment at Missouri’s impoverished restaurant landscape, all I had to do was go home. In our last few days in the area, we found our appetites again— simply by following our noses down driveways and through front doors.

This week made up for all the bland burritos, dishwater coffee, faux-italian and “fusion sushi” (drenched in cloyingly sweet chili sauce). And thanks to my photojournalist colleague Mary, every precious bite was beautifully documented.  So beautifully, in fact, they deserve two posts. (I chipped in a few pictures, too).

indian meal

My lesson for News21 summer trip #1: Real food in this part of the country isn’t broadcast on interstate signs. It’s strewn across scratched harvest tables and served up in suburban kitchens.

Our last Monday in Nixa, the family of a boy we’re profiling invited us for dinner. The spread included everything the Indian family calls everyday, and everything we call special. There was pre-feast chai, homemade, with a thick sweetness that lingered through the afternoon. It was accompanied by cookies with the odd flavour of mango. Girl Scouts meets tropical lands.

indian chai

And then there was one of my favorite snacks: the addictive mixture of chickpea-flour crunchy bits mixed with dried lentils, peanuts, and spices. Served up in a classic steel thali plate, the taste took me far from the flat Missouri prairie, and back to a toy train winding through the Indian Himalayas.

indian snacks

After dinner we had little cups of homemade pistachio ice cream, topped with threads of saffron. I ate mine, and then I ate Mary’s.

pistachio ice cream

pistachio ice cream

These were some of the happiest moment of my trip. Add to the mix gracious hosts, warm conversation, and a young boy whose story is worth telling the world, I went to bed grinning at the small things.

2 thoughts on “road food part III: coming home

  1. Aunt Meredith
    June 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Jen, I am finally catching up with you! Loved reading your entry.

  2. February 13, 2010 at 12:30 am

    nice blog ;)