There’s nothing like the smell of fermented beans on a chilly evening. Well, unless you count the tangy musty odor of an old boxing glove. I exiled myself from the kitchen after my Japanese roommate over-nuked fermented beans in a defrosting attempt gone wrong. It brought back the horrific memory of sniffing an old boxing glove before an MMA Bootcamp class at the gym: gagging and choking ensued.
“We need to get out today,” my mom said at the breakfast table, staring at the rainy windowpane.
“And do what?” I asked with a mouthful of cheerios.
“Well we can go to Walmart…We can go to JCPenny, watch old ladies buy polyester pantsuits for Thanksgiving…”
I laughed, but my mother had just snarkily summed up the most thrilling activities in my hometown.
Now it’s possible that I have a skewed perspective; I’ve been spoiled for almost 6 years. I lived and went to college in Nashville, Music City, significantly more entertaining than my small town. Plus I was in college, so there was, ahem, plenty of fun to be had. I’ve been able to experience other cities such as Chicago and New York, and now I live in Dallas, the 9th largest city in the US, a city with plenty to do and see.
I’m spoiled, I know it, and I kind of feel guilty about it. When I come back to my hometown I feel like a snob. I can’t just hop over to a Whole Foods or Central Market and buy my favorite local milk or a unique food I’ve never tried. I don’t have my choice of dining options in all styles from all corners of the world, from taco truck to fine restaurant. I can’t walk to an art museum and browse. Hell, I can’t even browse a bookstore.
I can go to Walmart. I can go to JCPenny and watch old ladies buy polyester suits. Actually I can go to any number of places and watch old white people do things.
When I come back now, I find myself repeating “In Dallas we have this and that. In Dallas I can do this and that. In Dallas I would be blah blah blah. Dallas Dallas Dallas Food Food Dallas.”
Have I become a city girl? Or worse, have I become a Texan???
Jokes aside, I am a city girl. I need variety, movement, diversity, modernity, and some damn good culinary options. My hometown has just always felt too small for me. And though I really like Nashville, Tennessee has always felt small for me too. But people I love love Tennessee, so I try not to sound like a broken record about Dallas for fear of sounding like a snobby d-bag. And there are things I love about Tennessee…but not many are in my hometown.
So what did my mom and I do today? We left. We drove 45 minutes to Cool Springs. Went to Whole Foods. Bought some delicious Olive & Sinclair artisan chocolate, a local Nashville company while there. Browsed Barnes & Noble. Watched Puss in Boots at a once-nice-now-shitty movie theater. And we were still scraping for things to do. If not for the heavy rain, I might have suggested driving the extra 15 minutes to Nashville, but that will be another day. We took the scenic route back home. There are beautiful things here, but today the rain and season casts a depressing pallor over everything and obscured one of my favorite things about Tennessee: the gorgeous sunsets. Something else for to save for another day.
I’m sitting in my pajamas in my parents’ home watching Much Ado About Nothing…and it still hasn’t quite hit me that I have a week of vacation. I flew into Tennessee yesterday morning and the Nashville skyline with its familiar “Batman” building made me smile…and also made me realize that everything really is bigger in Texas.
I spent my last night in Dallas at the Arts Crawl downtown, which was in convenient walking distance from my apartment. Food trucks lined Flora St, vendors sold their wares, and music pounded from a DJ in a truck selling tongue-in-cheek t-shirts. One was printed with The Price Is Right logo but restyled with “The Swag Is Right.”
Food trucks are growing more and more popular in Dallas, and I love the concept. My roomie and I decided to hit ssahm BBQ, a food truck that sells gourmet Korean tacos. She got two tacos, but I decided to try their kimchee fries–french fries smothered in jack & cheddar cheese, cilantro, onion, caramelized kimchee, and spicy mayo. It was an absolutely delicious kick in the mouth. Right now I’m wishing they could take a roadtrip to Tennessee and park in front of my parents’ house.
We waited a while for our food since it was the most popular truck, but there was plenty of people watching to be done. Everyone was out in their artsy best, especially with the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit just down the road at the Dallas Museum of Art’s Late Night at the Museum event. There were young families corralling their kids, couples of all orientations having their date night, art kids being art kids, etc.
We got to the Art Crawl late so I don’t know how much we missed, but we were able to browse some of the remaining vendors besides the previously mentioned t-shirt company. One was laalicia who sells really neat recycled accessories; another artist sold really cool jewelry made from guitar strings (I’ll have to find her name because I really liked her stuff.) Another was The Vintage Mobile, which sells vintage clothes out of a repurposed school bus.
I was feeling kind of sick that night but I’m so glad I went out. This thoughtcatalog post I read earlier that day was in the back of my mind. I’m young. I need to get out. And while currently I’m a little bummed because I’ve come to the conclusion that grad school will have to wait another year, I’m looking on the bright side. I can still collect experiences and learn. Oh, and eat excellent food from trucks.
I’ve learned at least two things today: a friendly attitude goes a long way and getting BBQ sauce in paper cuts hurts like a BIOTCH. Today I felt like I needed to treat myself after my last full day of work before Thanksgiving break. The past week has been filled with a lot of late nights, which included stacks of grading, calling lots of parents, and paper work–hence all of the paper cuts. But there were also good things like my students’ basketball games and being treated to a delicious dinner, so it wasn’t all bad.
When I got home, I scoured my Yelp app for places nearby that struck my fancy. I came across reviews of Off the Bone BBQ and most of them were very positive, touting the great service and super tender meat. I’ve been unimpressed with BBQ in Dallas, so I was very interested.
It wasn’t at all what I expected. Usually when I go to BBQ places, they’re hole-in-wall places or fake hole-in-the-wall places–you know the type, with the faux down-home shack decor. Off the Bone was a neat little restaurant with no traces of the BBQ shack look. This is probably because they tout themselves as “gourmet.”
The reviews were right about the service. The man at the order counter, who I believe was the manager, greeted me with a smile and was very friendly. He turned my order of a half rack of baby back ribs and two sides into one of their special combos, saving me some change. We chatted a bit and when he found out I was a teacher, he let me get a free drink. I was really pleasantly surprised. Lately I’ve felt more unappreciated than usual as a teacher so even something as small as a free drink made me feel better. I left with my take-out order feeling good, just because of the friendliness of a stranger…and also the prospect of some delicious food.
On the way home, I felt like I hit every single red light in downtown and got stuck behind the slowest drivers in existence, but it was probably the smell of bbq sauce that distorted my perception. After eons, I finally got to my apartment and was able to enjoy. The back back ribs were delicious and very tender. When I was lifting one up to my mouth, the meat literally fell OFF THE BONE. The sauce was mild with a tiny little bite, but the meat was definitely the star of the show.
For my sides, I had honey baked beans and cole slaw. Usually most cole slaw turns me off because of the excessive mayonnaise, but he told me that his mother (he pointed and she was right there in the kitchen) makes it fresh everyday with blue cheese and bacon, two of my favorite things. As you can imagine, I thought it was great! For dessert I had a brownie, also baked by his mother. It had a soft gooey frosting with walnuts on top that reminded me of german chocolate cake. Heavenly. I will definitely be going back for the excellent service and great food.