What do you do when the yen calls?
Portions of this were previously published on ChicagoNow.
We all do it. Eat at some joint and photograph our food with a phone. We post it on social media. People ooh, ahh, and drool over our phone food porn. So we think.
It begs a simple question for people who cook.
Are there certain things you exclusively eat out?
We all get that yen. The urge to eat something really good that cannot be made at home. A sandwich, some joint’s great French fries, diner chili, soup, a salad dressing to die for, or an ethnic oddity.
I would never even dream of making an Italian beef sandwich at home. Hot dogs or Maxwell Street style Polish? Eat out all the time.
Last year I posted a pic of a bahn mi, the Vietnamese sandwich. I listed the ingredients. People were agog. Would I make this at home? Never in a million years.
The same holds with Pho, the ubiquitous Vietnamese soup. I have made it, but mine could never compare with the restaurants in the area of Broadway and Argyle.
I love egg foo young and hot and sour soup. Why make it when I can walk down the street to my favorite Chinese joint and get what I consider the best?
Thai? I am surrounded by Thai restaurants. Restaurants that are patronized by large numbers of Thais. Why cook Thai when I can buy Thai?
I could probably learn how to make decent sushi. Why settle for decent when I can get awesome at the same price and no work?
I love good French fries. I always eat them out. There is one place that makes blue cheese fries to die for.
The same holds true for fried chicken or any other fried foods. I hate to fry. It is that simple.
I love tamales. Those Tom-Toms made on the south side of Chicago? I only get them at hot dog stands. For some reason they taste better than the frozen ones in the market.
I love home made tamales. On Sunday mornings near certain churches, in some parks, or on street corners, there are women who spent all day Saturday making them. They are the absolute best.
Mexican street food? With handmade tortillas made on site? Only one place for that. Maxwell Market on Sunday mornings.
I get yens for ham egg and cheese sandwiches. There are only a few places where I go for them. Some use ham off the bone and others used packaged ham. Makes no difference, it is how they are made. They are one of God’s great sandwiches.
No one in their right mind would or could make gyros at home.
Burritos? Burritos as big as your head? I always eat them in my favorite Mexican restaurants.
Pizza? I can make a mean Sicilian pizza. I can also get any style of good pizza all over this city, by the slice or whole pie. No fuss or muss.
I am not alone in this. I have read interviews with high end chefs who reveal what they eat out.
They get the same yens for salt, grease, or tasty stuff that is supposed to be bad for us.
Many of us who cook know our limitations. We know we cannot replicate our favorite fast foods without a lot of trial, error, and expense.
We know our favorite joints have their little secrets, just like we do.
Then there is siren call, the yen.
When people like me get a taste for something, we want it now, not an hour or hours from now. Off we go, around the corner, down the street, or cross town. That hot fudge banana split with chocolate ice cream is calling.
Maybe you are driving down the street. The gyros, beef falafel, or hot dog stand is calling your name.
We cave in to the yen. We just gotta have it. Right now.