Posts Tagged ‘advice for eaters

07
May
17

A Mission To Make More Neighbors, Not More Enemies

Chef Martha Lou Gadsden, center. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Cynthia Pristell and I with Chef Martha Lou Gadsden, center, at Martha Lou’s Kitchen in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo copyright 2013 by Zachary D. Lyons.

At a time when it seems our president is trying to make as many enemies as possible, it occurred to me that now is an excellent time to make more friends. I’ll be damned if I’ll let anyone convince me that I should be afraid of anyone without a really good reason, and the color of their skin, their religion, who they love, or the fact that they are desperate for a better, or safer, life for themselves and their families is not a reason at all to fear someone, left alone a really good reason. Some of the most wonderful experiences of my life have happened because I have ignored someone else’s fears and decided to go to that place — to meet the people there anyway. From the south side of Chicago to the 69th Street Station in West Philly; from Rosedale, Mississippi to Central Kentucky; from the South Bronx to Macon, Georgia, I have had people tell me I should be afraid — that I shouldn’t go there — and I went anyway, only to enjoy some of the richest experiences of my life.

James Robinson and I with Ms. Izola White, owner of Izola’s Family Dining, known to locals as “Ms. Izola’s,” on South 79th Street in Chicago’s South Side. Photo copyright 2005 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Now, our president wants me to fear anyone from six predominantly Muslim countries for no other reason than he says so, and, I guess, because these countries lack Trump hotels. He wants me to fear undocumented immigrants from Mexico, and he calls them rapists and murderers without foundation. He wants me to fear refuges fleeing their war-torn homelands in places like Syria, Somalia and Yemen because they are Muslim. He wants me to fear these people and more without a really good reason, while he wants me to trust him without a really good reason either. But I prefer to subscribe to the sound words of the man who pulled us out of the Great Depression, won WWII and invested in America’s infrastructure on a scale the likes of which we had never seen, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Not just a timeless quotable, these words represent a way of thinking that is a polar opposite to what we see coming out of Washington, DC at present.

The Todd Brothers playing “Rook” at the Block House in Hernando, Mississipp. Photo copyright 2014 by Zachary D. Lyons.

Instead of succumbing to fear of these people, then, why not embrace them? Why not befriend them? Why not reach out to them, like good neighbors, and share with them, learn from them, and enjoy them? What have we got to lose, but a few more enemies? And one of the best ways I’ve found to make friends over the years is to break bread with people. Few things are more powerful bridge building tools than food, and where there are immigrants, there are not only new foods to be tried, but also new friends to be made.

Chef Tamara Murphy (right), server, Hassan (center,) and I at Juba Restaurant & Café, a Somali eatery in Seatac, Washington. Photo copyright 2017 by Zachary D. Lyons.

My friend and neighbor, Chef Tamara Murphy, had expressed a similar feeling in a New Year’s resolution in the Seattle Times at the beginning of this year in which she said she would like to “experience at least one new ethnic restaurant per month, and get to know the owners and learn more about their food.” So I reached out to her to see if she wanted to join me in exploring the immigrant communities in the Seattle area. Our first adventure was on Friday, February 24, 2017, to a restaurant in a Somali immigrant community in the city of Seatac, just south of Seattle. This would serve as the genesis of my series here, called Making Neighborhoods, because after all, that is what are doing.

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20
Mar
09

Restaurant Mailing Lists

You ever wonder about whether to fill out one of those cards on the front counter, or included with your bill, at a restaurant and give them your vital information? Well, in this economy, between our thin wallets and restaurants’ sparsely populated dining rooms, filling out one of these cards at your favorite restaurant (and even a few you’d like to try but couldn’t afford) is not a bad idea.

Usually, these cards ask for your name, mailing address, email address, birthday and anniversary. Give it to them. And if you are not married, like me, make up an anniversary. I use my mom’s birthday at one place and my friends’ anniversary at another. Why? Because these places often send you a gift certificate in honor of your special day. You don’t have to use it that day — they usually give you a month — so you can still enjoy where you want on your special day and then go to one of these other places later. And while they can check your ID to see if April is in fact your birth month, there is no ID that lists your date of marriage, or even that you are married. Heck, some married people don’t even wear rings, so that’s what you can say, too. Thus, when it comes to declaring an anniversary date, give a different one to each restaurant, and you’ll get gift certificates all year round!

You’re thinking, how good can these gift certificates be, aren’t you? Well, I received $125 worth of them for my birthday this year. And they are true gift certificates. They may restrict from which menu you must order, or a time of day, but you can often order off the bar menu, and none of the ones I received required any kind of 2-for-1 type deal. It was just worth $25, or $50, towards a good meal.

Let me give you an example.

Last Sunday, I took a buddy of mine out to El Gaucho, one of Seattle’s swankier eateries, with a $50 birthday certificate. It simply said it had to be used for dinner. While I hear future certificates may restrict diners to ordering off of the dinner menu, this one did not, so we were able to order off the bar menu. If that wasn’t good enough, the bar menu is half-off all night on Sundays. So we ordered $90 worth of food, and when our server factored in the tax, our bill still came out to $0! Free food!!! We ordered a Caprese salad (g00d), crab cakes (very good), diver scallops (good), ahi tuni tartare (excellent), wicked prawns linguini (very good) and baby back ribs (over-cooked).

Oddly enough, in this famous house of meat, it was the meat dish that fell short, and they make a big deal about it being their original recipe since 1953 on the menu. Then again, I suppose I can’t complain too much. It was free. And they didn’t even require us to buy a drink (something you should always ask when availing yourself of a happy hour menu, as you can eat cheap with just water at many places).

So, the next time you are in your favorite joint (or just walking past it, or one you find interesting), fill out one of those mailing list cards. Heck, most places now only want your email address anyway, to save the cost of paper. For the cost of a little extra email, you could get $25-$50 worth of free food.