On a recent cross-country trek, while attempting to savor every last minute of my rapidly-fleeting summer vacation, I had the opportunity to explore a variety of places and cuisines. Whether it was in a large urban location or a rural Illinois town surrounded by cornfields, I noticed a reoccurring theme. In every place I stayed, someone boastfully proclaimed that I must try their specialty dish. It dawned on me that people take pride in the food that is unique to their city, culture, or even their personal version of Grandma’s spaghetti sauce.
In Toronto, I experienced poutine, a dish with french fries, gravy and cheese curds. I smiled as I passed the roadside burger joints, each claiming to have the best poutine. At Uncle Franky’s restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota, I had the famous Italian beef with sweet peppers, and I had a Chicago Dog in the Windy City. I had my heart set on some sweet corn in Herscher, Illinois, but I was informed that I had missed the sweet corn season by a couple weeks. I heard people say there is no corn like the sweet corn of Illinois, and it seemed somewhat sacrilegious to partake in any post-season offerings, so it remains on my Living Fully List. Like locations, events also have traditions and specialties, so of course I eagerly devoured a ballpark dog on my first visit to Fenway Park.
I like that people want others to experience a piece of their world and life, a part of what makes them who they are through the food they share. What a great way of connecting. I began pondering my own relationship with certain foods and came up with my signature dish, my specialty, the one that people rave about and request for at parties and gatherings.
The Rosemary Shortbread recipe was given to me by a dear friend, and it quickly became a hit with my family and female friends. Served with a glass of red wine, there is nothing more delicate and scrumptious. I was a little apprehensive taking them to a Memorial Day party, thinking maybe I should take something heartier.
I knew I had made the right choice as I watched a group of fifty-something men reliving their youth playing football in the backyard with cigars in one hand and my delicate rosemary shortbread in the other. As I was leaving, one of them asked if the guys could take the rest of cookies on their fishing trip the next day. Delicate yes, but manly too!
So, pour a glass of wine, sample some of my signature Rosemary Shortbread, and ponder a specialty dish that you would like to share.