Washingtonian food critic, Todd Kliman, offers up a moving tribute to his father:
Most of the friends I grew up with did not venture beyond meat and potatoes, spaghetti and macaroni-and-cheese, but that was not my experience. We ate everything. Thai and Spanish and French and German and Japanese and Korean and Vietnamese and Indian and Mexican and Greek. My father loved the stuffed grape leaves at Ikaros, in Baltimore, and so I wanted to love them, too. He was the one who turned me on to pupusas. He introduced me to bulgogi and crepes, to hot-and-sour soup and the pleasures of hot pot.
So long as a restaurant had character, had soul, he loved it. Dives, taverns, pubs, it didn’t matter; good was good. His mother scolded him, repeatedly, for taking a ten-year-old to a bar, but my father never listened. I spent many a raucous Saturday night in the late, lamented Henckel’s — hard by the railroad tracks and probably once a bordello — chowing down on a Chenckelburger as my father and mother worked their way through the foot-high ham sandwiches and knocked back bottles of beer. . .
[Years later, after the onset of an illness] He was stronger than he’d been. He’d gained thirty pounds since the chemo and radiation — most of it, my mother believed, from restaurant food. He didn’t eat much of her cooking anymore, but he ate when he was out, or when restaurant food was around. I told him he’d become the equivalent of a social drinker — a social eater.
We took our time, and we talked and talked. He was worried about the surgery. He said he didn’t know if he would make it this time. Our anxiety seemed to lift, a little, as we worked our way through the meal. He drank two Vietnamese coffees and took a few bites from every bowl and plate that was on the table. When we left, two-and-a-half hours later, the place was empty. . .
For days, he talked about the meal and the coffee. “Terrific, just terrific.” He even talked about it in the hospital, in the weeks after his surgery. All his nurses learned just how good the coffee was, how dark and rich, how good a time he’d had. . .
If you’re lucky, someone crosses your path whose enthusiasm for good food and new sensations and cultures is utterly contagious. Someone who delights in shared experience and enjoys the controlled chaos of dim sum as much as white linens and candlelight. For Todd Kliman, that person was his father. Read the whole tribute here.
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