New Horizons in Snack Food Appreciation

Those who know me – or at least have had a meal with me – might be surprised to learn that I was a rather picky eater as a child. Like many kids, I was extremely reluctant to try new things. My family has still yet to let me live down my infamous statement when one night my mother presented me with something unfamiliar on my dinner plate: “I don’t like it. What is it?”

As an adult, I enjoy consuming all sorts of food: Italian, Indian, Greek, Thai, Mexican, and as a member of the Tribe, it goes without saying that Chinese is frequently in the mix as well. I sometimes get cravings for cold sesame noodles, one of my favorite comfort foods. However, there was one Chinese establishment that I was too afraid to try: despite walking past it nearly every day in the several years since it opened: the Chinese bakery.

Well, it certainly didn’t have that warm, local bakery feeling from the outside – all glass and bright fluorescent lights, with lots of Chinese characters and almost no English. Over time, however, I noticed that all sorts of people of nearly every age and ethnicity were frequenting the place – and it was usually pretty crowded. And yet, for years I dared not venture in. Until today.

After a day of not being terribly productive and feeling anxious about it, I decided to take a mid-afternoon walk around the neighborhood to clear my head and restore my equilibrium. After all, it was a beautiful early autumn day: sunny, about 70 degrees with a cool, crisp breeze.  And my furry paralegals, Earl and Angel, were busy sleeping and sunning themselves. Deciding to seek a post-stroll snack, I remembered the Chinese bakery near the subway stop and decided to head there rather than to one of the more conventional purveyors of confections.

Even though I was wearing my prescription sunglasses, it was still rather bright in there. And the sign near the front of the store saying “please limit your visit to no more than 15 minutes” didn’t exactly give me a warm, fuzzy feeling, either.  But then I started looking around the display cases. Everything was labeled in Chinese and in English and what a selection!

There was as tantalizing an array of typical cakes, cookies, brownies and tarts as you’d find in any bakery. And I noticed the portions were large and the prices were cheap. No wonder the place was packed despite the less than cozy atmosphere. But, there were also all these strange confections that I’d never seen before.

Having become a fan of red bean ice cream many years ago, I decided to dip my toe in the waters of Chinese baked goods (OK, it’s a strange metaphor) and I selected a red bean pastry and ordered a small coffee. The pastry was like a croissant, light and flaky, but with a red bean-flavored center.  Both the pastry and the coffee were quite good and cheap – $2.10 for the pair.

As with food, I try to have similarly eclectic tastes in music. And while I mostly listen to contemporary classical (new music) and jazz these days, I very much enjoy all different types of genres and amalgamations of them  – at least when someone introduces me to them.  Perhaps there’s the moral here: an open mind and some form of introduction  – with music it’s usually friends and in the case of the bakery it was the full house of a heterogeneous clientele beckoning me in – can make one overcome one’s fear of the new and the unknown. And sometimes pleasant surprises await the senses from trying something new!