From the Editors
The taste of our identity
Popeye and spinach. Deadpool and chimichangas. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and pizza. Ron Swanson and bacon. Tony Soprano and "gabagool" (capocollo). In fiction and in reality, we all know someone who would be content eating the same thing every single day — a single food that characterizes who they are and what they stand for. We open our latest Food Issue with the awareness that we are what we eat, and what we eat says a lot about where we come from. For example, non-Erieites wouldn't even know that they should be clamoring for Smith's hot dogs, pepperoni balls, or sponge candy — but here in Northwest Pennsylvania, those edibles are all part of our gastronomic DNA.
On an even larger scale, entire nations are defined by their gustatory preferences, which are in part governed by their climates and the ingredients those climates support. For example, in the cuisines of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan, you'll find a high percentage of meats, cheeses, and hardier grains like red rice and buckwheat due to the altitudes of the Himalayan region. In fact, a popular dumpling snack called a momo was traditionally stuffed with yak meat before matriculating itself through the Indian subcontinent and becoming more diversified (try some at Erie's Annapurna Kitchen, which reviewer Mary Birdsong particularly enjoyed during her recent visit). In the tropical heat and humidity of Thailand, rice, spice, herbs, and chiles grow in abundance — add in the maritime influence of the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea and you have fish sauce (made from fermented fish or krill), the savory flavor enhancer that ties it all together. It's curried favor with Erieites too, as we enthusiastically support three Thai restaurants, all profiled in this issue.
We're getting hungry just writing this, and hopefully we'll spark your appetite for local fare in these pages — perhaps starting with one of the aforementioned ethnic restaurants or with our inaugural "Can't Miss Dish" list, featuring craveable comestibles culled from menus throughout the region. Whether you're settled on old favorites or interested in discovering new ones, there are plentiful opportunities to pique your palate. There are few things cozier or more comforting than home and hearth (speaking of, may we suggest a hearth-baked loaf from the recently resurrected Majestic Bakery?), and the quickest route to those warm feelings is through our stomachs.
Bon appetît, Erie.