by Wendy Lemlin
A border can be anywhere. It can be a fence between countries or an intersection that defines a neighborhood. A border can flavor a cuisine and enliven a culture. It can have a recognizable soundtrack or certain design aesthetic. A border can be a physical demarcation or merely a state of mind.
The best borders are porous, engendering understanding and cross pollination of ideas and customs, but even when they are not, when walls separate and visas restrict, the crossing over or through becomes all the more exciting,
I live in San Diego, CA, about a 15 minute drive from the US/Mexico border in Baja California, a border which I cross often. I love that I can be in another country— with customs, cuisine, language, and lifestyle often so different from my own—in less time than it takes for me to drive to the northern or eastern reaches of San Diego county, which also are borders in and of themselves.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afflicted with an active case of wanderlust. Whether traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe, or the near-flung corners of my county, I constantly seek out unique experiences—geographical, cultural and culinary. I’m fortunate to have the great pleasure of writing about these places and times in hopes of inspiring others to cross their borders and enjoy the world as well.
When I was a child, I was the pickiest of eaters. Not any more! I love food that is creative, healthy, and often decadent. I devour with my senses. I’m enamored with aromas, titillated by tastes, and excited by the sight of a beautifully prepared dish or a perfect piece of produce. International cuisines and regional specialties inspire my wanderlust.
I’m an almost-vegetarian–I don’t eat mammals—so, you won’t be reading any reviews of meat dishes on this blog. But, having grown up in the seaport of New Bedford, MA, I will probably never stop eating seafood, and on my yearly visits “back home” I have a list of the “must eats” that are always a part of every trip there and that I enthusiastically splurge on: North Atlantic lobster roll, mixed with just a hint of mayonnaise served in a toasted, buttered hot dog bun; Maine steamer clams, dunked in their own broth and melted butter; New England clam chowder whose broth is thickened only with the cream and slivers of potato; seared scallops fresh from a New Bedford ship, golden fried whole belly clams; and broiled scrod, minimally seasoned and moistly flaky. I have never tasted fresh corn on the cob anywhere else in the world that can compare to the ears of Silver Queen or Butter and Sugar eaten barely steamed within a few hours of having been picked on a Massachusetts South Coast farm in August. Yes, my cholesterol is about 1000 when I come back to San Diego, but do I care? No! And am I salivating now as I write this, happily anticipating the meals I will have there in about a month? You betcha!
As a food writer, of course I’m opinionated about my dining experience, what’s on my plate, and ultimately, in my mouth. I’m not impressed by pretention. Except for my sugar addiction—don’t even get me started on chocolate or pastries—-and my occasional “vacation lapses”, I’m a strong proponent of healthful, whole food eating, and I see no reason to eat processed food at bad restaurants–or even, “just okay” ones, when there is so much incredible creativity out there. If an eatery considers iceberg lettuce to be the main attraction in a “garden salad”, I pretty much know I’m not going to like anything else they serve me.. That is, except for the little Greek pizza place in my hometown that coincidentally makes the best fried clams around.