Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nobody mixes oranges with chicken.

Today was my third day back as a medical student, and it was also a Wednesday. This means that exactly halfway through my inaugural week, I got to partake of a UCLA hospital cafeteria tradition: the Wednesday Orange Chicken. WOC is a deep-fried chicken breast smothered in a vaguely Asian, vaguely citrus orange-colored sauce. Eating WOC is inevitably followed by gastric distress and a vow to never eat it again (routinely broken the following Wednesday.)

After tweeting about my meal (very @jhvu), I was reminded that Orange Chicken now holds new significance for me, as it plays a major role in "The Food," a drama I just discovered about the seedy underbelly of the restaurant business. It's an homage to the some of the finest television ever created -- "The Wire" -- and (just to warn you) I felt a similar existential emptiness when "The Food" ended its run after four episodes. 

While recovering from my WOC encounter with a bottle of mineral water and a large, comfortable chair, I started thinking about the new importance that food has in my life. For a long time, I took a medication that changed my sense of taste. Some tastes were blunted, others disappeared completely. Eating became a chore of caloric intake, while for others around me, the activity was a passion. I knew intellectually that I was eating amazing, Jonathan Gold-reviewed food, but I just wasn't getting the accompanying religious experience.

A few months ago, I got to stop taking the medication. I can't remember the first meal that I realized I was actually tasting, but I do remember a gorgeous Saturday afternoon savoring Hainan chicken at Savoy Kitchen. I wanted to try the snails, but we already had ordered too much food. (By the way, I'm not normally so chicken-centric.) Since then it's been a crash course in Los Angeles eating: pho bac at Pho Minh; "just a few" oysters at The Hungry Cat; Sichuan at Chung King; the lasagna from Bay Cities Deli. I also made Cà Ri Gà at home and could actually taste it while I fine tuned the seasoning.

One last thing before I go find something to eat: I am so excited to have met a fellow Drew student who read my (my!) blog while deciding where to go to medical school. I am so flattered, and I am looking forward to finding him and his wife some decent (although maybe not up to Seattle standards) seafood.

PS - "deep-fried" is not in the AP Stylebook. 

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