I have a serious confession to make. I have a love affair with food and the very bad part about it is that I have no shame. From the moment that I wake up until I go to bed, I daydream about licking gravy from plates, banging on the table for more food, shaking my head at how amazing treats from the kitchen are, and being placed over some woman’s shoulder and burped. There are also certain people in my life who set off my appetite that sometimes leaves me bounced, rumpled, gasping, and regretting having eaten too much. Yet, I continue. And I keep telling myself that I have control. But honestly I have no willpower at all. Hello, my name is Gino and I am a food addict.
“Hello, Gino,” responds the crowd.
Often I joke about having a monogamous relationship with food and battling culinary addiction. And then I find myself sitting at a restaurant or café indulging myself to bliss. There are moments when I silently try to convince myself that if I lived somewhere other than Chicago — like Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, or the Dakotas — then my food options would be limited and my craving would be of no consequence. Then I walk outside my front door and smell vapours from the cafés around the corner. I am such a puppet to food aromas.
Having recently reconnected with a childhood friend who I have not seen since my tenth year high school class reunion, my appetite has re-established a brand new twist to it. She has a key to my appetite alarm and it always results in me wincing because some of my pants are going to have to be replaced with pants that have larger waistlines or elastic in the middle from excessive eating. Yes, more than I eat normally. No one should have that kind of control over a man, but food is my lover and I should have known better than to share that bit of information with my childhood friend.
During my chat with her earlier, I had told her I had a taste for something spicy. What did she do? She offered Thai as an option, knowing that I have a weakness for curries in particular. So, I found myself in the west end of the Loop in Chicago, snaking my way through pedestrians so that I could get to Siam Rice.
Located at 117 N. Wells Street under the elevated train tracks, it could be hard to miss if you are focusing on the garage entrance immediately to the right of the entrance to the restaurant. Those who work in the Loop or go to the restaurant during lunch can attest to how crowded it is at noon. If you want a seat you have to be at the doors when the owners unlock them for customers to enter or you go for a late lunch. Otherwise, you stand for half an hour before getting a seat. The same practically applies to seating yourself at the bar and ordering lunch. As big and spacious as the inside seating area is, it fills up like they are giving money away with each pad thai, curry dish, or plate of bammie noodles. As for me, I held off until after work when I was certain to get a seat and my satisfaction without incident.
Having been to Siam Rice before, I was not in an experimental mode. I kept thinking of my childhood friend and decided that I would indeed have something spicy and seasonal, considering the wind off Lake Michigan was quite chilling and angry. I opted for a bowl of panang noodles with chicken. Spicy. Tasty. I will not confess to my friend that she had pushed my buttons to have me want something with a kick to it. The noodles were crunchy — not to the point where I felt my jaws had a workout after chewing — and smothered partly in a panang gravy that I loved enough to ask a passing pedestrian if I could buy a cigarette from him. [I chose not to ask for the cigarette after all, though. I saved that dollar for purchase of a cup of tea at a tea shop up the street from the restaurant.] With the bowl of panang noodles, I Thai iced tea. It is hard to describe the tea because it is not green tea, nothing akin to chilled Lipton or Nestea, and they add milk to it. All I know is that it was a perfect complement to the fire in the panang.
Siam Rice is perhaps on the most popular Thai restaurants in Chicago, mostly because of its convenient location in downtown and certainly because the food is so Wow!!! It is one of the eateries that has a big restaurant feel to it and dim lighting that adds a subtle atmosphere. However, going during lunch is just wrong because it is hard to be patient while the hosts go down a waiting list of hungry customers who got to the restaurant before you. I have lost track of the number of times that I have been to Siam Rice and I will not bother trying to forecast how many more times I will go. One thing for sure is that I will have to take my childhood friend there and find out some [more] of her buttons to set her food alarm off. Hmm. It appears that there is some latent bitterness that I have not resolved from she and I not playing nicely with each other as kids and I feel the need to get back at her. Hahaha. Perhaps I can blame part of my food addiction on unresolved past episodes with her.
Oh, wait. My phone is ringing. It’s her. Now I am thinking about dessert.
28 October 2010