Melissa at The Traveler's Lunchbox came up with the brilliant idea of listing her Top Five Favorite Things to Eat in the World after being prompted by a puzzling list at the BBC, and then figured others should join in the fun as well. Not only does this give you a whole new list of fresh food obsessions to cultivate, but isn't it fun finding out what people love to eat and why? It's like standing in the line at the grocery store and peeking surreptitiously into other people's baskets, except that in this case you're less likely to find Stouffer's frozen meals and more likely to find things that make you go "oooh, I'd like to try that!".
So, without further ado, my list:
1. Sun-warmed Tomatoes, Sliced, Sprinkled with Flaky Salt and Drizzled with Olive Oil
Best of all is if you can find those blood-red Italian tomatoes that are hunch-backed and homely and ridged all throughout, but when you slice them open, the scent of warm earth and sun and fresh juices waft upward like manna. You have to use Maldon salt, because I'm obsessed with the way it makes tomatoes taste and because it crunches so pleasingly under your teeth. I could list this for all five of my entires, but that'd be boring, at least for you.
2. 5 for $1 Pork-and-Chive Dumplings at Dumpling House on Eldridge Street
It was a bit of a struggle to decide between these pan-fried, golden-brown delicacies at a hole-in-the-wall space in Chinatown, and doughy, steamy char siu bao (roast-pork buns) that you can gently tear apart with your hands to reveal the saucy, salty, delectable pork nestled between the fluffy white bun. But walking through Chinatown (my favorite part of town) to Dumpling House and settling in on the uncomfortable metal bar to wait for your meal that comes served with a pungent, vinegary soy sauce and watching all the other dumpling pilgrims tuck in quietly and happily just makes eating these a totally great New York experience.
3. Batter-fried Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Anchovies and Mozzarella
This is going to be annoying, but I have to specify that they have to be made by my Sicilian uncle, who has somehow become the world's preeminent master on how to deep-fry in such a manner that the objects plunked into the boiling oil emerge lighter and more delicate than before (you should try his artichokes). Also, he uses this special mozzarella that's a bit dried out and meant for pizzas (not like the creamy, delicate mozzarella di bufala that you're really only supposed to eat raw) and salted anchovies instead of oil-packed ones that, for all I know, he salt-packs himself, and to make matters worse I have a feeling these things are only to be found in Sicily, but, really, if you manage to try these you can die happy.
4. Basler Leckerli
These are Christmas cookies baked in squares, flavored with cinnamon and spice, studded with candied citron and peeled almonds, leavened with Hirschhornsalz, and thinly covered with an ascetic lemon glaze. Kept out on Advent plates all throughout the month of December, they tend to harden as Christmas draws near, but if you keep them in a box with a wedge of apple, they stay pliant and chewy. Leckerli are best eaten with German Christmas songs on the radio, lights out and candles lit, and a mug of milky Lapsang Souchong to dunk them in. It doesn't hurt if the woman who taught you how to make these and a dozen (or a hundred) other cookies sits next to you and rubs your back while you chew contentedly.
5. Pizza al Taglio
In Italy, keep your eyes peeled for little doorways in piazzas that have a sign above them that reads "Pizza al Taglio". You'll probably smell one before you see one: an alluring scent of yeast and dough will waft across your path and you'll wander, as if bewitched, straight through the door anyway. Sheets of flat, square pizzas will be in front of you and you will point at the one you want and say how much you want (in grams) and the pizzaiolo will - perhaps using scissors - cut off a piece and fold it in half for you to eat right then and there, wrapped in brown paper. As far as I'm concerned, there can be no better pizza than the plain, red one that's covered with a thin smear of herbed tomato sauce that's blistered a bit in the oven. No cheese, no nothing. The yeasty, crispy, sweet, air-pocketed dough below the sauce will give gently beneath your teeth and as you stand outside in the piazza munching on your paper-wrapped treasure you will have an idea of just what pure pleasure is.