As a professional food writer, I have always found joy and enlightenment in trying new foods. For both work and pleasure, I have had the privilege of eating at hundreds of the best restaurants in the world: Michelin-starred spots in Florence, Italy; bouchons in Lyon, France; shawarma stands in Amman, Jordan. Yet the most memorable meals of my life have unquestionably been in other people’s homes.
These people were typically friends, not professional chefs. Their dishes were, for example, the fesenjoon and potato tahdig (chicken in a pomegranate walnut sauce, rice with a crispy potato bottom) prepared by my Persian Jewish friend Tali for my birthday, and the pu pad pong karee (crab meat stir-fried with eggs, celery, and spices) that my former professor’s wife, Nok, made when my family and I returned to Philadelphia after years away. All of these tasted better than anything I have enjoyed in a restaurant.