Top Chef DC – real-life reality food


Back in the UK.

Blog-mind filled with unwritten posts.

Like that Tuesday in Washington DC.

We’d been on the Amtrak train since 5.30am Sunday morning

– passed Gallup and our Dine (Navajo) friends (another blog to come)

– woke that morning in Kansas station where I stretched my legs in the light and sun

– ate three meals a day in the dining car and watched Amerika‘s gigantic land roll by.

Planned to do the tourist thing at Washington DC.

Its railway station heralded grandeur.

But by the time we reached our hostel, we were exhausted.

After two days of train-rocking, all we wanted was stillness.

A night-in.

What a night-in!

Turned out we were in the funkiest hostel in the funkiest part of town.

On a empty parking lot, surrounded by modern neighbours, the 19th century wood-panelled brick house with sash windows (first sash windows in six weeks of US travel!) that had belonged to the National Advancement of Colored People.

To add to the hostel’s homeliness, a shared (modern, paint-white) kitchen.

A good place for gossip: a TV journalist showed us a picture on his phone of David Cameron’s visit that day to the White House.

While cooking my staple stand-by, brown rice, I found a unopened packet of interesting Indian spices and spinach from Trader Joe’s. A previous guest had labelled it: “to share”.

I debated with myself: was it selfish or unselfish to use it?

A young Danish guest urged me to. He said I reminded him of his mother, also a brown rice ex-hippy. (And like my children would have done, encouraging me to think of myself).

Enter the hostel manager, Kevin, who turned out to be a would-be blogger for the hostel (and I about to give a social media workshop when I got back to the UK) and into real food.

So we shared the brown rice and spicy spinach, and Kevin invented a crunchy-soft topping of avocado and peanut butter. Like most home concoctions, its looks belie its taste.

Since arriving in the US, six weeks before, I had been watching reality TV show, Top Chef DC, marvelling how the US,  as mired as the UK in obesity and junk food, is as obsessed as the UK with food on TV.

Now I was in the foodie capital, eating the kind of spontaneous, messy, healthy, tasty concoction I would eat at home.

And here’s a picture of my bowl of porridge the next morning – real-life reality food, and my take on Top Chef DC.

Thank you, Capital View.

16 responses to “Top Chef DC – real-life reality food

  1. Wow…You made DC sound so….normal?! I love serendipitous meals and I would love to visit that hostel. Thanks for the new perspective on the capital of the US!

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  2. Thanks so much, Jody – your comment about “normal” really made me chuckle.

    It was unbelievably heartening to eat homemade brown rice and porridge on the road (and set me up for my homeward flight from New York on the Wednesday).

    A wonderful send-off!

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  3. I do love your blog! I always feel like I’m there, eating with you. And then I realise I’m not and have to go foraging in my kitchen to assuage those empathic rumblings.

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  4. I think you should be a realfood travel writer! Very entertaining, one feels really WITH you, and the photos do help a lot.
    People want genuine feeling and views, not some bland middle of the road description of travel amenities.
    But the US in particular, does seem to inspire you, E. There are so many cultures here, not least the ‘alternative’ one.

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    • Thanks for the encouraging feedback, and describing the desire for substance, not blandness. I wonder if that is why people like reality TV shows? We are tired of smooth, we want messy.

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  5. A wonderful posting!

    I feel like i was there too!

    o wait… I was! haha 🙂

    Im so glad you took the time to write down your thoughts, and you simplify in a way any reader can enjoy. I am taking notes indeed, the “would-be blogger” that i am. I have yet to truly begin my blog yet, but i think i will have a great first posting eventually. I am waiting for the right timing and continued inspiration.

    Your visit was a great gift to us. Hello Maude(if you read this) Don’t forget to find “Haroun and the Sea of Stories.” Ive just begun reading it again, and it is so fun. 🙂

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    • This is my opportunity to thank you, Kevin, for reading out the opening pages of Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.

      And more to the point, you not only read them out, you also happily repeated paragraphs.

      Damn, I thought I always remember the way Rushdie described the sad city in the opening para. He used an adjective such as “uncommonly” sad….No, not that. Anyway, I will just have to get a copy.

      I have read neither of these two books – your enthusiasm was inspiring.

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  6. Great blog Elisabeth. Sounds like Kevin’s running a superb little hostel there. The warmth and friendliness shines through. For once I’m not sure about your meals though – ‘spinach sludge’ doesn’t sound too appetising, especially topped with avocado and peanut butter! (And with respect your little pic does make it look a little like prison fodder!)
    Can’t wait for your next update.

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    • Thanks for your comment, John! I am glad I conveyed the hostel’s warmth.

      As for my meal’s looks and name: the moral of the tale is that you can’t tell a book by its cover for it was a truly tasty meal. But perhaps I should change the term “sludge”. I tend to use it as presentation is not my forte – a kind of inverted foody-ism. But of course looking appealing is part of the pleasure of eating…Pondering….!

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  7. Stop press: “Sludge” hit the cutting-floor.

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  8. Oh Elisabeth, you’re so sweet, I was only teasing. I love the way way you tell (and show) it the way it is. Please don’t change anything.

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    • Thank you! I am always happy to cut a word that can be cut. And your comment, however teasing, was useful feedback, especially as it resonated with my own reservations…

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  9. Elisabeth Winkler

    I think we are nearing a definitive definition of ‘sludge’: bland yet with sustained taste! I believe the blandness refers to the texture of sludge, which is…erm, well, like slop. In other words it is a comfort food, eaten without effort – yet does you a power of good. I fear this is my favourite kind of food. And why I never never never claim I am a “foodie”.

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