When I was little, a mass in my abdomen led a few doctors to believe I perhaps had cancer. Long story short (and several opinions later), I did not, but I suspect my parents never fully recovered from the soul-crushing gut punch that are the words: Your five-year-old probably has cancer.
What I did have was a urachal remnant (a complication so rare my doctor had never seen it) that had to come out along with half of my bladder. The point of this story is that having half a bladder made long-distance car trips with my dad–who stops the car for nothing–quite an adventure.
Now that I’m all grown up (and still a frequent pee-er), I call the shots on when the car stops. And the car stops for obscure vegetarian Vietnamese restaurants miles off of Siri’s recommended route.
I found Phoenix Garden Restaurant somewhere outside Richmond on my drive home from DC to Charlotte.
Despite calling Adam several times to whine about how I wasn’t getting any closer to being home, I took my sweet time ambling around on the hunt for a good meal. Priorities. I wasn’t really in the mood for pho, but I also wasn’t really in the mood to eat Swedish fish from the gas stations again. Plus any restaurant with the ever elusive and antithetical ”vegetarian beef” on the menu has piqued my interest.
I got the pho lunch special: $7.95 for a spring roll, corn nuggets and a fat bowl of veggie pho. Also I ate it at 11:30 in the morning was the first and only person in the entire place. My dad would have had a conniption. My road trip, my rules.
Throughout my entire leisurely hour-long lunch stop, the dessert menu was staring me in my face, and if you think I’m going to say no to something so awesomely out there as sticky rice with black-eyed peas and coconut cream, we haven’t met yet. (Hello.)
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), the owner wouldn’t let me order the black-eyed pea dessert because she said I came in too early (of course) and she’d only finished the corn pudding so far. She insisted on not letting me try yesterday’s black-eyed peas so she instead brought out a piping hot plate of sticky rice with corn and coconut cream.
I don’t even care how unappetizing it looks and sounds. It was perfect. PERFECT, I SAY. It’s thick and creamy and nutty and subtly sweet. I saved a little condiment-sized tub of it to take home for Adam but… I just ate it. Just now. Because I couldn’t look at that picture and not eat it. I CANNOT APOLOGIZE.
Lucky for Adam (and you), I hunted down a recipe for this odd dessert, officially known as ginataang mais. Turns out it’s a pretty simple mix of rice, corn, coconut milk and sugar. Sign me up. I’ll make it tomorrow.
The moral of the story is that it’s ok to take a hard right off your assigned path every once in a while. You never know where it will lead or what you will find and, yes, you (or Siri) can always reroute home. Or not. Maybe it takes you exactly where you never knew you needed to be. Get lost every once in a while.