For managing editor Daniel Simmons, this month's cover story on global dining brings back memories of a journey to China.
I lived for a year in a college town in rural China. Being 6-foot-4 and not Chinese, I stuck out a bit. Everyone wanted selfies with me. Everyone’s mother wanted to feed me. Eating is the national pastime, it seemed, and cooks are held to standards of perfection that ensure every meal brings sublime joy.
But before you can eat, you have to order.
On my first trip to one of the many restaurants by the university, they optimistically brought me a menu. I couldn’t read a word of it. There were only natives around me, who knew as much English as I knew Chinese.
I was able to charade my way into ordering fried eggplant and stir-fried cabbage. Chicken took a bit more doing, until I finally just surrendered all remaining pride and did a chicken dance.
Once their laughter subsided, the waitress called back to the kitchen. Her husband emerged into the dining room excitedly. He held a sandy-feathered bird, alive and flailing, in his right hand. He pointed to it quizzically. I gave him the thumbs-up. Yep, that’s what I want. It was a “Portlandia” moment. I met my entree.
When the food came, it was the same as every meal that followed – richly flavored with ginger and garlic, and volcanically spicy. This was Hunan Province. There, as in the better-known Sichuan Province, chopsticks double as flamethrowers. Beer and rice stood by to rescue my lips from the inferno.
Senior Editor Ann Christenson’s cover story on global dining brought back many similar memories of faraway adventures with food and friends. It serves as an essential guidebook to eating around the world without leaving Milwaukee. As a newcomer – my wife and I moved here six months ago – I am amazed at the diversity and quality of ethnic dining in this city.
But I can imagine feeling as helpless in an Ethiopian restaurant in Milwaukee as I did in my first forays to restaurants in China. There are piles of food on a gigantic pancake-looking thing. Now what?
Leave it to Ann to explain. Her in-depth reporting tells you not just where to go, but what to order and, in some cases, how to eat.
Also in this month’s issue, Larry Sandler takes a close gander at a piece of the Milwaukee Bucks arena deal: a possible change of ownership for the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Senior Editor Matt Hrodey catches up with Frank Jude, who’s found new hurdles in life after his much-publicized 2004 beating by Milwaukee police.
You’ve surely noticed the transitions in staff here. I came as a senior editor and feel excited to be starting a new job as managing editor. I’m also filling in in the top job this month until our new editor-in-chief arrives. We can’t wait for her to start and let her introduce herself. We’ll continue doing what this magazine always strives to do: provide a can’t-miss guide to city living and tell stories worth reading.