"Don't know what you got 'till it's gone."
Aside from being an absolutely great hair metal song, it's a tired cliché. But it's tired and true, and perhaps it's no truer when you're talking about food.
Kansas City is my hometown, and it's where we spent last week. My parents still live there, and so we visit once a year. I tell myself it's to give my kids the chance to see their grandparents, and that's true.
I also need to see home once a year.
However, home's changed. My parents live in separate houses now. My Dad's with his family in Overland Park, Kan. and my mother's in Belton, Mo. Neither one are within a half hour of our old house. Nostalgia, therefore, is hard to come by. I won't even see the old neighborhood this year. I won't see my high school, the steep hills, the lake where we used to fish, the pizza joint where we'd wolf down $1 slices during lunch or our old sledding hill.
But the food's still there.
Most importantly, so's the barbecue.
Nothing gives me the hometown smiles and shivers like a plate of Kansas City barbecue. I still like the humid nights, the wild storms and the lightning bugs, things we just don't get in Colorado. But oh, how I love the barbecue.
I wasn't a fan nearly as much when I lived here. Now I can't get enough of it. I miss it that much.
Kansas City isn't known for much. Jazz, sure, but more for its history, not its current club scene. The Royals? They ruled the 80s but have sucked since. The Chiefs? They ruled the 90s - sorta - but have sucked since. My Jayhawks are more of a statewide passion. So our barbecue is almost it. But it's good. It's really good.
It's so good, we're loyal to it, almost in the way the British love the Queen. People go nose to nose over what joint's better - and there are at least five that warrant consideration - and as much as I love barbecue, I won't eat it much the rest of the year. It just isn't the same in Colorado. I'm always disappointed when I do have it. Imagine going to a concert thinking you're going to see Metallica and Danger Danger walks out instead.
Vacations for parents of young children aren't what they used to be. They don't really feel like vacations anymore. They're certainly not relaxing. We took the kids to a huge farm-like amusement park, shot photos in a park, took them to a pool twice, went to the Kansas City zoo, brought them to a city park and generally did many other things to keep them entertained and energy-free by the end of the day. The only thing we've done for ourselves is go to a movie in an actual movie theater for an afternoon.
(On a side note, I saw "Up" while Kate saw "Angels and Demons." Pixar is, without a doubt, is the best moviemaker in the industry. Every movie the company makes is not only good, it's GREAT. As great as almost any movie I've seen. "Up" was no exception. Whenever I get a little tired of Pixar tempting my son with yet licensed product - I saw Lightning McQueen shaped bars of soap the other day - I remind myself that I'm supporting brilliant, talented storytellers in a world that badly needs them).
So food is really the only carrot - ha, good pun - that you get as an adult when your vacations are so stuffed with things you're doing for your kids. I think every adult thinks this way. When I once visited Sterling with one of my best friends for his annual return to where he grew up in the small town about an hour east of Greeley (my home now) the first thing we did was visit a trashy taco stand. It was nothing special, but he said he HAS to go there every time he visits Sterling. The place, of course, was packed. I understood why right away.
Sterling means Taco Shack. Kansas City means barbecue.
Barbecue is not healthy, of course, but I've already had it twice. I've run practically every day I've been out there. Short runs, of course, even if one of them was five miles, with the first two under 14 minutes (sea level is wonderful). But there's a chance the gluttony I've already displayed will ruin my 5K on the Fourth of July.
I don't care. At least, not right now. My sated mind is savoring the aroma of smoked meat, the spice of hot sauce and, of course, the slightly bittersweet, happy taste of home.