Or: Foods that make my life worth living.
Cinnamon. Like coffee for Seattleites. I'm pretty certain that without cinnamon, I might shrivel and become a shadow of myself. Cinnamon and chocolate. Cinnamon and honey wrapped in a tortilla. Cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon crumb donuts. Cinnamon and yogurt. Cinnamon and smoothies. Cinnamon and black beans. Cinnamon and peaches. Cinnamon and apples. My infatuation may very well protect me from ever getting diabetes.
Orange and vanilla. When you combine these two and consume, magical things begin to happen. I fondly remember a joyride in southern Minnesota as a college kid, wherein I purchased and ate a whole box of Creamsicles. Well, almost. I was kind enough to give a few bites to one friend, and let a second one eat a whole one. But the other 10 1/2 were all mine, and slid down my gullet like honey. That was my dinner, and I felt great afterward. It's all been downhill from there. (See also: Stewart's orange cream soda, orange/vanilla soft serve in ice cream cones, ice cream floats with vanilla ice cream and mandarin orange Slice..and yes, it HAS to be mandarin orange Slice. Accept no substitutes.)
Carbonara. Here's my theory. Some glutton with cast-iron arteries decided that alfredo sauce just wasn't decadent and unhealthy enough. A parmesan cream sauce only goes so far, amirite? So said glutton decided to add more butter, cream, fatty pork (pancetta, guanciale, bacon...take your pick), egg yolks (and yolks only, because the egg whites were just too...I dunno...South Beach omelet-esque?), and voila! But then the health food mavens screamed bloody murder. So M. Glutton threw in a few peas or caramelized onions to appease them. Good GOD-amighty, eat some of this, and you're as good as comatose for the night.
Borsch(t). I'm not kidding. But first: I grew up with You Can't Do That on Television on Nickelodeon. Remember that disgusting chef who always put boogers and loogies in the burgers? Apparently he also made borsch; the kids asked him why it was called that, and he joked that it was what everyone did when they ate it (cue kids charmingly puking at the table). But then I went to Russia and discovered that this much-maligned soup could be SO heavenly. The key? An ingredient that I've yet to find over here: smetana. Loosely translated, it's sour cream, but sour cream just falls apart and curdles in borsch. Smetana (accent on the second syll-AH-ble, please) is like thin yogurt in consistency, has a smoother taste, and mixes perfectly with borsch, turning it a delightful pink. Oh, and lots of dill, please. Lack of these two ingredients will render this soup inedible to me. By the by, spelled correctly with or without the "t." In Russian, it's spelled without the "t," while Yiddish adds it.
Coconut. And you probably don't like it. That's fine. More for me. I'll happily get sick on macaroons, add coconut milk to smoothies and cereal (with rice milk), frappefy it with ice, orange juice, and vanilla (see above) for a heavenly mock-orange julius, slurp hot Thai coconut milk soup, follow it with coconut curry chicken, and snarf down gargantuan slices of coconut cream pie (that are over 1/2 whipped cream).
Pho. The Vietnamese have given us this humble beef-and-rice noodle soup to nurture us through frigid, snow-bound days. You get a huge bowl of the stuff, bring your nose down to the bowl and inhale the lime, beef broth, and basil combination as your glasses steam up. Smile with the deepest of gratitude for something so pleasing. Add some Sriracha, and slurp away. Comfort food that blows chicken soup out of the water.(Although it kinda makes you wonder: why such a hot soup from such a hot country? Wouldn't it seem more appropriate for, say, Norwegians to come up with something like this to warm you up in the winter?)
Khachapuri, khinkali, and Khvanchkara. Don't sweat the pronunciation. Three Georgian (as in Caucasian) foods that are just heaven on earth, and that's meant more literally than you'd think. Georgians like to say that God traveled around the world, distributing food to each region. God decided to keep the best for him/herself, but underestimated how high the Caucasus mountains were. God tripped and fell, and the best food fell upon Georgia. After enjoying a few Georgian feasts while in Russia, I totally get it. Georgians know how to party and EAT like there's no tomorrow, and Georgian food as a whole is the best I have ever had.
Khachapuri is a simple light baked bread with melted cheese as an appetizer, served hot. Khinkali are luscious, juicy, almost buttery meat dumplings. And Khvanchkara is some of the sweetest and fruitiest red wine you've ever had, just this side of wine coolers. (Also recommended: Kindzmarauli, if you can't tolerate the really sweet stuff.)