Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone in Texas

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not real adventurous when it comes to trying new foods. But since moving to Dallas, I’ve tried being more open to change.

It helps that I live with one of The Dallas Morning News‘ Taste editors. She introduced me to tamales, dim sum and jellyfish this weekend. (The jellyfish was part of the dim sum.) As much as I like the Hispanic culture, I had never eaten tamales before, but I actually really liked them. Now I need to try eating at some of the local taquerias near the house where I’m staying. I hear that although they may not look great on the outside, inside you can find delicious Mexican treats.

Dim sum was better than I thought it would be, even though I didn’t use the chop sticks correctly while eating it. I don’t eat red meat or pork, so I prodded and poked at the chicken and shrimp-based dim sum and tried to pick it up as best I could. By the time the meal had ended, my hands hurt from using the chop sticks — probably not a good sign. And the jellyfish portion of the dim sum? I’ll describe it as being crunchy and drenched in sesame seed oil. One small, slimy bite was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity.

Later in the day I went to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, located in the heart of downtown Dallas. I went to Spanish Mass and loved seeing the filled pews. Sometimes, you go to a church and the attendance is weak. Not at Our Lady of Guadalupe. There’s a six-floor garage next to the church, which was nearly filled at the 1:30 p.m. Mass. Ushers needed to help people find room in the pews so that they wouldn’t have to stand in the back of the church. Children, couples and senior citizens all congregated together like one big family. Very cool sight to behold.

After church I drove to White Rock Lake Park and tried walking around until the heat beckoned me inside. Today was hot — I don’t mean Florida hot, I mean 107 degrees hot. Holy hades. One of the local disc jockeys said Friday that he was going to Florida to visit his parents and to “cool off.” Since when do you go to Florida to cool off? My Massachusetts roots make me yearn for an impossible summer snowfall, or at least a cool breeze.

In need of some air conditioning, I went grocery shopping and spent a lot of time in the frozen food aisle. The Hispanic grocery store, Carnival’s, had pinatas hanging from the front window, and the signs in the store were all in Spanish. I found most of what I was looking for, but no hummus or veggie burgers — two foods I eat almost daily. Maybe that’s a sign that I need to keep being adventurous with what I eat and not just stick to the norm. If I’m going to branch out and try new things, Texas is just as good a place as ever to do so.