Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reasons to Love Buffalo

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Shortly after I moved back to New York, I was on the phone having a conversation with the Wily Republican. I was whining, actually. I was saying I missed Minnesota, everything about it, even those awful soybean processing plants that hung the smell of millions and millions of those starchy pods in the early morning air.

The WR took about as much of the whining as he possibly could before interrupting me. "Hang on a second," he said. "When you were here in Minnesota, you were always talking about how much you missed New York. Weren't you always wanting to move back?"

I told him no way, there were very few times I ever wanted to pack up my things and hightail it out of Minnesota, and even on days that I did feel that way, I could squelch the urge by drinking a bottle of champagne and eating brownie batter straight from the bowl. I loved Minnesota, I told the WR. There were just days when the people in it--in my grad program, for instance--drove me crazy and that's when I wanted out. The WR understood this, of course, since he was often taking me to lunch or dinner or making me margaritas in the mid-afternoon just so I could tell him stories of who was pissing me off and how.

I told the Wily Republican the biggest thing I missed about western New York, besides my friends and family, was the food. Sure, Minneapolis and St. Paul had good food, had lovely restaurants and the like, but the rest of the state was sometimes lacking in cuisine. The good people of Minnesota were fond of tater tots, fried everything, and ketchup. One of my favorite stories from Katy's brief waitressing stint at Buffalo Wild Wings--a chain establishment that pretends to sell authentic wings (don't get me started on how any place that makes you pay for a cup of bleu cheese to go with your wings cannot claim to be authentic)--was how one afternoon she waited on an old couple who ordered a plate of wings to split. When Katy asked them how they'd like them done--you know, what sauce they wanted them tossed in--the couple looked up at her with big, blinking eyes and told her they wanted them plain because they were just going to dunk them in ketchup.

I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that.

In grad school, I craved Buffalo food like nobody's business.

"But I don't understand," people would say. "Isn't it pretty much the same? I mean, we have Buffalo wings here."

First, I told the people there was more to Buffalo cuisine than the wing (beef on weck, sponge candy, Loganberry, and any Polish staple that can be bought at the Broadway Market). Second, I told people that it made me nervous any time I ordered wings in the Midwest. I don't like having to order something as "Buffalo-style." In the Midwest, you can get your wings either mild, medium, hot, or Buffalo. What, oh what, I asked the native Midwesterners, was "Buffalo" in that context?

"You know," they said, sounding vague, sounding as if they themselves weren't exactly sure, "sort of spicy."

I tried to tell them that in Buffalo, you didn't get your wings "Buffalo." You got them mild, medium, hot, or suicidal. Or, if you were at a particularly saucy place, you might get the choice to have your wings done on the grill and dipped in creative sauces like hot garlic or sesame habanero. And you absolutely did not send the bleu cheese back for ranch dressing or--worse--ketchup.

But that won't happen today. And I won't pine for good wings or bleu cheese or any other fine western New York delicacies, because today is the day of all days, the blessed event, the crown jewel of the summer season: Taste of Buffalo.

Today I will buy $30 worth of tickets and proceed to eat my way through the booths that are set up in downtown Buffalo until I have eaten so much I want to throw up. Then I will rest, refresh myself with a wine slushee, and I will soldier on and eat until I want to throw up again.

It's tradition. It's one of my favorite things. It's right up there on the list of What Makes Buffalo Pretty Fantastic, ranking high, along with sunsets over Lake Erie, lots of snow days in the winter, and, of course, the Buffalo Sabres (and, specifically, my future husband).

In a few short hours, I am going to be the fullest, happiest, most satisfied girl in the history of girls. Bring it on.

1 comment:

Anne said...


I don't even dream of touching the wings out in California. Their rendition of buffalo style smells a lot like vomit. And bleu cheese? It's not even an option. Not an option!? There were wings at my college roomie's wedding rehearsal dinner while I was home. And those wings came with bleu cheese. Plus an extra bowl of bleu cheese with a plate of celery. Celery! I had forgotten about the celery. I've been gone for that long.