Nia Vardalos's 3 Favorite Meals
Writer and actress Nia Vardalos lets us in on her three favorite food memories.
1. Catch of the Day
I was promoting a movie in Tokyo in 2004, and after nights of touristy Japanese meals, I told my interpreter that I wanted to go where he would go for dinner. So the two of us went to a hibachi restaurant where we sat on the floor in a "U" shape around the chef. When asked what I would eat, my interpreter said, "Anything." I was feeling brave and adventurous -- until the chef smiled at me, reached into a barrel at his feet, pulled out a live, wiggling fish and stuck a long skewer right through its body! Oh, to have seen the look on my face. He dipped that still squirming fish into a vat of something that looked like butter and slid it into the smoking hibachi oven -- nodding to me like, "Yeah, this one's for you" -- while I gripped the table and tried not to faint. When he pulled the fish from the oven and held it out to me, I hesitantly pulled off a little meat with my chopsticks and gingerly took a bite as every Japanese businessperson watched. It was delicious. I ate the entire fish and sucked the bones.
2. Mom-and-Daughter Peekaboo
Thanksgiving is by far my favorite meal to cook, and I actually like a nice quiet house. My husband takes our 5-year-old daughter to the movies halfway through the day so I can tackle the heavy cooking, but she preps with me first. Last year was the first time I actually found her helpful: She got out the scrubber and went to town on the sweet potatoes until there was no skin left to be seen. I then baked, cubed and drizzled them with maple syrup, brown sugar and butter. You could dip a shoe in that mixture and it'd be good. My daughter made that day so memorable: She wore just an apron, with nothing underneath! She had a French-maid look going in the kitchen; she's either going to be a complete free spirit, like a poet or gymnast, or a pole dancer.
3. An Affair with Bacon
Meat started to gross me out, so I became a vegetarian -- and stayed one for 11 years. But I kept gaining weight and couldn't figure out why. The answer was a thyroid condition, and after three months on medication, I started craving meat. I mean, really craving meat. During the shooting of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the smell of bacon used to waft across the set, but I resisted the temptation for a long time. Then one day I just said, "I'll have a bite of that." All the way to my lips I was unsure. I kept thinking, "Why am I doing this?" And then I chewed it and it was a warm shower of happiness -- like waking up from a coma. I was surrounded by the cast and crew, but in that moment it was just me and that bacon. That night I ordered chicken, and the next I had crab legs -- I was like that guy with the bucket at the end of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.