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Laurelei Ballard: Providence—Love At First Bite

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Providence offers a food lover's paradise–new cuisines of every type and taste, and something for everyone.

“And it’s not like you want to make the commute from Providence,” said my commiserating friend.
“Providence?” I asked, confused.
“Rhode Island. It’s a state...”
“I took 5th grade Social Studies. Why are you talking to me about Providence?” I retorted.
“It’s only about an hour from Boston by train,” he said, as if everyone should have the Amtrak schedules for the eastern seaboard committed to memory.

I should probably give you some context here. About 20 days before this call I had been offered a job in Boston, but after two weeks of house-hunting all I had discovered was that the Sons of Liberty must surely have thrown all of the kitchen blueprints into the bay with the tea because Boston apartments were sadly lacking in culinary spaces, at least in my price range. So now, I was whining to a friend in NYC when he started pulling seemingly random cities out of his internal atlas. Providence?

A few web searches, a handful of phone calls, and a fortunate introduction by my future boss to a well-connected denizen and bing, bang, boom. This is how two weeks ago, my corgis and I spilled, weary and bedraggled, out of a U-Haul into the Creative Capital.

There is a lot to love about Providence. The people are gracious, the city is resplendent with history and charm and natural wonders. My loft rocks. My kitchen makes me giddy! What’s not to love? But believe it or not, none of these reasons comes close to what makes Providence my most treasured “discovery” in recent years. For me, Providence was love at first bite.

You see, I’m a little food-obsessed. For the last 8 years I have lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, a city that is so offended by vegetables that it must punish them Torquemada-style with long baths in boiling water or hot oil until they wheeze and gasp and grey. Okay, they make a mean BBQ, and they can fry a chicken, but that is where the city’s contribution to foodie-dom ends.

However, in this small city, in this tiny state I found food Valhalla! Everywhere I turn, there is another culinary celebration. Whether it is the Italian delicacies on Atwells Avenue, the funky bistros on the East Side, the abundant Farmer’s Markets (or all of the other amazing places my newbie status has me forgetting) there is something remarkable and succulent in every nook and cranny of this delightful city. Providence embraces food for the nourishment it provides both body and soul. Somehow, this city both honors what food is and imagines what food can be. And I have yet to witness any veggies being tortured in some perverse Epicurean Inquisition! My taste buds and I are home!


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