May 01, 2005
I spent a semester of college in Washington, DC during my junior year. The experience was incredible, academically and professionally. I worked a full time internship with a non-profit organization and took classes at night. DC has a lot to offer and I would make weekly treks into the city or surrounding suburbs in an effort to discover both the city's monumental treasures and also the ones that are hidden in the outlying neighborhoods.
One Saturday morning I took the train to a small shopping plaza in Arlington, VA. I found whatever trinket or supply I was looking for and then made my way back to the train station. By that time it was about noon and I looked for a place to stop and eat before the long ride home. I found relief in an Asian restaurant in the same shopping plaza.
Feeling adventurous, I ordered a beef soup bowl - something I'd always avoided at the Vietnamese restaurant back at college. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. This poor shop wouldn't be in business for much longer. Their meat had gone bad and no doubt someone that day was going to complain to the health authorities and have them shut down. I was more forgiving and simply stopped eating. I left my soup, finished my water and left quietly.
It wasn't until I left DC months later that I realized what had really happened that day. My father and I were eating at the new Mexican chain restaurant in my hometown. I had him taste my bean and rice plate. "That's cilantro," he said. Cilantro, I thought... I'll never eat so heedlessly again.