St. Paddy’s Day in Afghanistan

Sansom Kabob House, 15th and Sansom, next to Ladder Fifteen, 215-751-9110

St. Paddy’s Day is my number one favorite holiday all year, ahead of Halloween and my birthday. (Halloween is huge for costume girls, it’s a two or three week affair and can involve five or more different costumes and corresponding personalities.) Before college, Mom would take me and Brian into the city and we would watch the parade go down Fifth Ave and then eat at Connolly’s. I get bangers and mash, Brian and Mom opt for the fish and chips. One year AK (Aunt Kath) joined us and we all saw the Sound of Music and went ice skating. Odd, maybe, but you get the idea, it’s a big deal.

So college has been a strange experience, that my most favorite of holidays has been mutated into a drinking sloshfest, and, admittedly, the transformation is mostly unwelcome. So this year, I threw a wrench in the mix. Amid packs of revelers, I headed off to lunch with Justin at Sansom Kebob. And not only is the food delicious, but it’s also somewhat miraculous—because it’s Afghan. Miraculous how?  Because Afghanistan is a barren mountainous country. If I was a spinach growing in Afghanistan, I would grow legs and walk away.

Anyway, things that matter. According to Sansom Kebob, or at least implied by the menu, potatoes, spinach, pumpkins, garlic, and goats can all be raised in Afghanistan. I’m willing to go along with it, mostly because the Chalaw Kadu, stewed pumpkin served with rice, is filling, spicy, familiar and yet so far away. And because the dining room, decorated with ceremonial dress and the Afghan version of the Hudson River school of paintings, is strangely homey, with its knives and pistols. And because the service is spotty and relatively unhelpful (“Which of these appetizers is your favorite?” “I don’t know” “Is this one good?” “You want that one?” “No, is it good?” “Okay”) but oddly likeable.

I knew lunch was going to be amazing when I sat down, looked across the room, and saw one of my fellow patrons, a chubby 20something Asian man, lowering his round cheeks to his bowl and shoveling –something—into his mouth so furiously that I don’t think he could breathe. After taking a moment to admire the daggers on the wall opposite, we poured two glasses of Chateau St. Michelle Riesling and raised a toast to a very unusual St. Patrick’s Day.

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