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Curtis Sittenfeld

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Leah Stewart

I haven't lived in Cincinnati as an adult, but if I ever do, I definitely want to be friends with Leah Stewart.

Chow Fun

Before I ever ate masaman curry at Bangkok Bistro, or chicken tikka masala at Baba, or dolsot bibimbap at Riverside Korean Restaurant, there was the Szechwan Wok—my introduction not just to Chinese food, or even to Asian food, but to pretty much all non-American food. For years and years, through the ’80s and ’90s, my parents and siblings and I piled into our minivan and drove to Silverton to feast on the Szechwan Wok’s sesame noodles and potstickers, their egg foo young, shrimp in black bean sauce, moo shu pork, and spicy eggplant. We’d pass the tropical fish tank on the left as we entered the red-accented dining room and sat at a booth, or, as our family expanded, at round tables with lazy Susans, the better to lunge toward the food. My father would order for all of us. He and my mother started with the hot and sour soup—which I still think of as the soup for adults—and my sister Tiernan and I would have the egg drop. Just as at Skyline you must sometimes restrain yourself from wolfing down all the oyster crackers before the arrival of your chili, at the Szechwan Wok it was necessary to exercise willpower with those delicious fried twigs—Crackers? Chips? I’m still not sure—meant to be sprinkled in the soup. If my beloved paternal grandmother was in town visiting us, she’d order a scotch, and the waiter would bring it to her with a brightly-colored paper umbrella.
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