by Anita Albanese, MD
Breaking bread with friends and family is a tradition my family instilled in me at a very young age. My grandparents, without a doubt, could be found at a different Las Vegas buffet every Sunday from opening to close. This was before the days of high buffet prices and limits on how long you could sit there. It was a running joke that no matter how long we stayed, we would always arrive after them and leave hour before they would be done. They would get to know all the staff members and invite family friends to share in conversation and delicious food. As I got older, I learned my grandparents had a long history of creating traditions around food including winning awards for recipes such as “Crab Albanese.” They also published a cookbook highlighting recipes from local chefs and documenting the history and culture of Las Vegas at that time. It was no surprise that during both of my grandparents’ funeral services, we all laughed with tears of joy realizing all the photos of them were with lots of food.
These traditions around food were something I took for granted until I moved away from Las Vegas for college. I came to learn in all the places I traveled and lived that food was a symbol of culture and varied greatly by region based on geography, availability of goods, and cultural traditions. I became fascinated by trying foods which were unique to the area. While this was mainly a fun experience, I also realized that my own comfort foods from Las Vegas were also rare and that certain things could not be found elsewhere. This made me appreciate the uniqueness of my experiences from home as well as feel a longingness for the familiarities of home.
In looking for a residency, understanding the food culture within a city was of high priority. After all, my partner and I were set to couples match with a commitment to a city for 5 years given my partner is in radiology. In the time of COVID, however, it proved difficult to find out which cities had the food options I knew would be important to me especially on the days of home sickness. Countless hours were spent asking residents of programs I interviewed at about their own traditions around food and yelping things like “all you can eat sushi” and “Mexican grocery store.” Although excited for our new journey, diversity in food options became a central part of conversation with my fun fact being that I love to host events like hot pot to share the joy of food with others.
Come March of 2021, we found out we matched to Salt Lake City, Utah! While excited, that same weekend I was right on yelp desperately searching for how I would live out my traditions in my new city. My co-resident, Emily, who I had been talking to and confiding in during the entire interview trail, and I started to discuss our favorite foods and how excited we were to have another foodie to find all that Salt Lake had to offer. In our excitement, we said that we should go on foodie adventures together.
The first week of orientation, stressed out and nervous about making friends, I insisted we all go to dinner for our first food adventure the first Friday after our Survival Skills. We went to Takashi as I was eager to explore the sushi seen in SLC. This would become known as the first “Foodie Friday.” Every week during my intern year, my class went to a different restaurant in town and invited our families, team medical students, and friends. Each week someone different chose allowing us to get to know each other through food. This became a wonderful tradition as everyone was able to share a bit of themselves by showing us their comfort food or help indulge in a new experience.
Some of my personal favorite foodie adventures over the year included Hopkin’s, Sicilia Mia, Hruska’s Kolaches, Proper Burger, Takashi, Another Noodle House, Gosu, Pig & a Jelly Jar, Hero Hotpot, Hanaya Poke, Dee’s Diner, Ruth’s, Hub & Spoke, Purgatory, La Hacienda, Ozora Izakaya, Afghan Kitchen, Mahider, and Chanon Thai. This is of course not a full encompassing list. Some of the best meals, however, have been at my co-residents’ houses for meals such as Emily’s crawfish boil, Portillos at Justine’s, New Mexican enchiladas at Joe’s, Vermont delicacies at Kayla’s, brunch at Josh’s, a variety of delicious cookies and salsas at Robbie’s, and Christmas steaks at Jillian’s.
Now, a year into residency, I am happy we continue the tradition of Foodie Friday and hope that it continues to serve as a way for us to stay connected even when the days feel long. Sharing my passion for sharing in other’s cultures through food has made Salt Lake City and my co-residents feel like home. I look forward to many more foodie adventures over the next several years.
Dr. Anita Michelle Albanese is from Las Vegas, Nevada. She completed her undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Neuroscience at the University of Nevada, Reno. Then, she completed her medical degree as a part of the charter class of the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Medicine. Her medical interests include full-spectrum family medicine in an urban underserved environment including obstetrics, women’s health, transgender care, LGBTQ+ health, adolescent medicine, geriatrics, Latino health, healthcare policy, research, and medical education. She enjoys cooking, traveling, music festivals, hiking, camping, skiing, scuba diving, reading dystopian novels, and, of course, watching TV/movies through all the streaming services. She chose the University of Utah because of the wonderful opportunities to get full-spectrum training from passionate family medicine doctors.