List your top 6 "happy foods": the foods that when you eat them, make you want to do a little dance in your seat. It can be restaurant, junk food, home-made, whatever. In no particular order, they are:
My dad's turkey stuffing. Everyone has a different take on/approach to stuffing, but none rivals my dad's (which both my sister and I have learned). Despite subtle variation in the ingredients from year to year, it always seems to have the perfect blend between sweet and salty with a satisfying, but not overpowering, little bite, mushy with just enough crunch to satisfy, delectably moist and abounding in flavor!
My mom's "Yankee Chili." I'm not sure who invented this dish, but it is one of the recipes that made its way amongst us Zonians. I don't know how to make it, but it has ground beef, elbow macaroni, kidney beans, garlic, and who knows what other spices. Heart-warming, flavorful, and filling!
Empanadas. Beef empanadas. Done the Panamanian way, not the Colombian way. The Panamanian way uses a cornmeal shell, about 4-5 inches across, and is filled with ground beef, chopped onions, and spices. (The Colombians add potatoes and other ingredients which are superfluous, IMO, and detract from the blessed crispy-sweet cornmeal and spicy beef marriage of flavors.) The empanadas are deep-fried until a crispy golden color. The outside is crunchy, the inside still doughy, with the beef marinating in its own juices. This is the first and last thing I eat when I go to Panamá, and so worth risking clogged arteries for!
Nutter Butters and/or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I refuse to make two items out of this. Nothing tops these two for peanut butter-y goodness!
Pork spare ribs. Succulent meat marbled with fat, both slipping off the bone. Marinated for hours before being tossed on the grill. Slathered in barbecue sauce -- tangy, spicy, with a hint of sweetness. I'm a happy man in need of a shower -- sauce all over my face and caking my hair, bits of meat and grease stuck here and there -- after gorging on the perfect slab of ribs!
Fresh tropical fruit in the tropics. After living so many years in the U.S., where finding decent fruit is a near impossibility, there are few things that move me closer to tears of unadulterated joy than sitting in my aunt's house in Panamá with a plate of fresh oranges, pineapple, and mango in front of me. Ah, Boquete oranges, a.k.a. naranjas injertadas, are by far the most perfect orange ever grown. Large, with a pale yellow to light green rind, meaty texture with just the right amount of juice, bursting with flavor. Pineapple (the Hawaiian vaierty, piñas hawaiianas) -- firm, crispy texture, sweet with slightly acid grace notes, dripping with juice. Mangoes -- so many varieties of mangoes -- melt-in-your-mouth buttery texture, no stringiness, that ambrosian sweetness touched by ever the slightest hint of tartness. No prepared food can rival this!