Lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, a thick beef patty and two fluffy buns

posted by Crissinda Ponder

Khmer food, with all of its mysteries, is a unique delicacy. I like the fried noodles featuring chicken; I love their spin on fried rice and omelets.

There is surely more to be explored—but, I took a time out Sunday.

I got a little homesick. I was already declaring to the other students that once I got back to Atlanta my first stop, before home, would be Chick-Fil-A.

It’s just something about those lightly breaded, sauced-up chicken nuggets and waffle fries that tug at my pockets at least twice a week.

There’s no other taste like it.

Throughout each day, I often find myself reminiscing over my encounters with some of the tastiest food back home. I can’t help it.

Although I’m beginning to experiment—only slightly—with Khmer food, my taste buds are not always geographically sound with the rest of my body.

The onset of American food withdrawals came quick—it’s wasn’t even a week before I started searching for a burger.

Lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, a thick beef patty and two fluffy buns were all calling my name.

The group headed out around noon Sunday to scavenge our own food. Everyone else wanted Indian food—another cuisine I’m remotely unfamiliar with—but I wasn’t interested.

At first, I wanted to try my hand at a nearby Mexican restaurant for some enchiladas and rice, but I wasn’t willing to travel there alone.

So, I continued my local hunt for a burger.

I ended up going to The Blue Pumpkin, a bakery-lounge-restaurant, to find my beef patty.

The Blue Pumpkin is the only place in Siem Reap that looks like it doesn’t belong. The unbearable humidity fits, but nothing else about this facility screams “Cambodia.”

The first floor is a baked goods lover’s paradise—there are more danishes and pastries than the eyes can catch at first glance; ice cream, too.

Upstairs is the lounge area. Nice and air conditioned, very Western-like. Decorated with white couches, white pillows and white chairs.

It reminds me of home. I wanted to get that same feeling when I explored the menu.

I’m not sure if it’s a bad sign for me to be homesick so early in my trip (I have exactly two weeks left), but I really wanted that burger and I would stop at nothing until I safely ordered one.

I’m about 90 percent confident that the burger I ordered at The Blue Pumpkin was beef, but not sure what kind.

The waiter placed it in front of me on a square, white plate and the excitement hit me immediately. The final product was tall in stature and a nice width and had some juices from the patty and tomato running off to one side. It was accompanied by a small pile of skinny fries, a bright red ketchup bottle and an ice-cold Coca Cola.

It’s the American way.

With my first bite, I was no longer a foreigner in a third-world country. I was American. I felt more in my domestic element than in any other experience I’ve had so far in Cambodia.

I devoured that burger, savoring every bite even more than the last.

Food is the primary marker of my identity; every experience is significant in shaping me as an individual.

And I am not apologetic—there are probably more burgers in my Cambodian future.

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