I am just back from an all-too-brief trip to the New Jersey shore (my people simply call it "the shore") for a multitude of birthdays: daughter's, father's, niece's and nephew's are all within a few days of each other. Besides the family time, the trip was a whirlwind tour of beloved foods that, if they exist at all outside of New Jersey/the Delaware Valley, do so only as pale shadows of their true essence: paper-thin slices of Nirvana from Mack and Manco's and a brimming tub of caramel decadence from Johnson's on the Ocean City boardwalk; a perfect turkey hoagie (no cheese, no mayo, just a dash of oil and vinegar) from Brady's Hoagie Dock; a trio of Philly soft pretzels from a stand in the airport.
Growing up, I took all these things for granted. Sure, I liked them, but it never occurred to me that they were unique or special in any way. Only by moving away did I ever see the extraordinary things that had been under my nose all along.