Rejoice, my fellow Americans–Thursday, July 21, 2011, is National Junk Food Day.

What a fabulous concept, to have a holiday that celebrates all of our guilty pleasures.  Now granted, I try to eat my vegetables and exercise like a woman conscious of the fact that 30 is looming in the distance, saying, “Your metabolism is mine!”  With that said, however, I have many vices in the form of junk food (or what I like to call, treats).  Treats, as I like to say, make the world better.  Let’s face it–after a long, tough day at the office, or just a crazy day in general, a carrot just won’t do the trick.

I also began to think about my favorite treats from around the world, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that they are ubiquitous.  I tend to form treat “obsessions” wherever I’m living or traveling, and they form the bulk of my cravings when I need a reward or when I make up a reason to have a reward.  These days in D.C., for instance, my food obsessions have been (and often eaten together, but don’t judge me) crab legs, fried pickles with ranch dressing, and key lime pie.  Those three things right there are my fantasy come to life, a perfect pigout feast that you dive into when you’re not counting calories, or when you’re trying to gross friends out.

When I’m back home, my biggest splurge would have to be chile con queso.  In Texas, children tend to be raised on Mexican food, to say the least.  I seriously think that my parents put chile con queso in my bottle, because to this day, when I go to a Mexican restaurant that does not offer chips and queso on the menu, I feel like the meal is missing something.  You can ask Leon–we went to an El Salvadorian/Mexican restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland, and I looked excitedly at the menu until apparently my face fell.  He immediately said, “Uh oh, they don’t have queso on the menu, do they?”

I also love to hit my favorite frozen custard place, Double Dip in Frisco, Texas, when I’m back in the Lone Star State.  While most people in front of me order things like vanilla frozen custard with strawberries or something to that effect, I tend to shock and awe (or disgust, but same difference).  Whenever I stop by Double Dip, close to my hometown of McKinney, I pull out a Post-It and write down everything I want thrown into the frozen custard blender.  The owner started saving my Post-Its, funnily enough, and keeps them on the wall–the last time I drove through with my Post-It ready, the employees all ran up to the window to get a look at “the Post-It girl from D.C.”  I’m sure they also wanted to see if I weighed a million pounds.

My last combination at Double Dip, I believe, contained the following:  vanilla frozen custard, chocolate syrup, marshmallow cream, peanut butter, pistachios, Kit Kat pieces, and green mint.  (Stop gagging–it was delicious!)

Internationally, my list of favorite treats goes on and on.  Here are a few of my favorites:

London:  Lemon merengue tarts from Paul Cafes; Lamb korma from Indian takeaway places (pretty much on every corner); Fish and chips, Fried duck from the restaurant 1997 in Chinatown; Fancy chocolates from Harrod’s (I used to walk an hour and a half from my flat to get to Harrod’s, buy chocolate, walk back, and justify eating the chocolate since I’d walked so much)

Paris:  Fresh, crusty baguettes smothered in butter and confiture aux fraises (strawberry jam); Fruit tarts

Rome:  Gelato–pistachio, hazelnut, and bacio (chocolate hazelnut) from Giolitti or Blue Ice

Buenos Aires:  Dulce de leche on everything, from ice cream to cakes to coffee

Santiago:  Alfajores, these amazing little sandwich cookies (I usually got the dulce de leche ones)

Rio de Janeiro:  Home of churrasco, a.k.a. grilled meat that is heaven on a plate

Seoul:  Green tea ice cream

Tokyo:  Ok0nomiyaki (this amazing grilled concoction with sauce and shaved fish pieces and seaweed–I promise it’s delicious); Takoyaki (popular street food consisting of octopus pieces cooked in these glutenous kind of ball shapes, smothered in sauce and shaved fish slices–again I swear it’s delectable)

Guadalajara:  Avocado popsicles (those are healthy, right?)

Athens:  Moussaka; Yogurt and honey ice cream

Moscow:  Shashlik (Russian barbeque)

Salzburg/Berlin:  Apple Strudel

Warsaw:  Pierogi

New Delhi:  Paneer Butter Masala (tofu-like cheese smothered in a savory sauce); Samosas

Bangkok:  Coconut ice cream

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there (it’s very eye opening, and somewhat humbling, to realize that you’ve almost literally eaten your way around the world).  This year I’ll be celebrating National Junk Food Day in Washington, D.C., so I won’t be able to grab a favorite treat from an exotic location, but the nation’s capital is definitely a bastion of classic American goodies.

So raise your French Fries and milkshakes, cut a deal with yourself to hit the gym sometime tomorrow as well, and have a happy National Junk Food Day!

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