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At the end of next month, Elizabeth Gilbert is coming to Victoria. Specifically, she’ll be speaking as a guest lecturer at Victoria College’s Lyceum Lecture Series and her visit is eagerly anticipated by all who have read her bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love.

The great news is that while I’m sure Gilbert will share more great stories about her travels while writing Eat, Pray, Love and her journey toward spiritual awakening and self-discovery, I have done some research and I know that she also has some very original observations about the process of creativity and the nature of inspiration.

Inspiration is a tricky thing, it works differently for each individual, but it’s something we’re all familiar with in one way or another. In her book, Gilbert’s journey of spiritual exploration began with a visit to Italy and a month-long indulgence in all the culinary delights Italy has to offer. Her uninhibited enjoyment of food and the way it brought her together with friends she met there served as the beginning of her spiritual healing and transformation. That food played such a starring role speaks strongly of the importance of food in how humans create and maintain culture along with its power to bring us together.

Recently, the Advocate began a photo essay contest related to Gilbert’s visit inviting us all to submit photos of food that we find inspirational. This could be anything: food we make for our families or that we traditionally eat while celebrating with family; food that exemplifies our family or personal culture; food we ate with someone special or on a special occasion or in a special place. Food that was simply memorably exceptional. I take pictures of food nearly every day, because I love food and I love to cook. I love the beauty of food and the challenge of capturing that with my camera. Feeding my family is one of the many ways I love them and sharing meals brings us together.

All of these considerations put an important spin on the fact that Gilbert will want to eat while she’s here visiting with us and I wondered: if she asked me where she should eat here, what would be a good example of the “taste” of the Crossroads? What type of cuisine could I recommend that would best represent our local culture to Elizabeth Gilbert as someone who is clearly sensitive to the powerful role food plays in shaping human culture and providing individual fulfillment and even inspiration?

Victoria is South Texas, but our culture here is very diverse. My first reaction would be to recommend Mexican cuisine as representative of local food culture; we’re so fortunate to have so many excellent Mexican food restaurants here in the Crossroads area. But there is so much more we have to offer: TexMex, Texas barbecue, seafood, Southern homestyle.

So, I thought I’d ask all of you what you think. Where would you recommend Elizabeth Gilbert go to eat while she’s here? What type of cuisine most exemplifies the culture of the Crossroads? What would you say is the true “taste” of South Texas? And which is the best local restaurant serving that style of cuisine?

by Katy Long, Writer/Photographer at Victoria College

Image Southern homestyle dinner I made for my family on November 17: Slow cooked brisket, warm bacon-y potato salad, homestyle green beans.