Answer by Erica Friedman:
My wife and I were walking around the lower East side of NYC many years ago. It was late, we were hungry, but had very little money. The only restaurant open was an Indian restaurant. I have no idea what the name of it was, and it's long gone now.
We explained our situation and they let us in, sat us down and said, "don't worry." We gave them our last $14, which was all we had and were served a multiple course extravaganza of food. It was the end of the night, these were all leftovers, but my god what leftovers they were.
We'd never eaten Indian food before. The meal began with Alu Papri Chaat, a dish that provides many different flavors and and consistencies at once. We make this now at home and it is still one of our favorite dishes, but that first time, it was the most extraordinary thing I'd ever eaten in my life. My family is not afraid of trying new things, but the combination of tamarind, chaat, the yogurt, the onions, potatoes and chickpeas were something I'd never ever considered before.
(Not an actual picture of that night. This was more than 30 years ago, we didn't have cell phones yet.)
We cook Indian for ourselves often now, but every time we do, I offer a little thanks to the wonderful people at that restaurant who took in two hungry suburban kids and changed their lives forever.