I always love to read those "man-on-the-street" columns in my local newspaper. It seems that frivolous questions rather than weighty ones inspire far livelier and intriguing responses. In the same spirit, I collar friends, relatives, and total strangers to ask them inconsequential questions on culinary matters.

Q: What food from your homeland do you miss?

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Gambi: One of the few things I can't find from back home in Nigeria are black beans that are the size of lima beans. The inside looks like a sweet potato. You can boil them or smash then. I liked it when my mom would smash them with plantains to give them some sweetness. I also miss a white corn with big kernels. We don't like yellow corn in Nigeria. That's what we think of animal feed and the kind of corn that comes in government aid packages.

Gity: It's not the food I miss, it's the cooks I miss! We had two cooks when I was growing up in Iran. We got a two-hour break for lunch at school and our driver would pick us up and bring us home and our cooks would have this wonderful hot lunch waiting for us. That was in my other life (Gity laughs.) It seems like pre-history now. Iran still had a flavor of "1,001 Nights" back then. That's gone now. (Gity has lived in the U.S. for almost thirty years.) I'm usually able to create the foods from home because I remember the tastes and I can re-create them. Also there are restaurants where you can get really good Iranian food. What you can't re-create is the taste of Iranian lamb. It was better than any I've ever had here; the sheep were raised differently on different soil. Some of the vegetables had a wonderful intense flavor you can't find here. Everything we ate was very pure and natural.