Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A zephyr blows through Dorchester

March 18th.

The day after St. Patrick's Day, one would think the breeze off the Atlantic would be carrying scents carried from the Emerald Isle, clover and barley. Nope. Green wine, virgin olive oil and fresh fish filled the air of Dorchester's streets, the smell of Cabo Verde. The trees still lacked leaves, but when their bare branches rubbed each other in the wind, they clacked with an accent that had Portuguese roots.

Corned beef and cabbage still hung heavily in the atmosphere, especially around the dumpsters behind old bars and restaurants. Then the wind changed and it blew from the West. From over long distances, the aroma of pho filled people's nostrils and they salivated. Beef is the stuff that builds sturdy bones in Dorchester. Beef, fresh fish, and a sense of community.

A neighborhood of transplants, Dorchesterites don't pigeon hole strangers by their ethnicity but by the strength of a handshake. Being invited home for a meal is an act of acceptance. You have a good idea what you'll be eating from the host's background, but it may as often be a variety bucket from the KFC at Everett Square which has zero grams of trans fat but plenty of other, savory kinds.

Hospitality blows through Dorchester. It is a hallmark, a benchmark, a symptom that you have hit a bull's eye's center dot. Good company isn't a disease. It is what makes Dorchester hum and thrive. The wind off the bay sweeps away preconceptions and ushers new flavors. So many different people with different tastes so close together build a community that contains a rainbow of scents that can satisfy any and every nose.

Dorchester, Mass., the biggest and best part of Boston, passes the smell test.

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