Words

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Memory Lane

Isn't it funny how certain foods can remind you of past events? Not funny, really, but great. Hopefully, your 'memory foods' only have good associations. I know mine do. I was just re-reading my previous post and when I got to the bit about Greek yoghurt it brought back (as it did when I wrote it) a very pleasant memory indeed. In my early twenties I had a girlfriend (who shall remain nameless to spare her embarrassment). She is the lady responsible for introducing me to the delights of Greek yoghurt. (Please, would you get your sick minds out of the gutter. Thank you.)

I was going to spend the weekend at her house, and I knew she was cooking dinner, so I'd availed myself of a nice bottle of Fume Blanc. I seem to recall it was a Rosemount Estate wine, and ever since that day I have not been able to find it again, so one must assume that Rosemount no longer make it.

Try as I might, no amount of straining or head-scratching can make my addled brain remember what she cooked, but I shall never forget that first taste of that silky smooth Greek yoghurt. It was plain, served with a good dollop of honey slathered on top, and tasted like nectar of the gods to me. I was immediately in love with it. If I could only remember anything else about that weekend.

Other foods make me remember other times in my life, For example, I once had a heavy cold and was not sick enough to get a day off work, but still it was the kind of debilitating cold where you blow your nose red raw, all to no avail, and guzzle Lemsip for all you're worth. After a late shift at the off-licence where I worked I went to my usual haunt, The Eight Bells, now Cafe Rouge. The Bells served pretty decent food, and as I got there I noticed a sign for the soup of the day - tomato. This sounded good to me. It was home-made, and came with a generous hunk of crusty baguette. It was just what I needed. Soothing and warm, and it made me feel miles better. Now I cannot think of tomato soup without picturing the interior of The Bells with its big fireplace and cosy atmosphere and that big rectangular table underneath the front right window where all the gang used to gather.

Some foods just make me think of home - Spaghetti Bolognese, Chicken Casserole - others make me think of places I've been - Clam Chowder from Ivar's in Mukilteo, WA. Spaghetti in browned butter from The Old Spaghetti Factory. Crab and avocado omelette from Mimi's Cafe in Buford, GA. Polenta with Italian sausage from Zanzo's in Cleveland, GA. Whiskeyed crab soup from Chandler's on Lake Union. The first time I had sweet potato pie made by one of my then-wife's cousins at Paula and Larry's house in Bellevue, WA. The vegetarian Rogan Josh I ate at a small cafe in Porthmadog. The Oxford pizza restaurant that served a spinach and egg pizza.The first time I ate Surf-and-Turf in The Longhouse Restaurant in La Conner, WA.

Other foods are reminiscent of events, like the pizza I used to insist my sister make at every party. Hard-boiled eggs remind me of the reception spread laid on for us by Joanne after my first wife and I had our blessing. She had done a bunch of them and coloured them as it was also Easter-time, and they looked so pretty sitting in a mound in a bowl on the big table, all pinks and blues. I remember the first time I ate ratatouille, when some of my Mum's French friends came over to visit and we visited them one day at their rented cottage. I'd never tasted anything quite so different.

Food can drum up emotions, feelings, places, laughter, tears, journeys, friends. Food can fill you up emotionally as well as physically. Food can make you travel through time. Sometimes just to think of a dish can make you recall your favourite people, like the time I cooked lasagne for my friends Janet and Helen. The time I made my special nitro deluxe espresso brownies for my buddies at LensCrafters. The time my wife and I had a spinach calzone from Papa Murphy's that was so huge it took us three days to finish it.

Speaking of finishing, here I am sitting and writing this and not having a single clue where I'm going with this or how to finish it. I suppose what I'm really saying is food makes 'sense memories', and that's one of the many great things about it. What a joy it is to be able to eat different things and taste multiple flavours and then to be able to associate the tastes, smells and sight of them with meaningful things in our lives. How dull life would be if those magnificent computers in our heads could not perform that function.

Well, folks, it's time for bed. Goodnight.

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