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Internet Inspiration – January 10, 2014
January 10, 2014
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Internet Inspiration – January 17, 2014
January 17, 2014

Tell Me the Meals You Remember

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I’ll go first.

  • I remember during one winter storm (4th grade) when I got stranded at my friend’s house and her mom taught us to make caramels. We had to boil something and then take it outside and pour it in the snow to set. I’ve never forgotten the experience, although I’ve never been able to recreate it.
  • I remember in 6th grade I went to my friend’s birthday party and she had made bread bowls and tomato soup for us to eat after we spent the afternoon sledding. She and her mom put a piece of cheese at the bottom of the bowl and then poured hot soup on top so the cheese would melt.
  • I remember when I broke my diet for the first time. I started dieting in 7th grade, and it took until winter of 9th grade before I broke it. I had done an incredibly tough sprint workout at crew practice, and when I got home my mom had made a chocolate cake with chocolate chips. I’d normally never indulge, but in that moment I wanted the chocolate cake, the pleasure of the chocolate cake, probably more than I wanted to breathe.
  • I remember the first time I had chorizo. My host mother packed me lunch for a field trip while I was studying abroad in Spain. We had just visited the Cuevas de Altamira and were eating lunch outside, underneath a tree. I had never tasted anything so delicious in my life.
  • I remember one Christmas my mom bought one of those Brie wheels with cranberries, walnuts, and some sort of sauce on it. We baked it in the oven… and the pan broke! My mom and I opened the oven to see it, looked at each other, and silently transferred the brie to a new plate before serving it to the family (and delighting in every bite, glass shards be damned).
  • I remember very little of the meals I ate when I was camping in Alaska, but there was a flash flood one night and among the things we lost were my bowl and utensils. Fortunately I found part of a bone that day, so I spent the rest of the trip eating with the bone. I still have it.
  • I remember my first evening in Morocco. I asked the concierge at my hotel if he could recommend a place for me to go eat. He smiled, called me a cab, and told the driver the name of a restaurant. The cab driver drove up, up, up, out of the city (at this point I was almost convinced I was going to be kidnapped and was evaluating my odds of survival if I jumped out of the car) until he reached a poorly lit corner. He gestured to me to walk down an alley and enter the open door about a block down. I’m not sure how long I stared at him in disbelief, but he was under orders to deliver me. So I walked down this alley, entered the open door, and found myself on a terrace carved into the side of the cliff. The proprietors had carved their restaurant at the place where the Mediterranean Sea met the Atlantic Ocean. I drank Moroccan Mint Tea and ate whatever stew came my way as I watched a life-altering sunset.
  • I remember the morning I stopped being vegan. I woke up craving sausage. 5 years, and I’d never had a craving for meat. I didn’t know what to make of it. But it persisted, so when I went to the store I bought some sausage. A friend of mine had made me homemade chicken stock, and I made kale and sausage soup. For fun, I topped it with raw chopped carrots. To this day, I have never felt more nourished than I did when I ate that soup. I think I had three bowls.
  • I remember one afternoon in Paris I thought I had gone to the wrong museum, and at the time I was very self-conscious about looking like a tourist. It was about noon, so I ducked into a nearby restaurant. The staff was so kind to me, and I ordered a three-course meal, with wine (my first time day drinking, as I recall). I’m not much of a spaghetti person, but on the recommendation of the waiter, I ordered pasta with a tomato sauce, and I actually moaned when the first bite touched my lips.
  • I remember the first time I had friends over to my house in Philadelphia (only took me 5 years). I made raw tacos, one friend brought wine and cheese, and another friend brought a salad. I didn’t have a dinner table, so we sat on the floor with a smorgasbord laid out on my coffee table. We laughed, gossiped, and played a hilarious card game called Dutch Blitz.

I know that food sometimes drives me crazy. And I don’t talk about the particulars of food very often on this blog. The truth is, it’s not about the literal food. The meals I remember I remember because of how I felt, because of the novelty of the experience, because of who I shared them with. That’s nourishing too.

In fact, I think that nourishment, more than the nutritional value of food, is what really heals us.

All of these meals were sensuous, abundant, peaceful. I could truly rest, relax, and enjoy them. And that put my body in a truly optimum state of digestion.

I wasn’t rushing.

I wasn’t feeling guilty about calories.

I was just alive. Using food to celebrate life.

Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next—and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.

          – Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein