Tuesday, March 20, 2012

memorable meals

i woke up thinking about food. not because i was hungry, but because i go in streaks like that...where i feel inspired in the kitchen and the clock's turning to 5 doesn't fill me with dread because i have no idea what i'll make for dinner. i'm in one of those periods where that doesn't scare me, because i know i'll just open the fridge and make something yummy, even if i approach it without knowing what that something might be.

what i awoke thinking about was a fantastic salad i had at a spa restaurant in thailand. it was served in a beautifully-carved papaya and it had crunchy shreds of carrot and green mango, chili, cilantro, crab and peanuts.

it was tossed in a spicy dressing of chili, fish sauce and plenty of tangy lime. just writing about it makes my mouth water right now. it was actually on the edge of too spicy, even for me, who loves a bit of heat, but it felt right at that moment, like the heat of the dish caused me to sweat out the last toxins, not coaxed out by the massage i'd just had. it was the perfect end to my spa visit.

you have to forgive my utterly crap photo of it, it was before my photo obsession began, in addition to being taken at night with the dreaded flash - but it gives you a good idea of how beautifully presented it was. i can still remember scooping out the delicious, cooling, ripe papaya flesh after the salad was gone. it was truly a memorable meal.

memorable meals often occur when you're traveling and we remember less of the everyday meals we eat at home. i can still remember pulling into a little town called larissa in greece, late at night after a long day of driving. my traveling companions and i checked into a hotel and then wandered out to find something to eat. there was a big square lined with restaurants. old greek men sitting out on the warm summer night, having lively conversations over sweating bottles of ouzo at tables covered in actual red-checked tablecloths. we approached such a restaurant and found no one spoke much english, but with gestures and a visit to the kitchen where a lovely elderly lady, all clad in black, down to the scarf on her head, showed us what she could make. it was a simple meal of fish, but imprinted on my memory forever because of the experience and the feeling that we'd stepped onto a 1950s greek movie set.

i remember a meal of walnut-encrusted shark at the linn street café in iowa city in the early 90s. it was so good it actually brought tears to my eyes. i may have to try to duplicate that, tho' i don't think it's so politically (or environmentally) correct to eat shark anymore these days. maybe another fish would do. or perhaps even a steak, as shark has that dark, steak-like quality.

i remember wandering the streets of tokyo with a colleague, looking for a place to eat dinner. we saw some signs and went up to the 8th floor to a restaurant where you checked your shoes at the door (quite normal in tokyo, actually). we were seated in the window, looking down over shinjuku, teeming with shoppers and lit up with neon. however, it soon became apparent that our utter lack of japanese, coupled with a menu with few pictures and a waiter that lacked english meant that we had to reclaim our shoes and go. we ended up back at our hotel, where, tho' it was late, they served us up a fantastic meal. a series of delicious little dishes of all kinds of things - most memorable of which was the gorgeous, tender slices of real wagyu beef. i remember thinking that now i understood what the fuss was about.

and then, there was the wasabi bistro in seattle, where another colleague and i ate night after night during the ten days or so we were there. we couldn't stay away after sampling the white salmon sashimi. it's still the best i've ever had, even including tokyo.

what food do you remember?


Miss Footloose said...

Enjoyed all your food memories! One of my most memorable meals was in a village in Ghana, West Africa, where we visited a Peace Corps friend and his Ghanaian wife. We arrived early, watched her chase the chicken around the yard, then kill the chicken, pluck the chicken,etc., etc. Then with a beer bottle she made peanuts into paste. It took most of the day to make the groundnut soup. The guys contributed by cutting down a palm tree and making palm wine.

We all enjoyed!

Now I'm hungry for Thai food! I was in Thailand a long time ago, but to this day it's my favorite cuisine.

Unknown said...

Oh my! Fresh grilled lobster tails with just a squeeze of lemon juice and tabasco on a boat in Cuba, pizza unlike any I'd ever tasted on a beach at sunset in Salina off the coast of Sicily, fish and chips out of newspaper on a stormy beach in the north east of Scotland...I could go on forever!

--maria said...

That salad looks b-a-n-a-n-a-s.. amazing. Oh.. I remember the wonderful world of gluten. Whole wheat pasta.. pizza from Brooklyn.. beer.. wontons.. :) :) Ugh.. I love your posts. You are so creative!