Hi Everyone! As you know, we are in the midst of our transition to living in Spain right now. We’re about to move into our new home, and we’re so excited– but we won’t have internet for a while. In the meantime, I have some guest posts I’m excited to share with you, on the topic of our experiences At The Table, a continuation of celebrating the release of my cookbook.
This first guest post is from Michele of Thriving on Paleo. I love the way she thinks about food, and you will will love the recipes over on her beautiful site! Also, her review of my cookbook totally made me blush in the best possible way– thank you Michele!
I invite you to take a moment and do a small exercise. I’d like you to think back and try to recall what you would consider to be the two or three most memorable meals in your life.
What made these meals memorable to you? Was it the people you were with, the place you were eating, an occurrence that happened prior or during the meal? Was it the mouthwateringly delicious food, the way the food tasted on your tongue and gave you a pleasant feeling of fullness?
When I think back about my most memorable meals I am actually a bit surprised by what I remember, and why they are memorable to me. Meals I’d expect to be completely memorable are not, such as my wedding (I remember much about that day but not much at all about the meal), graduations, holidays, and birthdays. These just seem to melt into the background noise of life to me. I also don’t seem to have amazing culinary experiences in my highest ranks either, even though I definitely have had my fair share of outrageously incredible meals. Those meals certainly were great and special, but I still don’t hold them in my heart the same way as I do my truly memorable ones.
The meals that I do remember and consider the most memorable are delightful little tidbits of history to me, reminding me that while my life has changed drastically since I was a scrawny, awkward little girl, there has been one constant throughout– and that is sharing meals with others.
My top 3 meals are really not ranked in any order, just written here in chronological order, but they all hold a special meaning to me in one way or another.
My first memorable meal is really rather ordinary. It was just a normal Friday evening in my childhood home with my mom, dad, and younger sister. We ate our typical Friday night meal, which was frozen raviolis boiled in water until cooked, canned tomato sauce, and a bagged Caesar salad. Not exactly gourmet but it was my favorite meal growing up.
I always ate my ravioli in a peculiar manner. First I’d stick the middle with a fork, then eat all around the outside to expose the cheese on the inside. Then I’d take my fork and peel the top layer off the ravioli, scrape the cheese onto a separate section of my plate, then eat the bottom of the pasta. When my entire meal had been consumed save the cheese, I’d eat the cheese as a dessert of sorts. I ate it this way EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Not sure why, but that’s just how I liked my ravioli.
During this particular meal, though, someone said something extremely funny (I don’t even remember who or what it was about), but I remember laughing so very hard that my insides hurt. I remember after I stopped laughing I looked around at my family and just felt the love and comfort that comes from being with people you are so close to. I was rather young to make this assertion, yet I starkly remember feeling that way. It especially means a lot to me now that we’ve lost my mom to cancer and both my sister and father live far away from me, so I hang tightly onto that memory of that day we were all sitting around the same table in such perfect harmony.
My second memorable meal was shortly after I moved to Denver as a young professional. I had moved into my first apartment (without roommates), gotten a new puppy, found a few new friends, and a new job. It had been a rocky year, breaking up with a boyfriend, quitting my other job, moving halfway across the country (from New Jersey), and spending a lot of it lonely– my previous job had required me to fly to New Orleans every week, so I didn’t know many people in Colorado. But things had really started to look up as getting my new dog helped me meet new people and before I knew it, I had a group of friends that also had dogs, and they all lived in my same apartment complex.
One March day we got a whopper of a snowstorm. In fact, I’ve now lived in Colorado for 14 years, and we have never gotten one this big since. Pretty much everything in the city had shut down, so my group of friends and I decided to have a little get together and I offered to make the entrée. That entrée was my specialty at the time: made-from-scratch pasta. As we sat around my friend’s kitchen island (since none of us had tables large enough to seat all of us), scooping up the soft doughy strands of pasta lightly covered in olive oil and parmesan cheese, we took turns telling stories of how we had come to Colorado and then other stories from our past. I remember looking around at the smiling, laughing faces and for the first time since setting out on my own, feeling that I would be ok out here in the wild West.
My third meal that I remember is a tad bit unconventional. This past summer I went camping with my husband and my two young sons up here in the mountains of Colorado. As is typical in the mountains, we were treated to many afternoon thunderstorms, but for some reason this day seemed to be particularly stormy. We decided around 5 pm to start dinner since there had been a clearing in the skies and we determined it to be a good idea to try to cook while there was no rain. My husband started a fire and put on the flank steak we had marinated at home prior to our trip. He also fired up our portable camp stove to reheat the carrots I had roasted at home. We sat around the fire while the food cooked. Well, we tried to but my 2 year old didn’t really want to sit still and we had several feisty chipmunks who kept climbing up our legs, so it was a bit difficult to relax. But just before dinner was ready we heard some not so distant thunder.
My husband and I rushed to put everything unnecessary for the meal back into the car as raindrops started to fall. I then brought the kids into the vestibule of the tent (the front overhang that is separate from the sleeping area and the bottom is open to the ground- meant as a place to store shoes, chairs, etc at night or from rain) as my husband grabbed the food off the fire and stove. We rushed into the vestibule, which actually hung over a wooden railroad tie that formed a bit of a step down from our tent. It made a nice little seat that comfortably fit two of us (me and my tiny 2 year old). My husband arrived, soaked, with the food several minutes after it started downright pouring. We placed the steak and carrots on our plates as my husband and older son sat on the ground and started eating. But as we ate, the rain fell harder, and the ground around us started to get saturated.
Tiny little rivulets of water started to come through the area where my husband and son sat, so they squeezed in with us on the railroad tie. It sure was a tight fit! And then the rivulets gave way to an outright stream, right through our entire campsite and in through the vestibule and back out. (You might wonder why we didn’t eat IN the tent, but we are strict against doing that as bears can smell food and it’s advised not to have food in your tent. Having it in the vestibule wasn’t exactly ideal, but other than having it in our car, which probably would have been a better option in retrospect, the vestibule was our only option). Add to this the thunder was booming so incredibly loudly, amplified by the fact that we were in a large canyon, so the sound bounced off from every direction. We ate our meal, extremely close together, trying to maintain an air of not being scared to death for our kids’ sake, hoping our tent would not be sucked up in the deluge. But man, talk about memorable! I think this ranks up there in my list though because I felt so alive and so physically and emotionally close to the ones I love the most dearly. I think it also made me concentrate that much harder on the taste of the steak and the mouth feel of the carrots as I bit into them, because otherwise I’d start freaking out about all that was going on around me! We made it out of there completely unscathed but with a memory I will be sure to have for the rest of my life!
Michele Spring is a mom of 2 young boys, suffers from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Celiac Disease, and is an expert on using the Paleo diet to feel your absolute best. Through her blog posts and short how-to videos she’s here to help teach and inspire you to live a Paleo lifestyle while having the time of your life doing it. When she’s not blogging you can find her sewing up a new outfit, reading a great book, or desperately trying to keep her kids from making her house look like a tornado hit it.
Wasn’t that fun? I always love hearing about food memories and stories surrounding food. It’s amazing how we can eat about three times a day and still have so many new experiences at the table. Thanks for sharing, Michele!
What is one of your first food memories? I’d love to hear it!