Monday, November 20, 2006

Top Food Memories

Potato Chips - Guadalajara, 1989
During a youth group trip to Central Mexico, we were touring around downtown Guadalajara one afternoon, shopping for gifts and generally exploring. In the middle of a big square, we saw a guy selling fresh potato chips piled on a little wooden wheelbarrow. I don't remember if it was the smell or the general presentation that perked our interest, but a few of us decided we needed to try them. The guy scooped up a bunch of chips, dumped them into a clear cellophane baggie, squeezed a lemon over them and sprinkled on some salt. They were incredible...thick, crunchy, just the right balance of sour and salty. I don't even like potato chips normally, but when I do try them, it's because I'm looking for something like those chips. I have never eaten their equal.

Pork - Paris, 1993
Three of us traveled through parts of Europe directly after graduation. My friend Bretney's dad lives in Paris, and it was he who took us to eat at a little cafe in the Latin Quarter, I think. I hate to say it, but I don't remember exactly what I had to eat. I think it was an apricot-stuffed pork loin. Whatever it was, it was one of the best things I had ever tasted. I have mentioned this over the years -- " of the best meals ever..." -- and it wasn't until a few years ago that I found out that my friend Melissa had a less than good dining experience that night. Her meal was not tasty and she's had to listen to me rave about mine for more than a decade. Sorry Mel!

Mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli - Seattle, 1994-1995
I lived a few doors down from the 5 Spot on Queen Anne for a few years. I got home late one night, was too tired to cook and had only a little bit of cash on me. I went into the 5 Spot, sat at the bar and just ordered sides: their killer mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Hit the spot. I repeated this dining experience a few times and remembered to ask what's in their mashed potatoes. They make them with white pepper and some sour cream, and the gravy has a little bit of a kick too. The comforting and just a little feisty potatoes go great with some really good fresh broc.

Crab feed - Grayland, Wash, 2001
My friend Sheila had a bunch of people down for a weekend at her family's beach place in Grayland during the summer. A few people decided to find some crab for dinner, and bought a bunch of lives ones off the back of a boat in nearby Westport. All I remember was about 15 people crammed around the table, slurping and sucking. No one talked...everyone was too busy savoring.

McDonald's - Buzau, Romania, 2003
On my volunteer vacation, we flew into Bucharest and had to drive 5 hours to our destination of Barlad. Our leader, Mihaela, said that we'd stop at the McDonald's in Buzau as it had reliably clean bathrooms and food we were accustomed to. Most of the group wasn't thrilled about this meal option. In fact, several people didn't order anything besides something to drink, and were really really hungry by the time we got to Barlad. I'm pretty sure McDonald's was someplace they'd avoided for years in the States.

Different story on the way home. As soon as we left Barlad, we discussed whether or not Vasily, our driver, would stop at McDonald's, when should we try to ask him about this considering the language barrier, what we each would order, and on and on for 3 hours. McDonald's never tasted so good! We had several great meals during our trip, but sometimes there's nothing like the taste of good ol' US and A (which miraculously tastes the same in Buzau as it does at home!).

Saturday breakfast & Sunday nights - Seattle, 1970s-1980s
I have many fond memories of Saturday morning breakfast and Sunday evening snacks growing up. Every Saturday morning, my mom would make pancakes, waffles, or popovers, usually with scrambled eggs, and maybe some hashbrowns. It was good fuel for the room cleaning and other chores that immediately followed breakfast. I think my fondness and knack for making breakfast foods comes from her.

On Sundays, my mom usually cooked a substantial mid-day meal after church, so we weren't all that hungry in the evening. Instead of dinner, we'd have a light meal centered around popcorn. My dad would get out the old-timey shaker popcorn popper, and my mom set out fixins for Make Your Own Sandwiches. I usually ate popcorn and an apple with a mug of hot cocoa. There is nothing better than popcorn with a little oil and salt that's been shaken in the fireplace. Popcorn floating in cocoa's pretty good too.

Ray's signature polenta - West Seattle, 2003
Ray makes this amazing Polenta dish that wowed me early on. It's kind of like lasagne, except instead of noodles, he layers slabs of polenta in between homemade tomato sauce and bechamel sauce. Often there's some kind of really good sausage in there, and always mozzarella. It's the kind of dish that you want to keep eating even though you're stuffed. And it's even better the next day. Thankfully for our waistlines, we only have this occasionally, like when company comes over.

Shave Ice - Honolulu, 2004
I'm such a whitey that the sun and heat in Hawaii in August were a little overwhelming. We were walking around downtown Honolulu after Ray gave a talk to a local professional group. He was showing me his old haunts back when he lived there. By the time we got to Chinatown, I was a little delirious with the heat. We stopped in this tiny place and ordered some shave ice. I got two flavors...lemon and I think watermelon. This cold sweet stuff tasted unbelievable in that heat. It was a religious experience: I had found the Perfect Food.

After we got back home, Ray bought me my own shave ice machine and flavored syrups. I keep ear plugs on hand when I use it as I think it's a bit louder than what's safe for my little ol' cochleas.

Bakeman's turkey sandwich - Seattle, 2000-2005
Bakeman's is a little like the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame. You'd better know just what you want to order when you get to the front of the line. Their specialty, or at least the one I like best, is a plain old turkey sandwich. I usually ask for "dark on dark, mayo, lettuce, tomato" meaning dark meat on wheat bread. They roast their own turkeys, and I think bake their own bread. It's a little like sandwiches you'd get from Grandma: very basic, very good ingredients. This sandwich goes great with a sack of Cheetos and a soda.

I miss working near downtown! At least at lunchtime when a run to Bakeman's is in order.

Thanksgiving - West Seattle, 2005
Last year's Thanksgiving meal was the product of some very adept cooks. We had so much food, all of it amazing. I won't rehash since you can read about it on the 11/24/05 post. Looking forward to something similar in a few days though we'll be missing two of last year's chefs.

1 comment:

jana said...

What about the best jar of Ragu and shell pasta EVER that we made in two hot pots in Nash 205. The year was 1990 right after winter break. I'll never forget it. Ragu has disappointed me ever since.