What is it that makes food and drink such an important part of our human experience? It can evoke powerful emotions, trigger long dormant memories, or act as a balm to sooth the soul. Think about the comfort that a steaming hot mug of coffee or tea can bring. How about the curative effect of chicken soup or broth when we aren’t feeling well, and nothing says celebration like a table laid heavy with delicious food and drink surrounded by loved ones. Food can also create a profound sense of place, which is what I have been thinking about lately.
Food, drink and travel always (happily!) seem to go hand in hand for me. As I begin to plan my upcoming trip to Paris, Granada and Barcelona, I find myself getting excited about some of the favorite foods that I will enjoy at each of these special places. In some funny way food is almost as important to me as the architecture, history or weather. It is an unmistakable part of what makes each destination a unique and memorable experience. When I think about the places that I choose to return to again and again…they always have wonderful food memories attached to them.
In Paris I will enjoy duck confit salad, shawarma picked up on Rue des Rosiers as the ultimate late night snack, and the best roast chicken, with potatoes which become golden brown perfection cooking slowly in rich drippings. In Granada there will be fragrant lamb tagine, hearty seafood paella, and many sunny afternoons spent enjoying tapas and Alhambra Cerveza at my favorite cafe on the Genil River. My trip will finish in Barcelona with some crispy fried sardines and a chilled glass of wine, and perhaps some succulent Galician style octopus with potatoes and paprika.
After a difficult year with my dear Moms illness and passing, my trip to Europe this fall is a pilgrimage of the heart to some of my favorite places, to enjoy some of my favorite things. I will be indulging in more then my fair share of good food and drink, as this trip is one of healing and reflection, but also affirmation and celebration of life. To experience joy in its many forms is to be truly alive. Enjoying delicious food in beautiful surroundings is one of life’s greatest joys for me. This need not be an expensive exercise, some of the best meals I have ever eaten came from street vendors, markets, or small local joints discovered by accident. The best pasta I had in Rome came from a takeout that was tucked away on a lonely side street, selected because of the huge line of local construction workers outside. I devoured the heaping container of amazing handmade pasta that I paid a whopping 4 euros for, sitting on the Spanish Steps watching Rome go by. Now that is value!
Throughout Moms illness, one of the strongest instincts I had was to cook for her…cook like there was no tomorrow. Whenever I was home, I would make all of my Moms favorite meals, most from my Grandmas recipes. I would make weeks worth of extra food and fill the freezer. Something about providing joy through nourishment and food memory seemed like the most loving thing I could do. When Mom was extremely ill, she had not really eaten much of anything for almost 2 weeks. As soon as I arrived, I got to work making my Grandmas noodle soup, a favorite of Moms. She managed to eat 2 bowls, and spoke about how much it reminded her of growing up and happy times. Talk about soul food.
I look forward to “feeding” my soul in Europe this fall, and know that I will savor those moments spent enjoying favorite flavors under the warm Spanish sun, daydreaming about my next adventures.
A few pictures of some delicious food I have enjoyed on the road. Bon appetit!