Monday, November 9, 2009

2000: Montevideo

I love to remember this one.  I was backpacking sola in Uruguay and had gone as far as Punta del Este - a beautiful but deserted-for-the-season resort town where I could hardly afford a thing. I had a few mishaps including accidentally hitchhiking a ride from a whiskey-downing Argentine [another story altogether, which by the way also ended in a memorable meal here (sans the drunken Argentine)].  Anyway, I was on my way back through to Argentina and had just exactly enough money for a night at the hostel and a ferry ticket the next morning. I knew I could count on the absolutely amazing and wonderful complimentary breakfast that I had gorged myself on the week before: fresh crusty baguettes served alongside bowls of butter and dulce de leche. However, I didn't have a single cent for dinner and planned on suffering through the hunger until breakfast.

Instead, I happened to meet a solo traveling Italian who was going to make some dinner and asked if I wanted to join him and another hosteler. Um - ok! He showed me step-by-easy-step how to make Spaghetti Carbonara. I'm sure there's many different ways, but his version will always be the *right* one as far as I'm concerned. We sauteed some diced pancetta while the noodles cooked - a small pitcher of beaten egg, cream and parmesan ready on the side. Immediately after draining the pasta we threw it in the hot pan and poured the egg mixture in, tossing it all quickly with some tongs. We finished it off with some more parmesan, salt and a healthy amount of fresh cracked pepper [key ingredient he said].  Afterwards the other traveler treated us all to helado.  To be expecting to skip dinner altogether [something I don't think I have ever done in my life] and then to be treated to such a meal!

I wanted to buy more of these plates too, but had to take a picture instead.

*sidenote: funny how different it all would have been in this relatively recent world of debit cards...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

*1980s: Ophir Mill Ranch, Nevada

This was the original idea for this blog. An employment application to a specialty grocery store included the request for a "favorite food memory." One of my most favorites had recently come to mind as I washed a peach over the kitchen sink. Here is the mini essay that made me realize my head is filled with such 'food' memories:

I grew up fifteen minutes from my grandparents’ ranch and spent a considerable amount of my childhood there. There was a spot down near the river called simply the picnic area where we would celebrate all the national holidays, a wedding or two and many a random Sunday afternoon. Invariably, my Grandpa JohnD would enlist all the older cousins and uncles in helping with the lamb – roasted all day in an underground pit. It, along with the potato salads, orange sodas and other fare were always spread out on a big old wagon bed that rested in the tall grass. We sat around in those old woven beach chairs [you know the kind?] swatting away the flies and listening to the grownups and their stories. My favorite part – and this is where this morning’s peach comes in – was after the meal when the homemade ice cream was set out. It had been ground out by hand in a big salted tub, always made with the freshest summer peaches. I can still remember the big portions slopped into paper bowls – you had to eat it quickly before it melted into a peachy soup. Soft, creamy, speckled with bits of peach and enjoyed under the cottonwoods – it’s a memory I’ll never forget.

[am I really sharing this picture? look to the left. that's how I remember my Grandpa: his cowboy hat and pearl snap shirt]

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2001: Oaxaca

My friends might tell you that my life moves from one great food experience to another. Certain meals: the food, the atmosphere and the company remain as fresh as the day I enjoyed them.

This one took place in a small town in southern Mexico. I was there traveling with my friend Kendra after college. We had started our trip volunteering with our church at a women's shelter in Baja. The director of that shelter gave us some items to take down to a former tenant/friend of the shelter who had moved back with her family down in Oaxaca. Reina and her two sweet little girls [who I imagine must be out of high school by now!] met us at the bus stop and we were invited to their home for lunch. Reina cooked and sold homemade tortillas for a living. How quaint we had thought! Entering their home, however, we were humbled at the apparent poverty they lived in. The family of four shared one cluttered tiny room; the kitchen was outside in the back, under a corrugated metal roof. I'm not sure if there was a bathroom.

We chatted about her girls and about the shelter up in Baja as she rolled out some fresh masa tortillas for us and cooked them up on her comal - in this case a metal garbage barrel. She served them with fresh chopped tomatoes, cilantro, salt and a little lime. The absolute simplicity of such a delicious meal was ... I can't quite think of the word I want to use: astounding? humbling? so pleasant? Either way, I haven't forgotten the meal or our sweet, hospitable hostess.