Welcome ...

One day I was contemplating the advice I had been sharing with hundreds, if not thousands, of people over the years. I decided it was time to put my experiences into the written word and hope that you find as much pleasure in my adventures as I have ... and maybe, just maybe, if your travels cross some of the same places that mine have, perhaps my words of wisdom will make your journey that much more fun and exciting.

So whether it's local restaurants or exotic destinations ... as my Uncle Jim described me, I am the "intrepid traveler", always ready for an adventure, whether traveling solo or leading the way ... you never know what will pop into my head and come out on the keyboard.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Meals Are Memories

There is a quote that says "We do not remember days, we remember moments." and it's one of my favorites but if I was allowed creative license, I would rewrite it in order to personalize it and say "I remember moments because of the meals I've enjoyed."

When I was a little girl, my Mom hosted these fabulous dinner parties pretty much every Saturday night.  There were no restrictions as to who would be there, but after the word got out at what a fabulous cook she was, everyone vied for an invitation!  Whether it was a co-worker, boss and his wife, even a Brazilian businessman who was in town, all were welcome.  The expectations were good food, good wine and good conversation.  There were no other children, I was the only one.  I wasn't banished to read or watch tv in my room.  I was welcome at the table just as everyone else was.  Who would have realized back then what an impact it would have on who I would become as an adult.

I write this simply because I was inspired as someone new came to my house for dinner tonight.  What was on the menu?   Eggplant and zucchini parmesan, angel hair pasta with home made sauce and meatballs, and garlic bread.  Dessert was a modified version of my Grandma's apple crisp and because I didn't have any oatmeal in the house, well not the normal cookie version of it, I had to improvise and used pecans which I lightly toasted, in order to give the topping some texture.  Everything was home made, but I didn't do it to impress them, it was about nurturing.  As you see, even when I'm home alone I still cook this way for myself.  I love it.  I nurture myself, which is important when you spend months at a time working on a cruise ship.  There you are taken care of however we don't have the ability to have special requests nor cook for ourselves and it's the same menu every 7 days.

So here is the thing.  As I mentioned, Mom was a great cook.  All I did was make dessert and do the Martha Stewart table decorations.   Over the years, it stayed the same.  Oh, I'd do the dishes, don't get me wrong ... but why mess up a great thing.  When I moved to Nashville, Mom asked me what I was going to do for food?  Ah, there was always mac n cheese, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Yes, my friends, this is the truth.  However, times have changed.

I've found a true love of cooking.  It's creative, it's nurturing, it's fun, it's mind-emptying, it's intuitive.  You use your senses ... all 6 of them, and yes, I said all 6 of them.  It's not just about what the recipe tells you to do.  And a side note here, I don't follow directions particularly well.  I'll check out the ingredients, if I have them all, great.  If not, I improvise.  If I alter a recipe, I make notes.  Well what am I saying, "if", it's more like "when".  Enter my baked brie with fig chutney wrapped in philo pastry as a prime example.  I found some random recipe but didn't have the particular jam that it called for so I used the fig chutney and baked it until the brie oozed out.  My friend Brian was here, watching me put it together, and was completely grossed out by my concoction!  Well let me tell you, when it came out of the oven and I convinced him to take a bite, I swear he totally body-blocked the dish until it was empty and he'd eaten the whole thing.  What a great memory for me ... and ever since then, Brian never questions what I'm making or what ingredients go into it.  However he continues to come to my house early to keep me company while I cook, but secretly I think he's taking notes and taking pictures.  Right B?

My Grandma always taught me to make sure that whatever I was serving was color coordinated on the plate.  No one wanted to eat from a plate where everything was the same color, one needed to have their appetites stimulated not just the sense of smell or taste.  The mind is so powerful it can tell us what to anticipate before our tastebuds actually get the pleasure of deciding if it's sweet, sour, salt, bitter or savory.  Our nose detects the scents and gives more life to the smell of the food but no matter what, smell, taste or scent, that meal can immediately return us to a specific place in our memory.  It's a form of teleportation or a walk down memory lane, or even reliving something happy from our childhood.  But no matter how you look at it, it's important to eat until you are full, savor each bite and honor those who are sharing the meal with you.  Raise your glasses in a toast to your good fortune, the chef, Mother Nature for providing the ingredients and bon appetite.

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