Monday, February 9, 2009
Have you ever had a pivotal food moment?
Pivotal food moments seldom arrive with warning, always sudden and electrifying, excavating a memory or sensory moment or even a DNA link to a past life spreading clarity as a shattering dream can before deliciously waking out of it. A sudden taste, jolting you into the moment like no yoga pose possibly can, slowing breath, savoring five places on your tongue while your imagination and heart race with possibilities. For my 16th birthday my parents took me to the Hotel Mac in Point Richmond for a special celebration dinner. That is a huge sentence holding untold awe and wonder as I have six siblings and they love to eat don’t get me wrong, I mean if you were not quick at the dinner table it could get ugly, but my parents would no sooner have thought that they would want or appreciate a dinner at the Hotel Mac than a sharp whack with my mother's favorite mode of discipline, the vacuum cleaner hose. We were not ever in the chips too very much and meals out consisted of breakfast at the Nut House where Black Angus is with my granparents when someone had a first communion or maybe the A and W when we went to the drive in movies on Contra Costa, all nine of us in the station wagon for a Saturday hamburger and root beer float before hand. They knew I would though. I had been making soups and stews and lasagna and baked eggs with maple syrup and cakes and cookies since I could reach the stove. The only present I ever wanted for Christmas, year after year, was an EZ Bake Oven, and thanks to the Army Reserve, I always got it, along with some oranges, walnuts in the shell and a popcorn ball in my stocking. I had had moments of taste clarity in the past when I would accidentally put two or three things together and think Mmmmmm, yes that would work, once again the wheels turning but that night at the Hotel Mac, before I had butchered so much cow and pig so as to only be overwhelmed by the stench and stickiness of the blood up to my armpits to steer me clear of meat for fear of retching at the smell or texture in my mouth, oh long before that, I had my very first taste of filet mignon with béarnaise sauce. Oh the haunting acid of the champagne vinegar to cut through the eggs and butter, the reduction so perfectly fine and the tarragon fresh chopped and tossed in at the last second. How the filet, char grilled to a salty crust, melted in my mouth and thrilled my throat no end as the perfectly complex sauce stealthily followed stealing my heart and incurring such longing in my soul that to this day that memory is my finish benchmark having no sauce leave my sight for others to devour without achieving that balance of acid to velvet on the entire surface of my willing tongue. mmmmmmm