28 December, 2010

Secret Ingredients.

Sometimes there aren’t proper words—or perhaps I’m just lacking the ability to string enough good ones together—to describe one’s physiological response to an outstanding meal.

The Herbfarm: One of the 9 courses of dinner
It can be something bordering on euphoria, akin to a powerful drug driving recklessly through your bloodstream. You’re warm and full, heavy yet light-headed. Hyper-cognizant of all senses. You feel healthy and nourished yet unabashedly hedonistic. You are a part of the earth, the plants, the animals you just consumed. You feel one with all. And you aren’t the least bit embarrassed or timid being so enraptured by comestibles.

There are many who seek out culinary bliss. Like the addict looking to reclaim the feeling of that first high, they are not content to just let it happen… to simply know it will happen again for those who are patient. No. They are not patient. They are, in fact, thrill-seekers, not merely content to wait around and experience things naturally, but in fact, go to great lengths and great distances to find that next gastronomical high.

For me, however, embarking on such a culinary mission has often been beat down by disappointment. A good number of my most remarkable meals have been unsuspecting, completely surprising, and the type you are unable to recreate, even with the best of circumstances, and with great culinary prowess. That is because the ingredients so often spill over into the non-culinary kind. The right dinner companions. Atmosphere. Personal mood. Sights, sounds, and smells. A long wait building a voracious appetite. A foreign country. The clink of tableware. The host. The weather. The time of day. Ah, so many variables make for a culinary experience. They could all be right save one, and the meal will not be as extraordinary.

It’s a wonder we try at all.

But, like that next high to a drug user, we know what we are in for when we, ever so occasionally, hit the jackpot. We are often willing to go to great lengths, dole out amazing fistfuls of bills, and endure many mediocre meals in between, in order to experience one such indescribable, achingly beautiful meal again.

And sometimes, it happens, right before our eyes. Nothing but a really phenomenal cup of coffee, and a croissant so flaky you end up wiping half of it off the table afterward.

It lurks. We look for it, but it is elusive. We let go, and there it is.

Those with an appetite for such pleasures know that it’s one of the few moments that make life less wretched.

One might even call it transcendent.

(This post is dedicated to Rick's son James, age 10, who asked me last weekend "Do you ever eat something really, really slow, because it tastes so good, you want to make it last?" Why, yes. Yes, I do, honey.)


  1. I can only wish i could write like you. Great read! :)

  2. Beautiful, and so true. Those peak eating experiences are elusive, and so often involve foods that are utterly simple.

  3. A flavorable post! I agree if only I could write like you. xo

  4. What a beautiful post and I mean that in every sense!

  5. Like some said, Can I borrow your writing pen/ keyboard for a few months :D ? Those exquisite moments are ones I never want to end.

  6. What an absolutely stunning piece of writing, Jackie. Bravo!


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