Our Eating Lives features stories about how food, cooking, and eating have shaped who we are and how we live.
Loving food is about new things. It’s about experimenting. It’s about sending things back and throwing things out. It’s about oversalting the soup and undercooking the beans. It’s about accidentally drinking the spoiled milk and forgetting to put the ice cream back in the freezer. It’s about buying a monstera deliciosa, disliking it, and tossing it. It’s about letting your cast iron pot rust, spending a few hours reseasoning it, and for at least a day afterward unable to wash away the Crisco from your hands.
It’s about understanding when the tripe is too chewy and when it’s just so. It’s about knowing those restaurants in which to order the intestines and where to get sweetbreads. It’s about calling ahead and being told there are no seats. It’s about having your go-to spot for steak tartare to satisfy your craving for raw meat. It’s about knowing how to make a béarnaise for your fries.
It’s about adding cream of tartar to egg whites when you beat them and vinegar to the water when you boil the potatoes. It’s about putting too many peppercorns into your chicken Adobo and having to eat them whole.
It’s about the mold growing on your pickles as they sit on a shelf, fermenting, in the intense August humidity.
It’s about the bread that doesn’t rise.
Loving food is about your whole being. It’s a human experience. Perhaps it’s a perfect human experience: it combines a basic human need with an immensely pleasurable one. And knowledge. And storytelling. And family and culture. And the past and the future.
Loving food is about cleaning out the fridge to make room for new things. It’s about feeling guilty over not composting your bio. It’s about the smell and the feel and the sight. It’s about ingredients.
And spices. And fat. And freshness. And fermentation.
Loving food is about running your own test kitchen and making it just so. It’s about not following the rules, but adapting them. It’s about making something because you want to taste it exactly as your mother made it.
It’s about discovering that one flavor that unexpectedly reminds you of a moment when you were 8.
It’s about recreating something you love and hating something you create.
It’s a biological process which transfers the experience of flavor to your whole being and nourishment to your whole body.
It’s about bringing your garlic press to show and tell in pre-school, and watching cooking shows on PBS on Saturdays.
It’s about loving your friend’s coleslaw made with cabbage picked that morning from her garden in Denver.
Loving food is a beef heart on a skewer waiting to be thrown onto the tabletop grill.
It’s about dipping bread into cheese and white wine, and sopping up the cooking liquid from the pot of mussels because it’s too good. It’s about shucking oysters that you bought in the market that morning for lunch on Sunday afternoon in Rouen.
It’s about running out on a bill that you intended to pay but, after 30 minutes, no one came by to take.
It’s about the difference between a Croque Monsieur and a Croque Madame and how to make a mustard vinaigrette. It’s about the nutmeg in your béchamel. It’s about that one wooden spoon that you use to make dough.
It’s about the smile and the faces of people with whom you share. It’s about the satisfaction of having eaten a meal. It’s about the simple pleasure of a cheese plate and a glass of wine for dinner in the summertime.
It’s about cured and smoked meats hanging from string, salted and drying. Loving food is about smuggling contraband across international borders.
Loving food is about dreaming of leaving it all behind and opening a 10-seat bistro. It’s about the desire to buy a farm, raise sheep and make cheese.
It’s about breaking down a chicken and collecting the fat when you roast a duck. It’s about crispy skin. It’s about ordering more noodles and shishiso peppers at the ramen bar.
It’s about kimbap, pho, hong xiao rou, and chicken feet. It’s about not being able to resist the Korean pork cutlet place down the street from your hotel in Vancouver. It’s about the fragments of duck bone in the stuffing of your bao that you have to spit out. It’s about deboning an entire chicken and stuffing it with sticky rice and Chinese sausage.
It’s about the butter croissants, and the pork chops, and the carnitas, and the burritos, and the dim sum, and the hand-crafted chocolate, and the Italian grinder, and the 18 course meal you ate in San Francisco. It’s about, after years of looking, finally finding three bottles of that wine in a random liquor store in Chicago and purchasing all three.
Loving food is a window into the culture, soul, and rhythm of life. It’s about experiencing that moment when a flavor captures all of you and won’t let go.
It’s about licking your plate with your parents in a tiny ma and pop restaurant in Arles because the sauce on your rabbit was that good. It’s about talking about licking that plate for many years after, even as the memories of the restaurant fade.
It’s about dark chocolate covered brownies from Hawaii and unexpected cookies from your friend in Massachusetts. It’s about burnt caramels and scorched coffee.
It’s about eating corned beef in Chicago, smoked meat in Montréal, and pastrami in New York.
It’s about knowing when to crush, when to mince, and when to slice the garlic. It’s about the whole cloves of garlic still in the paper in your dish at the late-night Vietnamese restaurant in Houston.
It’s about foie gras and boiled seafood on Christmas day in Brittany. And Sauerbraten on Christmas day on Long Island. And frying latkes during Hanukkah in Brooklyn. And eating potato kugel on Thanksgiving because that’s what you’ve always done.
It’s about figuring out they made the bread pudding with leftover pita, and the red wine sauce on your short ribs that looks like melted chocolate.
Loving food is about identity and learning to communicate. It’s about the moment. And the moment over time. It’s a reminder of the love and hate we experience. And faltering memories of the past. And the identities we construct. And being human… it’s about being human.