No Dark Chocolate Lavender Mallow confection touted by Anthony Bourdain can ever compare to the banana splits my sister and I created ourselves by smothering chocolate ice cream with hot fudge, marshmallows, pineapple topping, whipped cream, sprinkles, and maraschino cherries (yes, plural). No gourmet Parsley-Crouton Omelet with Gruyére tastes as good as the hard-boiled egg people assembled on my plate by my Grandpa’s hands. (That’s me on the right. I was never a morning person, can you tell?) These foods were good, beyond good–there is, I think, no truly good food outside of New York. But it’s not the food itself that creates the pleasure, it’s not the sugar or salt that activates the pleasure centers of the brain. It’s the company, the memories, the surroundings. It’s the sounds of car horns honking on the Long Island Expressway. It’s the oil paintings of onions and whitefish hanging on the wall. It’s the silver-trimmed 25th anniversary plate on the shelf over the washing machine. It’s the Barbie dolls in hand-made crocheted couture parading down the room divider runway that separates the kitchen from the living room. All of these things make the astoundingly delicious foods oh so much tastier. All of these things for me are gone. So I will likely never have a perfectly delicious, utterly guilt-free, eternally memorable morsel in my mouth again.
Edible Memories: Food and Pleasure
I’m sorry so many of my posts are downers this month. I make no pretense of having a sophisticated palette. When I think of pleasure in relation to food, it all goes back to childhood and my grandparents. Sweet and savory, all served up at Grandma’s kitchen table. No meal of Foie Gras-Banana Bread Terrine presented art-like on the plate at a five-star restaurant can compete with fresh-baked bagels and bialys smothered in smooth cream cheese, covered with bits of melt-on-your-tongue lox (the good kind, with loads of salt, not the watered-down Nova Scotia lox), with sides of tangy pickled herring, green olives, and just to be a tiny bit healthy, slices of cucumber and tomato, served on Grandma’s plastic dishes.