It's all about the Experience

Natalia, of the wonderful blog From Our Kitchen, long ago (in fact, I'm probably the last food blogger out there now!) tagged me for the meme, "Five Things to Eat Before You Die" for the Food Blogger's Guide to the Globe. When I looked around to see other blogger's answers (you can see the entire list here on Melissa's fantastic blog, The Traveler's Lunchbox) and began thinking about about foods that I would want to recommend to others, I found that my list was composed of foods that weren't only spectacular in their own right, but centered mostly around the experience I had had while I enjoyed them. To me, it seemed that the atmosphere that surrounded my consumption of them, even just the time and the place and the feelings that were evoked by my memories of them, and the people that I shared them with, that made them special and stand out in my mind. So, without further adieu, here is my list of Five Things to Eat Before You Die...or at least, five experiences I'd love for you to have in your lifetime...

#1. Eat a Palisade peach, from Palisade, Colorado. Yes, they have peaches in Colorado (wine too, actually, and some of it is quite good). Drive out to the countryside in Palisade and choose yourself a local peach farmer who picked the fruit themselves and has been doing it for years and years, and will hand you entire peaches to taste and enjoy while you determine if you'd like to buy them. Feel the weight of the peach in your hands. Notice that it's almost too large to fit in a single palm. Notice how beautiful it is, how beautiful the entire box is; without a single bruise or blemish, and with a full covering of soft, gentle fuzz. Notice that you can tell that it's perfectly ripe, right now, just by the weight of it, the smell of it, and the way it feels in your hand - even without having to squeeze it.

If at all possible, do this while sitting on the porch of your childhood home, lazing around in your pajamas and staring out at the empty fields behind your house while remembering the times you and your brother adventured together when you were young - braving the waters, the dirt, the bugs, the treehouse and the cornfields off in the distance. Feel the warmth of the morning sun on your shoulders and the cool, crisp desert air kissing your skin. Let the juices run down your arms and over your lips, make your fingers sticky, and tumble down into the paper towel on your lap. Do this slowly, languorously, with as much slurping and licking your fingers as possible, and without a care in the world if someone will see you.

#2. Go to a bar in Spain. Any bar that will offer you a selection of tapas - usually there will be large legs of their exquisitely cured ham, or jamon (I do speak some Spanish, so pretend there are accents in the appropriate places for the duration of this paragraph...I just don't know how to do them on html!), hanging above the bar. Don't go to a fancy bar. Just choose one where you see lots of locals. Do this around 8 or 9 PM, as things don't get started until late here. Do this with someone you love talking to (always travel with someone you love to talk to!). Order a plate of jamon iberico. Since it's difficult (if not almost ridiculously expensive) to get a taste of this wonderful ham in the United States, just the feeling of being rebellious will add to the flavor of the meat if you're from here. Watch the bartender slice razor thin slices of your jamon from an entire hog leg held in a vice behind the bar, hooves and all, before he or she brings you your treat. Add to this a bit of quince paste, a little manchego viejo, some Spanish olives and perhaps a glass of house wine or sherry from Jerez.

After you've sipped your wine and tasted the tender, slightly musty and salty meat, look around the bar. Notice the people and the conversations happening around you. Relish in your own friends and the conversations you share with them. Take your time to do this. Just taste, sip, and talk for as long as you can. Follow this experience with a few hours of dinner and conversation before spending the night away dancing at the various night clubs that surround you. Ward off your hangover the next day by dipping hot, crispy, slightly greasy churros into a steaming pool of chocolate and enjoying a lengthy cup of excellent cafe con leche.

#3. Eat freshly caught halibut, pulled from the icy cold waters off the shores of Alaska only hours earlier, by you or someone you care about. Go to Seward or Homer, Alaska, and book yourself a charter boat. Choose your captain carefully, and you'll pleasantly find your deckhands are almost always enjoyable and helpful. Dress for the weather, taking all precautions to avoid getting seasick (trust me on this one), and spend 8 hours in the crisp Alaskan air deep-sea fishing and gazing out at the mountains, which actually do touch the sea. Listen to the seabirds and watch for whales, bears and other wildlife in the ecosytems surrounding you. Notice the ice-cold brilliant blue of the glaciers slowly cutting jagged scars into the mountains. You'll more than likely catch your limit (2) of this mild, lovely fish and while the younger, smaller ones taste better, the large ones are also quite delicious (and are far more impressive a catch).

When you feel a slight tug, jerk up gently, and start reeling in. Feel your muscles rebel against the weight of the fish (which can be up to 500 lbs!), the tension on the line, and the tons of water beneath you as you coax your fish upward. It will begin to fight as it reaches closer to the surface - so hang on! Once your fish is on the boat, and your muscles (or at least the deckhand's, or perhaps, Dad's) are spent, revel in the glory of winning this fight. When you get home, take a fresh fillet - cut it into chunks, dip it in beer batter made with a local Alaskan brew, and deep fry it until it's golden brown. Fish this fresh will literally melt in your mouth; tasting gently of ocean breezes, exhausted muscles, and cold, deep water.

#4. Taste fois gras with a splash of a French Sauternes...in the same mouthful. Certainly, there are issues with fois gras, and perhaps you do not agree with it, and then, this experience will just have to be passed by. But if you have never tried it, do. Even if it is just once. First take a small nibble of the fois gras; notice the silky-smooth texture of it, roll it around on your tongue tasting the mouthfeel of the slightly salty and fatty goodness. Then, take a second bite, combining it with just a sip of Sauternes - and let that sweetness cut through the fat and salt and balance out the fois gras and explode with flavor. Repeat, repeat, repeat...slowly and seductively until every bit is gone from your plate.

If possible, of course, do this in where everything is freshest and the wine is available, but it is also quite enjoyable to do it at the Vista Grill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on your birthday, out to a very nice dinner on a veranda with someone who loves you very much. Laugh with your French waiter about how odd it is to be eating fois gras, with Sauternes, in Mexico, per his suggestion, but how it is perfect, nonetheless. End your meal with a taste of 1921 Crema de Tequila, Mexico's decadent take on Baileys Irish Cream. Watch the sun go down over ocean and love every minute of your time there, along with every mouthful of deliciously fresh and gourmet food that follows and how every time you get up to go to the restroom, they refold your napkin for you.

#5. Visit Thailand and taste Khao Dome, or coconut sticky rice in banana leaves, handmade by a street vendor. Open up the banana leaf to find a delicious rectangle of sticky rice scented with coconut milk and filled with soft chucks of banana (or plantain). Do this while trekking around the historic city of Ayutthaya, near Bangkok, and marvel at the stunning ruins of this once majestic city. Revel in the brightly colored silks, gigantic Buddha statues, and the feeling of seeing something so ancient and steeped with cultural history. Let yourself feel the sadness of the various tragedies that surround you - that so much was lost when it was destroyed, including the majority of the art and literature, and that thieves and would-be money-makers have chopped off the heads of many Buddhas and stolen them. But also feel the power that comes from such a unique place and full of so many interesting things to see. My new friend, Karen, who has a wonderful blog called Ramblingspoon.com, shares lots of stories about her travels and adventures in Thailand and Cambodia and all kinds of delicious food with her readers, and helped me remember what this sweet snack was called (she has also opened my eyes to many new blogs featuring yummy foods from this area of Asia)...Thanks, Karen!

And thank you, Natalia, for tagging me. Since I've been out of the loop a bit, I have no idea who has or has not done this meme, so if you haven't and you're visiting here, please join in and let us in on your secret knowledge of delicious delicacies you've tried!

14 comments from you:

Anonymous said...

Nice! [Beautiful post.]

Pirikara said...

I've randomly surfed through 7 food blogs in a row and I find yours the most interesting. There's something wholesomely American about the food you write about. I find it fascinating.

Nerissa said...

I like the way you did this post, hun. A lot more creative than mine LOL You could always widen the option of the halibut fishing and eating to my coast as well *s* just as lovely an experience to be sure. After all we are just south of Alaska. :D

michelle said...

Why, thank you, Karina!

Pirikara, I like your pork bun! Thank you for visiting and your nice comments. I hope to see you again sometime!

Nerissa, Ah, you're right, dear. I'm sure that your coast yields wonderful halibut also, and just as delicious - I've just only fished for halibut in Alaska!

Anonymous said...

I am painfully jealous of the super fresh halibut! It's so great that you have that opportunity.

Anonymous said...

hi Michelle!
Very nice list(!) sounds all delicious...
impressive fish + I love your nr. 5 - now I just HAVE to visit Thailand...=)

michelle said...

Anna, I've been really lucky as far as halibut is concerned - my dad has been living in Kenai, AK for the last 16 years! But any other coast (as Nerissa mentioned) where you can go fishing for it, would taste just as fresh!

Julia, Hello!! LB has been giving me crap for posting that picture of him because he doesn't like his hair (!) but it was the only one I had of a big halibut! You shold definitely visit Thailand - it's one of my favorite places I've ever been, by far!

Natalia said...

Mmmm, good choices! Colorado peaches almost made my list. They were next, but I opted for something less healthy. Glad you could post your choices!

Paz said...

I love your list. Love all the photos. the peaches made my mouth water.


Julie said...

I absolutely agree with you that everything surrounding our tasting of some foods becomes as important as the food itself. And tasting that food again is a way to invoke all those memories.

Great list -- my favorite is the halibut. My mouth waters at the thought of halibut that fresh and the sights surrounding it sound magnificent.

Also, tell LB not to worry, he looks adorable in that picture. And BTW, that is one BIG fish he is holding.

michelle said...

Hi Natalia, I'm just glad that someone else has heard of Colorado peaches!

Hi Paz, mmmm...now my mouth is watering just thinking of getting to have them again this week! We don't get peaches like that here in OR!

Hi Julie, Ah, great point about getting to relive the memories by tasting the foods again! I'll pass on the words to LB - he'll be happy! I think that fish was about 80 lbs, but I'll have to ask him again because I don't remember.

Paz said...

Emmm... If you feel up to it, I'd like to tag you for another meme - The BUTTERFLY EFFECT meme. You can find it on my blog. Although I'd love to read your comments, if you don't feel like participating, I'll understand. ;-)


michelle said...

Hi Paz!
I just returned from a week in Colorado for my sister's wedding. I'd be happy to do another meme - thank you for the tag! I'll get to it as soon as I get settled back into things!

Best, Michelle

Nerissa said...

Looking forward to hearing more from you soon :D