I’ve been married to the same man for thirty-one years today. He occasionally reminds me that when we met, he knew that I was a vegetarian and made the assumption that I ate healthy foods. He was very surprised that was not the case. He continues to be surprised.
Taste is one of our five senses. Joined with other senses of sound, sight, smell, and touch, this means that eating and drinking have the capacity of reaching into us with their sound, appearance, aromas, textures, and tastes for either pleasure or discomfort. I value the pleasure that food and drink bring us, perhaps more because of something my mom said about twenty years ago, three years before she died.
Mom had been relatively healthy, but had Sjogren’s syndrome, a non-life threatening disease of dryness. She had always taken pleasure in eating, but lamented that she could no longer enjoy a piece of freshly buttered toast. She encouraged me to enjoy eating food while I was still able. I didn’t hear this as foreboding, but as a caution to enjoy while I could and not to take anything for granted, even the simple pleasure of eating a piece of buttered toast.
Cheetos and grapes are my current favorite evening snack. I’ve usually thought of Cheetos as forbidden, or at least undesirable, junk food, but (for some reason, maybe Covid?), about six months ago, I began to buy them. Eating Cheetos slowly, savoring the cheesiness and crunchiness of each one, with an occasional fresh grape popped into my mouth for moisture, has become a great evening pleasure for me. I’m not recommending this practice, just confessing.
Several years ago, Paul and I spent two weeks in Brittany, France. We all know that French food is among the best in the world, but I was surprised by the intense affection that I developed for their mussels. We had rented a car, stopped for two or three days in one coastal town, then drove to another, visiting six communities. Each place had their own version of mussels, each one better than the last. Several versions had delicious blends of wine and herbs. My overriding favorite involved a gorgonzola cream sauce. The usual accessory of frites, skinny French fries, completed the perfection.
Another outstanding taste that I recall was hummus in Palestine. It was served frequently and always delicious, more so than I’d eaten at home. It is such a simple food, mostly chickpeas and olive oil, so perhaps it was the freshness of the ingredients, each produced locally, that made it so memorable.
A memory that is more than fifty years old remains deeply embedded in me and my tastebuds — baked stuffed lobster on New Year’s Eve. Newly married the first time, perhaps our first new year’s as a married couple, we invited about eight friends to our house to celebrate. I’d planned several courses, one per hour, with baked stuffed lobster scheduled for 11:00 pm. I stuffed the lobster with scallops in a buttery Ritz cracker mix, which I still love. The evening ended with sumptuous desserts and champagne at midnight.
Among my favorite beverages are Cappuccino or coffee as served in Europe with hot milk in the morning. Recently, at home, I am enjoying cucumbers, fresh mint, and lemon in a Koolaid-style fat pitcher of ice water. The water can be replaced and the same cucumbers, mint, and lemon continue to offer lovely flavor with fresh water.
There is a particular ice cream flavor not found in the USA, available in Greece. During a week on the island of Agistri in 2019, the staff there quickly came to recognize me and my preference for this particular flavor, which tasted of a fruit native to Greece. They gladly served it to me at my lounge chair with beachside service. Can anything taste better than that?
I’ve been a vegetarian for more than fifty years. In many ways, I eat healthy foods. Some foods are always on my ‘eat’ list, such as dark chocolate. That doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I ever eat. It just means that I always seek the most delicious ways to eat it and, valuing my health, I intentionally limit the quantities that I eat. For example, right now, two of my favorite chocolate choices each are from Wegman’s. One is ‘cocoa dusted dark chocolate covered almonds’. I might eat two or three a day. The other is dark chocolate bark with cherries and almonds. I probably eat a small piece every day, as if it were a vitamin.
After heart surgery about three years ago, I was told to avoid sugar for six weeks, because it would increase the chance of infection in my sternum as it healed. Of course, I didn’t want to take any chances, so for six weeks I imagined the chocolate I would soon eat. Several friends indulged me and, six weeks later, I opened a box of dark chocolates from a local sweet shop and savored every piece, one or two each day.
So many tastes, so little time! They are among the simple pleasures with which we are blessed every day.
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