Today is my goddaughter and namesake, Julia Kristin King’s 21st birthday. In honour of that auspicious occasion I wanted to post a commentary on how food is such a rich part of our memory banks. Traditions form part of that, with classic dishes at holiday time and family favourites forming a part of your young palate. As you grow and travel, more flavours are added, and the experiences you share around a table throughout your life become a very important part of who you are. If you’re like me and other gourmands, those memories become something you cherish and work to share as a passion. My trip to South Africa many years ago when I first met Julia and reunited with her mom, one of my first travel companions, is one of my favourite experiences for many reasons, food being a major one.
South Africa is a nation rich with food history, being a conglomerate of so many cultures. Its position as a central point in the Dutch spice trade in the 17th and 18th centuries enhanced its exotic nature, as ships brought all manner of foodstuffs to the settlers who had come with their own cultures. Europeans from the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Germany came and contributed their food and wine cultures full of cream sauces, stews, roasted meat and more. Then there were the Malays with tastes reminiscent of India, full of aromatic spices and hot curries. The abundance of seafood combined with the range animals settlers encouraged provided a rich bounty and the cuisine flourished with all manner of flavours.
I tasted cured meat called biltong, a variation on our beef jerky that is wonderful. I had fish that I had never seen or heard of before, under a starry sky that contained constellations unfamiliar to me as well. Such is the thrill of eating in another hemisphere. I savoured Cape Brandy Pudding at the top of Table Mountain, and felt as though I had received a worthy prize for my efforts indeed. I also had the simple Milk Tart and could imagine the simple life of early Dutch farmers working the land.
Even picnics were incredible in a new country – I had pizza and local wine on the beach at Cape Town and dipped my toes into the South Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Food on a paper plate never tasted so good! We went wine touring as well, and had a picnic at Boschendal wine estate, on sprawling grounds with ponds, geese and beautiful shade trees.
Of course, anyone who has travelled and eaten a special meal knows of what I speak – the same food never tastes as magic as it does in the midst of that memory. But the thrill of new memories sends us out again, back to old haunts and in search of new ones.
I shall see my pal and my goddaughter again this spring, when I visit them in the U.K. for Julia’s 21st birthday party and her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. Nearly 30 years of friendship across the planet will also be celebrated, and I’m sure I will have more recipes to add to this collection!
I just had another birthday and of course that brings with it all kinds of memories and more than a little thought about what is left to do on my bucket list. I had the good fortune of finishing last month on a foodie trip to Terra Madre 2012, and that refueled my passion for exotic food experiences (pardon the pun). Being a foodie, many of my bucket list items include a mention of food, so I thought it might be fun to share them…
- I’ve always wanted to see the New England states, doing a bicycle tour. A bit of Maine lobster, perhaps a New Hampshire breakfast, and of course a whoopie pie! And who wouldn’t want to try a Smuttynose beer?
- I love convivial music, and seafood, and a bit of spice, so The Big Easy (New Orleans) is definitely on my bucket list.
- I have read about popular chefs and their restaurants for decades, and one place I have still never been is Spago. Wolfgang Puck is a kitchen icon who has survived a long time in a fickle world.
- Although I’m not a fan of haggis or salt cod, I would like to visit the countries of my heritage – Scotland and Iceland – and enjoy at least some of their specialties on home turf.
- I want to go truffle-hunting. I have hunted for chocolate truffles in France 🙂 but never black truffles in Italy. I got to eat them in Turin last month as part of the truffle festival, so now I just want to see them in their natural habitat.
I like travelling because I get to experience different cultures, and a large part of culture has to do with food. Markets showcase specialties, and meal formats are linked to climates and family structure and business patterns. When I share those experiences in a new place, I feel privileged. I enjoy the kinship that comes from the humble sharing of food at a table.
Of course, even at home that can be special. Sharing a meal with friends and family always creates new memories, and this time of year is especially good for that. We will be hosting our yearly dessert party for neighbours and friends in a couple of weeks, an event that always warms my heart. Deep down, I guess my bucket list is about sharing happy times with others, and often that happens through food.
Do you think I’m crazy or obsessed? Do you dream about great meals too? I’d love to know if I’m the only one who sees the kitchen as the centre of the universe.
Well, that’s enough for tonight. I have to go choose the wine for Sunday dinner 🙂
I love getting comments and feedback from fellow bloggers and readers, and I was thrilled to see a comment from The Redhead Chronicles that they had nominated me for a Liebster Award! It’s great to connect with people and know they liked what you had to say. (Perhaps I just enjoyed discovering a fellow rambler!) In the interest of sharing, I am answering the five questions that are a part of the process…
1. What inspires you to write?
Well, it can be just about anything. Sometimes even a lack of an idea can inspire me… it makes me think of the mundane everyday activities and how they can be important.
2. Tell me about a time when your life changed, for better or for worse.
Only one? Okay, here’s one that had better and worse. My Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Satchmo went blind and I felt horrible – she was only 7 years old. But I found a great vet that specialized in eye treatments and once she got a glass eye and special drops for the other eye, she was right as rain. Satchmo taught me more about enjoying life in the remaining 8 years of her life than anyone else I know.
3. Describe one of your favorite things, only using adjectives. Put the name of what it is in parentheses afterwards.
Peaceful, breathtaking, rejuvenating, joyous, warm, soulful, friendly, welcoming, happy (Rabbit Hollow, where I live)
4. Chinese food…or Mexican food? The world needs to know.
Tough one – there are so many variations of both. I think because I am a warm climate lover though, I have to say Mexican. I love the roasted chilis and the cilantro and mmm, garden fresh tomatoes.
5. What’s one thing you wish other bloggers knew about you that they don’t?
Gee, I’m not sure. I have a tendency to spill my guts about things that I care about, so if they read my blog other bloggers probably know a fair bit. I suppose I wish they knew how much I would love to post more often, but can’t seem to get away from the work that has to pay the bills to write for fun.
And, because I like to ramble, I’ll throw in the questions I thought were cool from Redhead’s list…
train, plane, bus or car? – I’m not fussy if I get to go somewhere new or interesting! I just love to travel. Trains are nostalgic, though, for sure. And I have always wanted to try out a hot air balloon.
top 5 destinations for your bucket list? – I want to go back to South Africa – with my husband this time, and I would love to scuba dive & drink wine in Australia, and Morocco was on my list from the beginning (who doesn’t want to say they were at “the Casbah”?!). Then there is Scotland, to check out my roots and another trip to Europe for the food (I can’t just limit that to one country).
So, is that enough random rambling for you? Have I provided you with at least one idea for dinner conversation? I promise I’ll come up with something more cohesive for my next post. Please feel free to leave your comments!