We just got back from vacation, and now that I am home under grey skies again, with the heat turned up and my tan quickly fading, I am trying anything to keep the memories of the holiday alive. The taste of the tropics is one way that certainly works well!
We had friends over for dinner so that we could regale them with stories of our adventures in Jamaica. It seemed only fair that we would put them in the mood too so we created a theme dinner.
To start the evening I made rum punch, using the bottle of rum we won at the resort for correctly answering the most questions in the Lovers Game. I suppose we had an advantage with our fifteen years together – the young couples competing against us weren’t seeing eye to eye on things like whether sex or sports was more important. Once you’ve seen as many Superbowls as we have, you know what’s really important at the end of the season 🙂
For a quick appie I put out some home-brined olives to remind us of that salty tang of the sea, and some goat cheese. Not because we had goat cheese in Jamaica, but because we couldn’t believe they didn’t have it with all the goats we saw roaming the countryside!
Then came the main course, a variation on one of our favourite local dishes, curried goat (you see, they do use those goats for something). Martin did a leg of lamb with the same aromatic broth and added some veggies reminiscent of our trip – sliced plantains and sweet potato along with the usual carrots and such. He added a scotch bonnet pepper too, which kept us all nice and warm! We served the stew over a creamy polenta that offset the spice and reminded me of the “grits” they serve in Jamaica. We broke down and enjoyed some local wine with dinner, although a few bottles of that well-chilled Red Stripe beer could have done nicely….
For dessert, I am pleased to say I hit the ball out of the cricket pitch (another witty Jamaican reference for you there). I put a twist on my pineapple upside down cake, using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk and adding some shredded coconut in the cake. With fresh pineapple and some warm rum caramel sauce to pour over it, we had the perfect way to end the evening.
Our friends laughed at our stories, and oohed at our photos and I think they felt a bit better for having been exposed to our post-holiday warmth. It was wonderful to share the experience after the fact. And, it felt good to hold the memories in my tummy just as I do in my head.
I saw a fantastic YouTube video this morning, about a great food service experience. It made me think, perhaps sometimes we might have a better experience if we started out by being better customers. We are always harping about staff being surly or uninterested but if we start off on the right foot, with a smile or a friendly greeting, that couldn’t hurt, right?
I think that’s one of my favourite reasons I enjoy cooking. Sharing food is almost always a pleasant experience (except say, when your kids don’t appreciate your hard work spent on Sunday dinner). Food cheers people up. You have to be careful not to over-use that sentiment – the odd tub of Haagen-Das or Ben & Jerry’s to drown heartbreak or other sorrows is a worthy remedy, but it shouldn’t be used every time you have a bad day. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have a positive memory attached to such a good treat?
Food memories are important in our lives too. That’s how we decide on what we define as comfort food. Having tuna casserole on cold winter nights while sharing family stories made it one of my childhood faves. And associations of food with other people or places helps to strengthen memories, too. I still remember a summer of “huckle-blue-toons” with my cousins while vacationing at Kootenay Lake in B.C. Those prolific wild berries (we could never figure out if they were huckleberries, Saskatoons, or blueberries) were in pancakes, pies, muffins, and on our hands and clothes, too. Memories like that help me when I am wine tasting; the smell and taste of that experience solidifies “blueberries” in my olfactory system. I am often inspired when experiencing new flavours to try and add them to my mental catalog for future reference. A whiff of cardamom from the chai at an Indian restaurant was an exciting aroma I wanted to remember. It became the impetus I needed to create an exotic version of rice pudding one night at home.
Back to the idea of being a good customer… if I remember a good time and try to repeat that or share it while I am out shopping or dining, can I influence the employees I deal with? I think there is hope; they say that even clinically depressed people feel better after smiling for even a few minutes. (Don’t get me wrong – I am not trying to insinuate that most service staff are clinically depressed.) If it doesn’t work, all I have to do is keep my sense of humour. Laughing is much better medicine than crying.
So, in an effort to give you more ways to keep smiling, here is a link to a fellow blogger who muses about the humour and silliness in everyday commuting, Train Pains… and here is the link for that wonderful video.
If you need more reasons, try these ten reasons to smile:
1. Smiling Makes Us Attractive
2. Smiling Changes Our Mood
3. Smiling Is Contagious
4. Smiling Relieves Stress
5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
7. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin
8. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger
9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful
10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive
Happy Hump Day!