What was the best meal of your life? Can you remember?
It's more likely the case that quite a few meals come to mind. For me, I think I would have to say that Christmas Dinner of 2009 takes the cake, quite literally. I come from a very small family. I am an only child and growing up, all other blood relatives lived hundreds or thousands of miles away. However, I was blessed to have Ann and Jim Denison take on the role of being my godparents. While I lived in California, they came to every performance, graduation, and of course, holiday meal. I'm the only one in my smaller Southern Californian family (which consisted of my mother, father, Godma, Godpa, and their son Steve) that likes to cook. As a result, I have taken on the role of cooking Christmas dinner with gusto. My mother would splurge on the ingredients and I would spend weeks planning the meal and days cooking it.
Regular readers of the blog are aware that I love baking cakes. I take a special pride in the endeavor. For the Christmas dinner I had made some kind of cinnamon cake and had filled the inside with frozen yogurt. I didn't realize that makers of ice cream cakes typically use a special kind of freezer that allows the ice cream to quickly solidify within the body of the cake, but doesn't overly damage the fluffiness of the actually pastry.
When I pulled my cake out of the freezer, it was frozen rock solid. Everyone tried to be polite, but cutting it was such a struggle, that we all burst out laughing. We actually had to bang pieces of it against the table to break off a bite. So there we were for twenty or more minutes slamming this cake against our plates and cackling until tears slid down our cheeks.
|Godpa trying to cut the cake|
I have had the privilege of sampling five hundred dollar dinners for four in New York and Italy. I have loved licking up the sweet juices of mouthwatering tacos in Southern California and Toronto. I have had open faced sandwiches in Sweden, skyr in Iceland, gallo pinto in Costa Rica, fine cheeses at wine festivals in France, sushi in Japan, and fresh strudel in Austria.
I have tasted the selection of numerous restaurants and food stalls. Yet the times I have spent with friends and family, the rag-tag selection of potlucks and home-cooked meals, the bagged salad I made everyday with my then-boyfriend as we bummed around Spain, Europe, and Morocco for a summer, the snacks in the car my mom made when she picked me up from school when I was a child-- those are the meals that matter.
For me, the best meals in my life are far less about the actual food than the accompanying memory. Even though Godpa passed away this winter, I will always have the memory of that Christmas meal that I shared with him and will never forget the image of him slamming the cake against the table.
Claude Lévi-Strauss receives credit for making the connection between food, memory, and culture, although writers and homecooks throughout the centuries have not missed the linkage. Now that I immerse myself in a new historical cookbook each month, strangers and friends alike want to know which has been my favorite. What has been the best meal?
Until yesterday, it was hard to choose. The Betty Crocker night was so much fun --especially since as hostess for the evening, Emili decided to create a 1950s ambiance. The Bonnefons dinner had such a great variety of dishes that I would never cook at home. I also loved the Parr Traill night -- it was our first meeting and I was excited about the large number of people who attended. Every meeting is filled with so many memories, it is hard to choose a "best."
However, I have to say, last night was the tastiest.
I think the upcoming posts for this month are going to be some of our best yet-- thanks to Dali! I'll let my co-contributors enchant you in the upcoming weeks, but it would be remise to not discuss the lobster dish that I made.
|click on the image to enlarge the recipe|
The dish is called Green, White, and Red Lobster. I followed Dali's recipe exactly except I used half the amount of milk for the bechamel sauce since I didn't buy enough. However, since I pre-boiled the lobsters as I am terrified of food poisoning after I had a terrible experience in Morocco that made me sick for almost four months and left me with intestinal scarring-- having less sauce didn't hurt the recipe at all.
Although at first glance it seems like there are too many steps and that the dish is too complex, it is actually quite simple to make. You can make it as spicy as you want by how much cayenne you decide to torture your guests with (I got pretty liberal with the spice -- touching the lobster actually burned the skin on my fingers -- but my taste buds were quite happy).
I rather enjoyed the final step of dousing the lobster with brandy and lighting them on fire! I was so entranced, I forgot to take a picture.
Plus if you have leftovers, it makes for great tacos!
And guess what... after hearing about the meal, my mom wants me to cook the Dali lobster for next Christmas. I can't wait!