Tag Archive - Food

A Pilgrim Tale: day thirty

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After yesterday’s rain, today dawns cold and spectacularly clear. We leave the cemetery behind, and pick up the trail through farmland. Lots of cows. Lots of cowpies.

The weather is perfect for walking, and we are growing so eager for Santiago that we walk 31.5 kilometers today, all the way to Melide.

pulpo

We have been told that Melide is THE place to have Pulpo–Octopus–so we comply. It comes swimming in good olive oil. It is surprisingly delicate and delicious. And weird and tenticle-y. And one of the tenticles accidentally sticks to the plate. So… Mike and David suddenly have the brilliant idea to see how far off the table they can lift a plate with a piece of tenticled pulpo. Various techniques are employed, with varying levels of success. Plates rattle. Oil is splashed. A good time is had by all. 🙂

Our Albergue, O Cruceiro, is lovely. It is a neoclassical building with beautiful wooden stair rails and heart pine floors. When we arrive, our hospitalera directs us to the lift (!), and when we get to the second floor, she unlocks the bathroom, the kitchen, and room in which the four of us will sleep. We have the whole floor to ourselves! Timing is everything. The first floor is full. This we learn when we walk down to do laundry. Sometime after we go to bed, four women take a second room, but we are unaware of them til morning.

We load the fridge with yogurt and fruit for breakfast and sleep a happy, snore-free sleep.

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Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys…pilgrims are persons in motion–passing through territories not their own–seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity will do as well, a goal to which only the spirit’s compass points the way.

~Richard R. Niebuhr

*My phone refused to take photos on this day, whining about there being “no room”. Imagine that. So I owe a debt to Mike for the top two photos, and David for the one at bottom. Thanks, fellas!

 

A Pilgrim Tale: day twenty-seven

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Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

~John Muir

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A steep, 2.3 kilometer climb brings us to the summit of O’Cebreiro, and out of Castille into Galicia. At breakfast, we encounter our first Tarta de Santiago, a sweet almond cake, a Galician specialty that will be present at every cafe hereafter.

palloza

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Also unique to Galicia are Pallozas, whimsical round buildings with thatched roofs originally meant to shelter livestock (and sometimes humans). Now, they are often used as vacation homes. Some are elevated, others are nestled into the hill.

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There are jawdropping vistas ALL DAY as we are in the mountains and can see FOREVER! Stone fences stripe the landscape making us think of the Galicians’ Celtic cousins in Ireland. Some fences have huge slabs of stone. It is difficult to imagine how they moved them there.

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Early in the afternoon, we have a rather curious experience. As we pass through one of many cattle farms, a farm wife runs out to us with a plate of crepes. She sprinkles sugar on one and hands it to us, then another, finally a third empties the plate. Then she puts out her hand, “Donativo?” We hand her a couple of eruo coins, one of which drops in a fresh cowpile. No worries. She picks it up (with the same hand that held the crepes), wipes it on her pants and puts it in her pocket. All good. (insert Edvard Munch Scream emoticon here)

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Later, we see a woman working in her lush, verdant garden. And just past this, the most gigantic chestnut tree I have ever seen.

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We land in Triacastela for the evening at one of my least favorite albergues of the trip. It is only approximately clean and the bath fixtures are all in one room. Oh yeah, and they are butterscotch colored. I am glad the day has been cold and I do not really need a shower.

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Dinner, on the other hand is FABULOUS!! I feel sure it was all good, but frankly all I can remember is the dessert: Queso Y Membrillo. Also a specialty of the area. We will have it again, but it will never be quite as good as this. Pungent, whipped sheep cheese with tangy quince preserve. Brilliant!! Quite possibly the best thing I ate the whole trip.

family

We have not been at dinner long when we are joined by Jorge and Kelly, Stephanie and Sarah, Otto and Jose, Lynn, Susan, and the whole gang who are staying at the adjacent albergue. There is hugging and laughter and an impromptu group photo.

Back in the albergue, fellow pilgrims have been boiling chestnuts collected along the way. They offer us some. Prepared in this way, they taste like potoatoes! Jan’s favorite. 🙂 We stash yogurt and fruit in the fridge for next day and turn in early.

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One week til Santiago…

*Thanks, Mike,for the elevated Palloza.

A Pilgrim Tale: day twenty-six

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Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes…

~Elizabeth Barret Browning

Breakfast at our albergue is delicious and fortifying. While eating, we meet Susan who was a late arrival at the albergue the night before. She had been having a frightful time finding any place that could accommodate her. Jose had prevailed upon our young innkeepers on her behalf and they had pulled out a cot for her and allowed her to sleep in the lobby, at the base of the rock. She will become a fixture of our merry band from here on out. (Thanks, Otto, for reminding me of this part of the story.)

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We head out into the darkness and promptly make a wrong turn. Happily, we discover our error before too much damage has been done and are able to make correction. Much of today’s walk is along the road, but on the other side of the path is a gurgling river which makes us mostly forget about the road. There is a remarkable irony as we walk past ancient, sometimes derelict, buildings, while in the distance, towering modern bridges convey commuters crossing the country at break-neck speed.

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We are just getting into cattle country when we stop for lunch at a lovely outdoor cafe overlooking a pasture, and the river beyond. Trees are being felled on the heavily forested hill just above the river and it makes the cattle dogs nervous. We feast on fresh, beautiful salads and fortify ourselves for the big climb that awaits us.

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Most of our friends stop in La Faba for the night, but we decide to press on to Laguna de Castilla. We are very glad of this next morning when we already have an extra 2.3k of hills out of the way.

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We lodge at Albergue La Escuela, right smack dab in the middle of a dairy farm. We even watch them drive the dairy cows to and from the milking barn. In some ways, this is all very familiar as my grandparents made their living milking cows, and I saw this scene played out more times than I can remember in the mountains of my childhood.

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Here we have Galician soup for the first, but thankfully not the last, time. Potatoes, kale, beans. Hearty, warm, and delicious. We visit with Boyd and James, a father and son from Australia. And we meet “Martin the Healer”. An odd bird, he is walking the camino for the second time, is covering long distances (40k/day) and claims to have healing powers. He trys them out on James who is having difficulty with his knee, but the jury is still out on his effectiveness when we leave them.

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There are autumn blooming crocus everywhere, mallow and foxgloves growing along the fence, and some other scrumptious wild flower I don’t recognize growing in profusion with deep purple buds that open to dark pink blossoms (see top of post). I can’t stop taking pictures. I know I will never capture what it is to stand on this mountain with these bright blossoms all around me, and the lowing of the cattle and the earthy smell of them, and the good, wholesome fatigue in my legs and feet, and the deep peace inside me. But I know that when I look at the images, I will remember.

And that is enough.

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Travel Note: At this point in our journey, we have begun making advance reservations at albergues most days. Opinions are divided on whether this is appropriate. Some albergues do not even allow them. But, the number of pilgrims grows daily as we near Santiago, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find rooms at the end of a long day. So we are buying ourselves a bit of insurance. Each pilgrim must decide for himself. It does require having a phone with cell service (thx David), or a kind innkeeper who will call for you. You can, and should, cancel if you see you are not going to make it that far or decide to go farther. There is usually a limit to how late they will hold a bed for you before giving it to someone else.

A Pilgrim Tale: day nineteen

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Bar Elvis is something of a legend on the camino. A quirky little bar with graffitied walls, inside and out, and a bustling proprietor who carves strips of salty, cured ham from the loin on the counter and piles them onto long baguettes, or stirs them into delicious, freshly-made tortillas. Johnny Cash is on the stereo and the music flows out the door onto the porch where we sit and eat in the sun.

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We have lost track of the lads for a couple of days as they have been walking an alternate route, but our paths converge here and it is good to see them again. We also make a new acquaintance. Guido is a tattoo artist from Sicily. He is young, but already he carries the scars of war. He spent time in Afghanistan with the army and it has affected him deeply. He pulls out a square of paper and rolls a mound of dried leaves into a “medicinal” smoke for the road.

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Most of our walk this day is on a gravel path that runs alongside the highway. Not especially charming, but easy and flat and comfortable underfoot. We pass a construction zone where road work is happening at a dizzying pace. Dozers and dumptrucks with familiar names like John Deere and Caterpillar whir in a cloud of dust, and I try to think of one time I have passed a construction zone at home when even half the workers were employed at once.

We find lodging at the municipal albergue in Mansilla de las Mulas where several buildings cluster around a central courtyard draped in geraniums and ivy. Guido is here. He announces that he will be making pasta for dinner and we must join him. And because we are not idiots, we say yes. 🙂

Jan, David, Mike and I walk to the mercado to pick up wine, and provisions for a giant salad. On the way, we stop into a bar for a beverage and are happy to see Peter and Nicole from Germany. We have visited with them a couple of times along the way, but it is good to have leisure to visit long and easy. Peter’s first wife died of cancer a few years ago. Now he and Nicole are building a good and beautiful life together. They have traveled widely. And wildly at times. They are full of story.

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Back at the albergue the kitchen is humming. People are chopping and sauteing, reaching over one another for pots and spoons, salt and the sink. We find a corner and begin tearing lettuce into a stock pot, the only container left. Guido sweats onions and garlic in a pan, the beginnings of pesto. Meanwhile, the hospitalero offers us a gas operated pot on legs that we can use in the garden for making the pasta, as the stove is all full.

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Guido’s guests begin gathering. He has apparently been accumulating them all day. By the time we gather around the long table laid with olives and cheese, pasta, salad, bread and wine, we are a mini United Nations with folks from Russia, Denmark, Italy, Canada, the U.S., Australia, Argentina, Japan, and Poland. There is frequent toasting, and much talk and laughter. And Guido, who carries so much hurt in his body, has given all of us an exuberant and unforgettable night.

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Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
~Rumi

*Thank you, David, for the photo of Guido at work. 🙂

Cottontail Conundrum

I gave my babies Beatrix Potter with their milk. Peter Rabbit, little Benjamin Bunny, these were our friends. When they were older, we read Rabbit Hill, a compelling story of wild creatures who hope the new owners of the farm will be generous cultivators instead of mean spirited slackers who let the garden grow up in weeds and set wicked animal traps. And we hoped with them.

Baby girl and I have watched the beautiful brown wonders as they bound through our yard. Comfortable with us. Our friends. It has seamed natural, this kinship with these beautiful creatures of God. And good.

The lettuces were the first to go. A fine stand of Arugula and Paris Market Mix Mesclun. One morning I walked out to the garden to find nubs where the tender leafy greens had been. Next was the Red Russian Kale. Not a single stem left standing. Yet I kept my sense of humor, thinking of the crusty Mr. McGregor; realizing with some measure of satisfaction that as the bunnies spoke of me in their cozy burrows at night, I was a hero. A friend.

Until they started on the tomatoes…

Black Krim is one of several heirloom varieties I am growing this year. The first fruit set on only a couple of weeks after I planted, despite an unexpected spell of cool weather. I watched with fascination as it swelled to 4 inches or so across and as the first blush of purply red began to spread over its skin. Then, one evening about dusk, I found this…

I wanted to throw up. Then, I began to wonder if there was a recipe on-line anywhere for that pie Mrs. McGregor put Peter’s father in. Because, after all, if I was going to be deprived of the vegetables I was working so hard to cultivate, I would need something to feed to my family.

I am not a violent person. As a rule.

Last night, while I was erecting a fence to save my tomatoes (and the lives of the furry little bandits), I made an interesting discovery. Four baby rabbits huddled in the oregano. Just outside their burrow, as it turns out. You can see two of them above.

I don’t mind telling you that my “peaceful by nature”, “lover of all things beautiful and wild” self is at war with my practical, farm girl self. Pray for me. And for the adorable little marauders. That we might find a way to live together.

It’s the Journey…

It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.
~Ursula Le Guin

It is good to have an end…

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~Goethe

I could just run. Without the races. I know people who do. Well, not many. But the race gives shape. It makes demands. It looms out there like a great Leviathan that wants slaying. And I rouse myself, and find that I am capable of things I never imagined I could do. Or not. Either way, I am stretched and made deeper and more real.

This year the end is the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor Maine, one of the most beautiful marathons in the United States, on the outskirts of the stunning Acadia National Park. It will be my 6th 26.2, and my 8th state (if you lump in an ultra, and a half-marathon to the top of Pikes Peak).

It is the journey that matters…

“When I have been truly searching for my treasure, I’ve discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had the courage to try things that seemed impossible…” ~Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Training for an endurance event always brings understandings that I do not anticipate. Revelations. Amidst the fatigue and frustration, the astonishing beauty, the miracle of putting one foot in front of another over and over and over, a deep knowing grows. I want always to be fully present and available for this.

On a somewhat less mystical level, there are disciplines in training that make me a better runner (and a better human being, for that matter). More capable. Healthier. Stronger. More resilient. These I constantly re-examine.

This year, I am revamping my approach somewhat to honor my aging body and protect my sometimes finicky joints. I am studying the Chi running method; very harmonious with all I am learning and practicing in yoga. I will also incorporate Qigong, an ancient form of “moving meditation” that centers the body and invigorates the immune system. I am ramping up my core and upper body work. In fact, I have focused almost exclusively on this during the off season. I will run only 3 times/week. The other days will be spent cross-training ( a combination of yoga, core, weights, swimming, biking, hiking, etc…) I also plan to do as many of my long runs as possible on trails to minimize joint fatigue (and maximize oos and ahhs 🙂 ).

Nutrition always plays an important role in training. As part of my joint protection strategy, I am focusing on anti-inflammatory foods and drinking lots of green tea (and water). I am also participating in a local CSA, and have expanded our vegetable garden to insure a steady supply of clean, organic produce. I eagerly anticipate Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run, (available 5 June). Jurek is a superstar ultra-runner, and a remarkable human being, who fuels his running and his life on a strict vegan diet. (Kenzie is crazy about his chocolate adzuki bars.)

Running, with it’s seasons of building and recovery, creates a wonderful sense of ebb and flow in our lives. A skeleton to hang other things on and around. It is difficult to imagine life without it.

Just for fun…

Mike and I keep a list of dream events for the future. Here are a few of the “ends” we hope to lay out there in the not too distant future:

Marathon du Medoc 26.2 kilometers through the beautiful French wine region of Medoc. Wine tastings and samples of culinary indulgences all along the way. Ironically, given the timing and proximity, we have thought of pairing it with…

The Camino de Santiago de Compostela The way of St. James. A pilgrimage. Not a running event, but an endurance endeavor to be sure. And a spiritual quest. Dreaming about fall of 2015…

Big Sur International Marathon California redwoods, Stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and a breathtaking run across the Bixby Bridge are just a few reasons why this one sells out almost immediately every year.

The Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race A total of 60 miles over three days of running on gorgeous trails in the mountains of my native East Tennessee. If this goes well, then there is this little stage race in Tibet…. 🙂

A rim to rim to rim hike across the Grand Canyon South to North in one day. We would probably give ourselves two days for the return, spending the night at the Phantom Ranch.

The Inca Trail to Machu Pichu

Of what ends do you find yourself dreaming? What might pursuing that end make possible?

Honey’s Vintage Sweets

Soft, sea foam walls give the eye a place to rest against a cacophony of color worthy of Wonka. A wall of glass jars filled with assorted delights beckons from across the room. But I can’t get to them. I can’t stop meandering past every table.

Nostalgic candies from my childhood. I tell Marianne about riding my bike through the woods and out to a little store on the highway to buy candy necklaces. My cousin and I would put them on our sweaty necks and wear (and eat) them all the way home. Mike delights in 6 different flavors of Zotz and an infinite variety of pop rocks. There are candy cigarettes, teaberry gum, wax lips, sugar daddies…..

Novelties. All things mustache, plates with faces that kids can decorate with food, cap guns, sling shots, bubble gum yard sticks, dispense your own Jelly Bellies or sour powder, a whole side board of assorted Pez dispensers…

I know where I will be shopping for stocking-stuffers this year….

Sample 12  flavors of rich, decadent home-made ice cream from a Kentucky dairy that has been in operation for over a century. The strawberry is ridiculous. My friends, Allie and Jordan, recommend the milkshakes.

My favorite thing in the whole store…the thing I can’t stop thinking about…the thing you MUST try…is the strawberry lemonade. Fresh-pressed lemon juice, muddled strawberries, simple syrup, and a generous splash of joy. It is vibrant, refreshing and crazy delicious.

Honeys Vintage Sweets officially opens today. You can find them at 123 South Margin Street in Franklin. For more information, or to keep up with special offers and promotions, check out their facebook page. You’re welcome. 🙂

 

Return…

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion…How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Psalm 137: 1, 4-6

The Lenten season is one of the great good gifts of the Church….though it might not always feel like it. It is not punishment for all the bad things we have done the rest of the year. It is not an opportunity for us to prove our piety to God, or to one another. It is, more than anything, a return. A return to first things. To our most essential selves. A return home.

The way each of us go about getting there varies. Here is how it will look for me.

The Fast:

We do not fast because there is anything itself unclean about the act of eating and drinking. Food and drink are, on the contrary, God’s gift…We fast…so as to make ourselves aware that it is indeed a gift–so as to purify our eating and drinking, and to make them no longer a concession to greed, but a sacrament and means of communion with the Giver. ~Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

For Orthodox, the fast is prescribed. We will not eat meat, eggs, or dairy again until we celebrate the Resurrection. Wine, oil and fish are permitted only on Weekends. It will make me crotchety at times. It will reveal how accustomed I am to having what I want and indulging my cravings. I do not always like my fasting self. But it is important to bring that detritus to the surface. So it can be dealt with. It is important to learn to discipline my passions. It is much bigger than the food.

The Services:

I am grateful to spend much of this journey with my brothers and sisters. We need one another. It is impossible to do this alone. We began with Forgiveness vespers, one of the most powerful services of the whole year. It is important to begin this journey clean, unencumbered. This week the Canon of St. Andrew invites confession and looking inward. Each week we will receive sustenance from an extra liturgy on Wednesday. There are lots of prostrations. I can not tell you how powerful it is to wear your faith in your body. Hungry. Face to the floor. And during Holy Week, we will be there every day, sometimes twice, as the final week of Christ on this earth is re-membered in our presence.

The Books:

Don’t even act surprised. I am always reading. But during this season, I am especially purposeful in choosing literature that challenges, provokes, inspires, and nourishes. Here are some of the voices I have am inviting into my journey:

Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Father Alexander Schmemann
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Mother Gavrilia: The Ascetic of Love by Nun Gavrilia
The Lenten Triodion by Mother Maria and Bishop Kallistos Ware
The Golden Key by George MacDonald

The Beauty:

As the natural world around me springs back to life, it is filled with reminders that what looks like death may only be a time of gathering strength…that if I am willing to surrender my striving and just be still, God will adorn me with beauty for ashes. He will work Resurrection in me.

How about you? What will the Lenten journey look like in your life?

*The idea of Lent as return is not original with me. Father Stephen has been talking to us about it for several weeks. Alexander Schmemann also speaks of it in Great Lent. For this lovely image, I am in their debt.

On Eating an Elephant…

“How do you eat an elephant?”

“One bite at a time.”

~African proverb

I suppose there is a certain wisdom that comes with age. Even without purposeful cultivation. A warfare wisdom born of much folly and error.

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons is the brilliance of  “one bite”.

I fought it when I was younger…and “smarter”…than I am now.

When striving to master a piano piece, I would “warm up” by playing the portion I already knew. Then work for a bit on the despicable part that gave me trouble. Then play the part I knew well again. And again. Then play it all. And predictably train wreck at the difficult part. Then play the part I knew again to re-assure myself. Etc……..ad nauseum.

If I had applied all that time to only the prickly part, I would have mastered it.

But it overwhelmed me.

Most tasks (projects…goals…resolutions…changes…you fill in the blank) overwhelm if we persist in seeing the whole of it in one glance, when it would yield to us if we would only take on one bit at a time.

I see it in my kids:

Piano scales played badly because mediocre and fast somehow seems better than precise and slow (which would eventually become precise AND fast).

Paralysis to clean a room run amok, when tackling one corner…one shelf…just the floor…would, over time, slay the beast.

Every now and then I still see it in me.

A teenager infested house that “refuses” to be put to order.

Chaotic days…a frantic schedule…that seem out of my own control.

An inability to “find time” to write of late. Which makes me uncomfortable and ill tempered.

Today I began learning a new piece of music. An acapella vocal work with unusual harmonies. Almost without thought, I began dividing it into little bits. I rehearsed each til I knew it, then added the next little bit. Remarkable how soon I was making this very difficult work my own. One bite at a time.

It made me eager to take on another project. Just so I could practice dividing it into tiny, conquerable bits.

In this season when many of us have set audacious goals for ourselves–when attendance levels at the gym will tell the story of grand resolutions made and abandoned–when juicers, and pilates videos, and self-help books will fly off the shelves like gang busters (and show up on eBay in a few weeks)–I challenge you to stop intriguing and buying stuff  and plotting how to eat the whole elephant at once. And just make one change.

Take one step.

One bite.

Then take the next.

And the next.

And watch what happens…..

*Drawing at top of post by Sean Gallo. See more of his fine work HERE.

11 Unforgettable Dining Experiences

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.
~A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

Pooh and I are very like in this. I find food terribly exciting, especially when it is exquisitely prepared and beautifully served. Yes, I eat my fair share of leftovers and occasionally even stoop to fast food on the road. But I am passing fond of meals that nourish the senses. Preferably all of them. I favor long, slow meals accompanied by deep conversation and laughter. And if this happens to occur someplace beautiful with people I love, all the better. Here are 11 of my favorites.

Asia de Cuba, Anniversary March 2010
My sweet husband surprised me with a trip to New York for our 23rd anniversary. He chose the restaurant. He is brilliant. 🙂 Asia de Cuba is a trendy Asian/Cuban fusion restaurant. Philippe Starck designed the unique interior. White curtains and a holographic waterfall help create the unique atmosphere. Our waiter sat down at our table and spent a very long time talking with us to discover what we liked before making recommendations. Everything we ate was beautiful and delicious, but there were two distinct standouts. The calamari salad is one of their signature dishes. Crisp calamari with chayote, hearts of palm, bananas, cashews, chickory and raddichio, and sesame orange dressing. Amazing! And dessert. Oh. My!! The Bay of Pigs was gastrorgasmic. (My friend Maurilio sent this word to me after I tweeted the above picture. He was right!) Bananas covered in an impossibly delicate shell of caramelized sugar, ice cream (coffee I think) fudge and caramel sauces, warm chocolate chip cookies, macadamia nuts, fondant, and whipped cream. It should be illegal.

Gelateria Bellocco, Summer 2010
Our family has eaten our fair share of gelato. We are pretty finicky about what constitutes proper gelato. Last summer, Kelsey and I returned to our favorite gelateria in Florence. We ate there 3 times in 24 hours. But just two days later we were renouncing our favorite for Sergio’s marvelous creations. In particular, he makes a pistachio that uses salted pistachios. I was skeptical, but I was wrong. Salty, creamy, intense, addictive. If I lived in Italy I would have to go to a 12 step program. That’s all there is to it.

Mangia Nashville, Anniversary March 2011
An Italian feast! Five leisurely courses, each featuring two or three selections, served family style. Superb food prepared by Nick Pellegrino, who also sings, dances and quotes lines from the Godfather. It is a wonderful community experience, and a meal you will never forget. (By the way, the desserts at the top of the post are theirs.)

Country Breakfast at my Mama’s
Just ask my kids. If we are going to visit the first question is likely to be, “Do you think Mamaw will make breakfast?” My mother’s biscuits and gravy, and chocolate gravy (I kid you not), sausage, eggs, homemade jelly, fried apples, etc… is legendary. Better than Cracker Barrel. Even better than the Loveless. Yep. I said it.

Picnics in the Japanese Garden at Cheekwood
When the kids were little I would buy an annual pass. We would go every couple of weeks. We would look at the artwork in the museum, then stroll though the gardens and see what was blooming, or putting up shoots, or making seeds. But we would always end up in the Japanese Garden. It was our favorite. And this is where we would pull out our lunch. And just for a while, we were far away in Japan. And this was our garden. And nothing could be more natural than bringing our lunch out onto the lanai and breathing slowly and contemplating the waves of stone, and the colors and textures, the order, the calm.

Cafe Tomaselli, Salzburg
Mozart ate here. It’s true. I think I know why. The pastries are elegant and delicious, and surprisingly affordable. The cappuccino is warm, and frothy, and rich. And everything is served on proper plates and in proper cups, on proper trays, with lovely little sugar cubes and tiny glasses of water, and a spoon laid over the top. And one can imagine, just for a moment, that all of life is just this grand and elegant.

French Boulangeries
It took us exactly one morning to become Parisian, dashing into the local Boulangerie for our morning pastries. Our favorites were the Viennese rolls, soft warm bread with chocolate chips. We would walk down the street, nibbling, till we reached the courtyard behind Notre Dame. There we would finish our breakfast properly, perhaps sharing a bit with the birds.

Boudro’s on the Riverwalk, San Antonio
To sit along the riverwalk at night is nourishment in itself. Then add to that the most amazing guacamole I have ever eaten. It is their recipe we use to this day. Mesquite grilled Texas Quail in a molasses glaze, served over pepper jack grits. Gulf coast blue crab cakes with roasted corn sauce, jicama slaw, and tomatilla cream. Yum. Yum!

Johnnie Foxe’s, Dublin Ireland
Their mussels are legendary, and not without reason. Beautifully seasoned, tender and fresh. Best seafood chowder I ever ate. And our introduction to Banoffee pie. I have been playing with recipes ever since trying to get it just right. Everything is served up in a convivial atmosphere with all kinds of quirky kitsch all over the walls. Makes for interesting conversations. 🙂

Boma Cafe, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney World
Boma is beautiful, as is the whole of the lodge. And they serve up a whole buffet of African fare. Lentils, curries, soups, vegetables, meats, salads, all with exotic seasonings. A wonderful opportunity to sample a wide variety of unfamiliar foods.

African Supper, Malawi
We gathered under a great spreading acacia tree. There were a thousand stars overhead. Our freshly scrubbed bodies were chilly in the night air. A fire blazed, and there were lanterns on the tables. We filled our plates with nsima (rather like grits, but softer), greens with tomatoes and onions, beans, stewed meats, and bread toasted over the fire. We drank pineapple and mango sodas. And we relived the moments of the day. Our stomachs were filled, and we would sleep the sleep of the weary. Weary, but glad.

Tell me about the significant dining experiences in your life. What is it that makes them so?

Buon Appetit!

*Special thanks to Giorgio who supplies the topic for today’s post.

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