A delicious thing I ate one time: Recreating the past, one dish at a time
There’s a poignant loveliness in the best preserved memories — flowers in amber that are slow to fade. I carry them with me, knowing that times change and that I change, and to try recreating what exists perfect in memory can only be disappointing.
Unless it’s A Delicious Thing I Ate One Time.
If it’s A Delicious Thing I Ate One Time, then the memory is: gobble it all, rewind, gobble it again and look around for more.
I may not always remember my address and phone number, say, or the exact location of my car, but I remember every good thing I’ve eaten in my whole life. And rather than wallow in some florid, Proustian remembrance of things past like an overwrought philosophy major, I prefer to get out my measuring spoons. Because I would like more. Lots of it. Immediately.
If it’s not as good as I remember? Eh. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, because the rewards of recreating A Delicious Thing I Ate One Time (and that’s how I think of it, capitalized like that) are just, well ... consider the otai.
Several years ago, my sister made a drink called otai, the recipe for which she got from some Tongan friends, that’s made out of magic and rainbow juice, as far as I could tell. I kind of remember watching her make it, but my memories of drinking it are this:
It’s good, is what I’m saying.
So, the other day, as I pondered the watermelons at City Market, I practically swooned with sudden otai memories. Want it! Now! I whipped out my phone to call my sister, then remembered: She and her family were on vacation! Nooo!!!
Oh, well. I could make it. I closed my eyes in the middle of the produce section and envisioned that afternoon: I was leaning against the counter and my sister was… grating watermelon with a cheese grater? Yes! That’s what she did. Then she added, um (think, Rachel!) coconut! And crushed pineapple! And something creamy. Milk? No, half-and-half! Plus, ice.
I darted through the aisles, snatching ingredients, and raced home.
I did a perfunctory Google search before getting started, and the recipes I found seemed somewhat near to what I had in mind. However, I needed this otai to be exactly right, so I’d have to trust myself. I started grating the watermelon.
I tasted and added, tasted and added, and splashed in some lime juice because what the heck, lime juice makes everything better.
The result? !!!!!!!!YAYYY!!!!!***EEEE!!!!! I know I was lucky, and that future experiments might not turn out so well, but still: yum.
It’s not just A Delicious Thing I Ate One Time, but A Delicious Thing I Ate This Morning, and Yesterday, and the Day Before, and ...