We are basically halfway through The Scintilla Project. What that means: they’re be e-mailing me prompts, and I’ll be writing on them. For another week or so. And if I fall behind, maybe this whole experiment will drag out for more than two weeks.
Day 8: Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.
When I travel I am Hungry. Starving, even. I don’t believe it is possible to truly understand a place until you have eaten in it The Right Way.
I have lunged into Laduree for Macarons. Raced back to a ship with Sicilian pizza and cookies. Run through the streets of Montreal with a bag full of pastries. Eaten three kinds of BBQ in a free-standing, windowless, cinderblock building in Lubbock across the parking lot from a WIC outpost.
In 2010, Marcus and I went on a trip to Hawaii to visit Michelle, my now sister-in-law. We took advantage of the two years she spent waitressing and living on the beach to plan a tropical getaway that we probably wouldn’t otherwise have taken at the time.
It was a wonderful vacation for a host of reasons, not the least of them being the fact that we got engaged while we were in Maui.
I have written briefly about our adventure to the inland shrimp ranch on Oahu before.
And how as we drove around the island on a tour of the North Shore, I repeatedly promised Marcus and Michelle that we would have lunch at The Shrimp Ranch.
On the list of Things That Sound Like Empty Promises, that one ranks fairly high.
I had no actual evidence to support my words. Nothing from a guidebook. Or from Yelp (though they’re on there now!).
Just a hunch that the same strange food truck that had risen out of the ground for me years before would appear for me once more.
I suppose that this hunch of mine is not entirely dissimilar to the feeling that prehistoric man had when he decided to rub two sticks together and hope for the best where the whole fire-thing was concerned.
And just as Marcus and Michelle were ready to toss me out of the car to leave me to the elements, there it was and there we were.
Ordering spicy garlic shrimp and two scoops of rice off of their cash-only menu.
Unsurprisingly, it was Just Wonderful.
For some reason, of all the meals I’ve eaten or of all the restaurants I’ve visited, this one stands out tonight. There were many ways in which this meal was outright exceptional, and even more in which it was wholly bizarre.
But I think I finally understand why. How it could be that here I am, on the first freezing-cold day of spring, pondering the shrimps of Januarys-past.
In 12 days, I will be on a plane to Paris.
For the third time.
And as I’ve been trying to describe this trip (and my feelings about it) to others, I keep on coming back to the word familiar.
I am going to a place where I know that if we walk down the street and cross the bridge, we will be at Notre Dame.
I am going to a place where I know that two blocks away on the right side of the street there is a sort of cross between a plaza and a courtyard that is lined with cafes.
I am going to a place where I know that once you pass through the Tuileries and begin to make your way up the Champs Elysees to Avenue Matignon, there is a restaurant that produces a quiche-arrangement that is Just Excellent.
We devote so much time from our daily lives to recording every last detail. To plotting. To organizing.
Sometimes it’s really nice to play it by ear when you already know the tune.