Me - “Hey Babe, do you remember that time when we had that really brilliant gazpacho? It was just the essence of tomato, the whisper of bell pepper and slutty with vibrant cucumber? I remember a swirl of sherry vinegar and maybe some super-savory, wee little croutons that were stained with garlic and olive oil. You remember that?’
Him - “Not a clue but that sounds exactly like something you would have made to me”
Me – “Dammit!”
Spent the rest of the afternoon today futzing about and every once in a while racking my atrophied brain trying to place that particular taste memory. “Must have been like at A.O.C., or maybe in Spain?” my words a mere muttering in the background as my husband started the process of packing for yet another trip. Was killing me in that way that starts to truly make you angry and cause that Julia Roberts vein to pop out on your forehead, “It’s my goddamn memory, why can’t I recall it?!”
Ended up trying to ignore the annoying little gnawing away at my brain and started to compile a shopping list for the evening’s dinner, the makings for a going away meal of chicken, lemon and orzo soup. A rich and complex soup that is so very much from my kitchen. Lots of texture, just this side of being too salty, studded with chewy bits of tiny pasta, tender shreds of mild chicken flesh and right at the end, a bite of lemon and spice. The kind of meal my husband craves while away eating three meals at chain restaurants and hotel diners. As I jotted down the needed items I inexplicably added, tomatoes, red bell pepper, seedless cucumbers and jalapeno, items not once found in my chicken and lemon soup. A crooked grin split across my lips and my tongue began to water as the realization came clear, I’d lost my memory for that wickedly delicious gazpacho, so I was about to create another one.
I mentioned a few posts ago that my mother used to call me Mouse. It had less to do with having a pinched face, (more piglet than mouse for sure) or constantly scurrying from here to there. Wasn’t even my from-the-womb love of all things cheese, it was the quiet way I sat, barely making any noise, observing, absorbing everything around me. I didn’t need or want much by way of contact but I would pinch myself to stay awake, (the super quiet often helped people forget I was there) to drink in each and every shape, noise, aroma….the pictures of my day and life often affixed with the glue of a sound, smell or flavor. Guess it makes sense that at some point I would stumble upon the wine business right? The faces, the “pop” and crumble of limestone pebbles crushing under my feet walking the vineyards, the moist way the perfume of a cold cellar fills the cavity of your chest, but not before taking an indelible swipe along your nostrils, the customer that needs another recommendation and the flavors that tie all of that together. Seems almost like I spent my whole life training to do what I do now…..so fuck me with that stupid hanging chad of a gazpacho with nothing stuck to it, I mean other than my fierce desire, and growing irritation.
As my dinky little kitchen began to become encased in the sensuous and intoxicating aroma of a chicken carcass that had been nearly blistered in olive oil and the veggies that gave their sweat to scrape up the mess left behind. The tongue tingling pop of fresh lemon and the head filling aroma of slowly bubbling and developing, becoming, broth as it splashed along the sides of my deepest pot and washed over the treats within, I found myself flipping the television off and switching instead to some random stream of music before plunking the remote on the “Fuck I need to dust that thing” coffee table and charging back to my kitchen.
Cutting board, large, deep bowl, scary sharp knife, pile of vibrant smelling veggies at my side and so it began. “My lover’s got humor, she’s the giggle at a funeral. Knows everybody’s disapproval, should have worshiped her sooner” one of my newest obsessions filling me with his deeply soulful voice and words that make me ache to have written them…..felt the kind of inspiration it had to have taken write them. “My church offers no absolution, tells me worship in the bedroom. Only heaven I’ll be sent to is when I’m alone with you.” My wrist keeping pace with the heart pounding thump of the music, my shoulders constricting and releasing as the most saturated and sexy words splashed along my sides, much like the heady broth lapped away at the contents of my heavy pot.
“My baby would never fret none, bout the things my hands and body done. If the lord don’t forgive me I’d still have my baby and my babe would have me” Hozier stuffing me as full of want as the scent of things to come was killing my husband’s focus to pack his luggage. The swish-swish-swish of my knife as it effortlessly sliced through skinned shafts of cucumber, the next song up, “She’s gonna save me, call me baby, run her hands through my hair. She’ll know me crazy, soothe me daily, but yet she wouldn’t care” my sweat pant covered back end rocking back and forth as I cored and sliced tomatoes and seeded jalapenos. Head bobbing and face in what I can only imagine was a cartoonish snarl as I woefully groaned along with Hozier, feeling every bit of what he intended, including the pang of slightly desperate falling in love his words inspired me to do. Just in the midst of a rather grandiose flourish of sherry vinegar I could just make out a noise other than my beloved crooner, a quiet chuckle. My husband coming in to check, “how, much, longer?” for dinner just to find his goofy wife, knife in hand, towel tossed over her shoulder, hands nearly raisiny from cucumber and tomato juice, dancing, singing and creating gazpacho. When I taste that cold, pungent vinegar kissed veggie soup tomorrow I know what picture I will see….me being foolishly in love with a young Hozier’s lyrics and getting “caught” making a memory.
Dishes done, one soup warmly consumed and filling the belly of a now sleeping man that will long for it while away, another in a bowl, still in coarse chop soaking up and consummating before tomorrow’s final blend. The flavors already coming alive on my palate even though it still needs to meld, finish and be tasted. A soup flavored with dance, laughter, ache inducing lyrics and a sprinkle of embarrassment brought forth a flood of sensational memories that sent me here, to my laptop with a glass of Pouilly-Fume….and a heart very full of flavor. My gazpacho from nowhere reunited me with….
The first cookie I remember falling crazy in love with. The Ginger Snap, but the only way I loved it was with a thin slice of Extra Sharp Cheddar on top. Sweet and spicy upfront but with a salty, savory, creamy linger. Kinda the way I hoped people would see me.
Shake N Bake pork chops and the way I would scrunch my face at the heavy, fake tasting chemical flavors….until I got a bite of my grandmother’s crunchy iceberg lettuce salad with her house made blue cheese dressing. I remember loving the smell of Shake N Bake but it was only for a second, just like I adored the blast of warm air from the oven but I didn’t want to get too much closer. Visits to my grandparents’ house always meant odd food, (salad dressing aside) and the smell of cooked food was forever doused in the stink of utter disapproval….cool lettuce and thick rivers of garlic and Roquefort taught me that sometimes I could like all the pieces in one way or another but I didn’t love the whole puzzle.
Dense, dark slices of sweet squaw bread with creamy avocado and alpha sprouts. The ugly and weedy looking grub my always smack filled father would make for me on one of the rare visits my mother would allow. I remember smelling the sweetness of the bread, the weird nearly black color that my five year old eyes weren’t used to, the nuttiness of the fatty avocado and the earthy, dirty aroma of the super-fine sprouts I’d end up picking out of my back teeth as I sat alone on the oily feeling couch as my father coped in the bathroom. The sweet bread a welcoming break from the patchouli he normally used to cover the residue of pot and heroin that had started to leak from his skin.
The tang of yogurt that would sting the sides of my mouth, but in a good way, as my mother tried once again to find a breakfast I would agree to eat. Cold blobs of sour yogurt with crunchy sunflower seeds and a tiny spin of wild honey. Sour, nutty with a bare shoulder of sweetness from the honey…once again and descriptor I felt, even at like seven, that I wouldn’t mind people using to describe me.
Cool Ranch Doritos and Dr. Pepper. My lunch as a middle schooler that always felt fucked up and like it didn’t fit. So in short, we were partners this horrendous pairing and I, neither of felt or tasted right. Took spending hours with my mouth on my first boyfriend Myron’s dark flesh to figure out what I wanted and how to feel, at least in one tiny part of my life, in charge of something. I think I truly found my palate as I spent hours, weeks, and years devouring him. I’m a better taster and lover for his patience and willingness…thank you.
The feeling of velvety foie gras being washed down with a deep, “get if off of there!” sip of dry Oloroso sherry. Was my first night in Cadiz, there in the southern part of Spain to learn all about the Sherries that were raising my eyebrows and digging their cravings into my neck. Feeling awkward, as usual, wearing the mileage of 24 hours’ worth of travel and the deep wrinkles of my chosen outfit as we sat down to a twelve course dinner. One that started with a baseball sized wad of goose liver, (yes, yes I know. I just can’t do filter meat, no matter how fancy. Yuck, yuck and ewe) with fresh berries and, thankfully, a bottle of Oloroso left next to me on the table. One bite, shudder and wash it all away with briny, deeply nutty and extracted Sherry. Left that trip drunk with inspiration and the confidence that carried me through and had me accepting the next.
Eggs poached in red wine and settled in a puddle of demi-glaze, mushrooms and bacon, lifted to other worldly dimensions when cold Chablis splashed across my tongue and back of my throat. Was at my boss’ house and I had been asked to drop by and deliver something, Randy invited me sit, taste, explore and give my earnest and as it turned out, valued opinion on which wines worked with the dish and which didn’t. Took one yolky, bacon laced bite and a sip of doughy, stony, mineral-rich Chablis before my eyes rolled back like triple 7’s and Jackpot! To this day one of my favorite dishes that Oeufs En Meurette, (Burgundian dish, look it up, make it, trust and thank me) and I shall never have it again without Chablis. Not only mind splittingly delicious, it reminds me of the day I knew what I thought mattered to him.
My first bite of crispy, salty, naughtily sultry fried chicken and Champagne. I know I had to have read about the combination somewhere, not sure where that might have been like 14 years ago, but somehow I had heard of it, or something like it and one night, alone with a bottle of my beloved bubbles I felt the shatter of crunchy skin, the give of tender flesh, the detonation of a pairing that would have me crawling, goofy grinned and needing to share, atop a soapbox dizzily extoling the necessity of this particular combination. I wrote about it, spoke about it, preached and dogmatically wagged my finger before putting my ass on the line and offering a tasting at our shop, hoping to prove it wasn’t just some fat girl thing like pizza and Ranch dressing. The people came, tasted, swooned and came over and over again. This particular pairing became something of a calling card for me and my entrance into the real world of Champagne, and specifically grower Champagne. Not sure there is any kind of map, or if I deserve to be on it but…well I’ve always felt like it was the fearless (ahem, sort of) insistence of making people try this one pairing that sang, that brought us devoted Champagne lovers. Looking for more pairings, drinking more Champagne and finally seeing those wines as just that, real wine that has a rightful spot at the dinner table. This pairing, this one smells of goal accomplishment and pride.
Fuck, it’s late, again…
Time to sluff off and nuzzle into sleepy soup filled man smell before all I gots is scented pillow, too much space and the growl of Hozier without someone to catch me.
Thanks for listening.