Back on the train, facing backward, the lush green of the Normandy we were just exploring passing on my left like framed pictures in a photo album. The pages separated from each other by the panes of the train window and not unlike flipping the pages of an old family album. The pictures evoking emotion and triggering my toggles, switches that brought racing back the aromas and flavors of each moment spent slowly roaming the countryside.
My body swaying gently to and fro, sort of rocking as that Paris bound train extruded me from the quiet and tranquil, apple skin and moss scented region where I drank gallons of semi-sweet cider alongside delicate but pungent crepes filled with cheese, stinging mustard, foreign spiced sausages and nearly alarmingly orange colored egg yolks that burst with the slightest brush of a fork tine. Sweating glasses of Menetou-Salon covered in oceanic scented finger smudges as we plopped slippery bivalves unto our palates and dug into the tiny spiral shells of various sea creatures to extract their briny meat. Meltingly creamy, salty and rich caramels d’Isigny expanding in a soft blanket across the palate before being washed away with the heady, sultry apple caressed Calvados that left my chest swollen and sweetly stinging with fire.
As the train rolled on I caught a glimpse on the other side of the tracks. One of the many simple roadside signs, flat brown with rudimentary drawings of attractions awaiting those sliding past us going the other way. The drawing a little seaside town with boats tied up at the docks. The sign now out of direct sight but my mouth began to water as I flashed on an afternoon spent on a bench in the town of Saint-Vaast-La-Houge. The sun heavy and proud in the perfectly blue sky, the villagers taking a post lunch stroll along the marina. The pink-cheeked, well fed children tucked into perfectly draped scarves and lapping away at tiny waffle cones piled high with various colored and flavored ice cream you just knew had to be the best you would have ever tasted if you could negotiate yourself a taste. Parents looking about, nodding at passers by while investigating who was working on their boats and who was just returning from one of the oyster farms that were stacked just beyond the marina, whistling and “tisk-tisk” tisking at their small dogs that were running beneath my bench to retrieve any dropped bits of my thrown together bench picnic, goodies found at a funky Maison Gosselin market in town.
Oily, thinly sliced cured meats, butter cookies that shattered delicately when you took a bite, the crumbs that made it upon your palate melting pure butter and just the proper amount of cooked sugar. Cheeses washed with Calvados, funky, stinky, and sticky and just the kind of thing I love to scrape from my thumb with my teeth, feeling the fatty texture roll about in my mouth. Olive oil potato chips, yeasty, flaky, petit baguette ripped off in hunks, (get those crumbs wee puppies) dunked in tarragon mustard before we piled ribbons of salty meat on top. Washing it all down with not cold enough smuggled cups of Ricard and water…the ocean, the oyster shells, the croaking of being repaired boat engines, reprimanded doggie sounds, sea birds above, black licorice and aggressive cheese hanging from my lips.
As the train continued to rock me I felt something come over me. Something so very familiar and for so many reasons. One of the most primal, desired and hated feelings I can remember from my childhood. I was hungry. It came over me so fast and so powerfully that I couldn’t tell if I were truly needing food, if the memories of Normandy were fucking with my head or if it was a whole other kind of hunger gnawing and clawing at me from the inside and demanding I pay attention. I took a sip from my water bottle and the answer was becoming clearer by the second. Oh sure, I could have used a quick bite before our planned 9:00 PM dinner in Paris but it was not food I needed to fill me. I took a moment to truly reflect about where I was, in my second week of a month long trip to France. There for family, friends and getting swallowed up by new sights, but it was wine I was on my way to reconnect with and my hunger pains were growing ferocious.
I felt my chest inflating, almost as if my breath and excitement were rushing over me too fast for me to catch up. It had been too long since I felt this level of want and it was deliciously devouring me. I heard the announcement come over the speaker in our nearly empty car on the train, less than ten minutes and we would be back in Paris. I thought of the years I would sit on the porch of whatever place my mother could afford to rent, blowing bubbles which I would emotionally fill with my hopes and wishes for the future, watching them float down the block and disappear like I wished that I could. The nights escaping to the silence of an empty pool. The sneaking out of my bedroom window to head to parts of town full of its own saturated sadness where longing souls stood around in groups on the street corners, their own hunger, of every kind, inspiring rash decisions and unwise grabbing. The clumsy fumbling of young hands, fingers, lips and inhibition ….I had dreamed myself out of a million ugly places but never could I have ever imagined my hunger would bring me here. To this place in my life. To this place on the planet. To this place where I could literally feel myself spreading open my hungry heart to wine all over again.
Ready to feed…..