Friday, March 31, 2006

Simple Food

Recently I was reading through the profile of the Food & Thoughts blogger, just kind of skimming the info but when she listed a couple of her favourite cookbooks and food related books, I sat up and paid attention. (Those of you who know me will know that I'm a big reader and I like to cook, so when you mix the two together ... only good things can happen!) Anyway, one of her links brought me to a book called Women Who Eat. I've now read the editor's notes and some reviews (thanks to Chapters.Indigo and Amazon - fyi - now it's on my wish list). Somewhere along the way I read "Rose's account of how fiercely she missed the most pedestrian American foods when doing a Peace Corps stint in Gabon offers both Mom's Egg Casserole and Terez's African Egg Casserole" - and I totally knew what she was talking about. I had had that kind of experience - fiercely missing the simplest foods. Suddenly I was back in Club Med. More specifically, in Paradise Island (which unfortunately I can't link to, think the village has been closed).

From August/September 1997 to November 1998, I was GO in Paradise Island. I actually worked as a GO from 1995 to 1999, but that's a story for another time. Today I'm talking about food. So ... where was I? Right, Paradise Island, working with Jill in the Bank. We'd sit there in our cell (aka The Bank), peer out at everyone passing by, listen to music and talk. Despite having incredible buffets at our disposal three times a day, seven days a week, we often talked about what foods we would eat when we went home for vacation. We didn't just talk about the foods we missed. We would make up whole menus of what we would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My favourite lunch foods to fantasize about were a grilled cheese sandwich (yes, with orange processed sliced cheese) and a bowl of Campbell's tomato soup, with homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert and a tall glass of chocolate milk. Mmmm ... good, eh?!

It sounds a little crazy, but you have to understand that as great as the food was in Club Med, it just wasn't the same as sitting down to a homemade meal. Sure I could have a freshly made omelet for breakfast made with exactly the ingredients I wanted, or fresh fish at lunch with a selection of fresh breads and French cheeses, or a variety of themed dinners (Mexican, French, Italian, Asian, Caribbean) any other night of the week. No need to worry about shopping for the groceries, doing the cooking or worrying about the clean up. It sounds great, doesn't it? It was. At first. For me the novelty wore off after a couple of months with this kind of eating and by the end of my 3 years in the villages, all I could stomach was yogurt and fruit. No matter how bad I wanted a plain ol' grilled cheese sandwich, that was just one of those things that wasn't on the menu. I could have a quesadilla - no problem - but it's just not the same, you know what I mean?

Now that I've been back in the real world for quite a few years, I have of course had plenty of opportunity to make that lunch. And you know what - it's still my favourite lunch, especially on a Saturday. I don't know why Saturday should make a difference but it does.

All that to say that it's funny how one little sentence can bring back a whole slew of memories and also remind you that sometimes it really is the simplest thing, in this case, food, that makes you happiest.

If I had any processed sliced cheese at home, can you guess what I'd be having for dinner tonight?


Darcy's Mama said...

When I was in South Africa, the best meal I had was a bowl of oatmeal on a rainy morning. It was interesting to experience the local food (canned spaghetti for breakfast) but there was something about the simplicity of that oatmeal. We all loved it. I've had more of a liking for oatmeal ever since.

Why said...

The best cup of tea I've ever had was on a wind-swept beach in Cornwall, England. It was bought at a little shack on the beach, served in a styrofoam cup...and it was the best damn cuppa.