The Fourth {part three: food}

In case you haven’t heard, Lovey and I rode the train to Colorado.  We consider it an experience–meaning it makes for a good story but we don’t recommend it to others–well, unless others need a good story, I guess.  You can catch up on parts one and two of the trip here and here.

Lovey & M on a rock next to a river

This third and final part is, as the title promises, all about food.  Lift your forks, people!  It’s about to get delicious.

We started our trip with good ol’ fast food.  And by “good” I mean “we had no other options.”  Seriously–our choices were McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and KFC.  Note to anyone ordering the new Southern Fried Chicken sandwich: it has nothing on it but a lame chicken (?) patty and a dill pickle.  At the McD’s we visited the menu was numbered with only even numbers, yet next to each even number was an image of the odd-numbered sandwich, large and in crisp focus, while its even-numbered counterpart lounged blurrily in the background.  I thought I would at least get a leaf of lettuce and a tomato slice with my #10, but that’s because I was looking at the #9 when I ordered.  Boo.  My first hint that something wasn’t right was when I read the box.  It ominously invited me to “Enjoy the Simplicity.”  Contrary to my supposed mission here, I wished the sandwich were a little more complicated.

However, I did enjoy the company of my dinner companion (Lovey) and the sensation that we were minutes away from embarking on an adventure.  Time away from home and work!  A journey by train!  Hiking in the mountains!  Not even a dumb sandwich could ruin that.

McD's trip fuel

When we reached higher ground we also reached a higher plane of healthful eating.  Behold, a parfait par excellence.  FIL always buys something novel when he grocery shops.  This time it was vanilla Greek yogurt, which became a prime component of parfaits completed with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries–an Independence Day celebration in dessert form.  I’m realizing as I type that this could just as easily have been breakfast.  Maybe I’ll start eating dessert for breakfast now.  Sounds like something to wake up for.

vanilla Greek yogurt parfait with red and blueberries

While I ate my way through delightful layers of fruit–this coming from a person who typically skips over fruity desserts–I watched “Away We Go” with the family.  If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a sweet story with plenty of quirk.  (And an awkward bedroom scene and plenty of F-bombs–don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As if one fruity dessert weren’t enough, we kept going with the berry thing.  This is a gluten- and lactose-free custard pie with blueberry sauce–everything from scratch.  I’ll be honest: the crust was a little soggy, but you would be too if I soaked you in custard for 4 hours.

gluten&lactose free custard pie with blueberry sauceLet me explain….  MIL and I decided to make a pie by pouring stirred custard into a crust we’d prepared earlier.  I stirred the custard, something I’ve made plenty of times at home, albeit from a different recipe and at much lower altitude.  She thought I should keep stirring, but as I was beginning to smell egg I said nay.  I scrambled my custard once, which, in addition to tasting nasty, was a waste of lots of eggs.  The custard in question that evening with MIL didn’t seem to have thickened but a little fridge time would fix that…I said.

I was wrong.  Instead of tossing it we decided to bake it and see what happened.  Long story short, it baked for 3 hours at 325 degrees.  I don’t remember how many times I ran upstairs to check it.  At 9:30 pm I was ready to give the garbage disposal a taste of my creation.  But FIL, patient when it counts, said we should keep baking it because, in his words, “Chemistry always works.”  He was right.

We ate this dessert the afternoon we left.  MIL, FIL, Lovey, and I sat on the deck looking out at the mountains, watching hummingbirds dart to and from the feeders, and feeling another thunderstorm whip up.  Our custard pie, ornery as it was, far surpassed the train food we were to eat on the way home, food  I couldn’t bring myself to photograph.

But here’s one I couldn’t bear to forgo documenting.  They call it Petrale Sole Lemenato.  Basically it’s seafood sprinkled with seafood–sole under a spill of baby shrimp, to be more precise.  The Italians have a veal dish called saltimbocca, which translates literally as “jumps in the mouth.”  I’ve never eaten that, but this dish created an effect that answers to that description.  The first bite was a pure culinary adrenaline rush.  White wine lemon butter sauce kicks the pants off of tartar sauce.  That’s all I have to say.

seafood spectacularWhile I ate this I enjoyed my last bit of visiting with SIL, who headed home after the meal.  From my spot at our cozy table I watched rain fall outside the huge front windows.  I watched families file through the door, shaking their umbrellas as the hostess led them to their tables.  I savored the homey atmosphere, the exciting flavors, and my family’s stories and debates.  I anticipated seeing “Anything Goes” at the theatre, the next stop on our evening itinerary.

Around each of the meals Lovey and I ate–even the undocumented ones–swirls the stuff of a story.  What hit our tastebuds is a tiny part of that story.  The rest includes who prepared the food and how they did it; where we sat, what we talked about, and, on the train, even who we met while we ate; and how we felt when we finished–ready to hibernate or energized to pursue the next activity.  Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” of eating–and that sort of has its place.  But what stands out to me as I think back over a trip in view of its meals is that I can’t think of anything that fosters closeness and satisfaction the way sharing a meal fosters them.

If you regularly share meals with someone, I encourage you this week to take one s-l-o-w-l-y, to enjoy connecting with that person (or those people).  If you usually eat alone, in a hurry, or for convenience, I urge you to plunge into the messy, time-consuming task of making something from scratch and inviting a friend or family member to sit down and eat with you.  Togetherness nourishes our spirits and satisfies us in ways no food ever could–but that’s not to say the food is unimportant.  The opposite, in fact.  It is the invitation.  It is the excuse to linger.  It is the groundwork for a story and a catalyst for remembering the story later.

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