…because some thoughts are worth remembering
I don’t know why if you order a vegetarian meal for a lunch event held at a hotel, the food has no taste. They had to hold meat products, not spices. Vegetarian cooking is not necessarily healthy, as I know a self-proclaimed “junk vegetarian” (because tofu dogs and potato chips are vegetarian). I’ve known this for a while. At some point in life, you realize that eating meat can be a choice you can opt out of, for whatever reason. It is easy to form stereotypes of vegetarian dishes: more constraints means giving up on maximizing for the palate or the dining experience, vegetarianism can also be a lifestyle and not just about avoiding animal products with a certain amount of “I need to suffer a bit to know I’m doing good”.
Then I met Eileen. She took me to one of my first experiences to a farmers’ market in the U.S. She knew all the vendors, she talked to the purveyors about how the tomatoes were doing this season as if she was asking about their kid, and she asked about a variety of peppers she hadn’t seen before with a curiosity of a scientist. It felt as if every purchase was a combination of a cherished harvest and a lottery ticket: unsure of what anything would taste like, but you’ve already won the chance to dream. Back in the apartment when we were sorting out our winnings, Eileen carefully teared off wilted bits of basil leaves, before she placed them neatly into ice cubes so she can have the flavors of summer all year long. “Is it because it will not keep well in the freezer?” I asked. “I don’t know,” said Eileen, “I just don’t like them.”
She was also the first vegetarian I met who optimized for taste.
I wondered what she would do with a big melon we got. Will she slice them? Cut them into cubes for a smoothie later? She simply cut it in half and took a spoon to it. I stopped talking so she can be alone with the melon with its ripe flesh oozing sweet nectar.
It’s the kind of memory that your palate accesses when you can celebrate simple joys of eating something nature has produced…without the labeling, the stereotypes.
Photo: simple but wonderful loaf of bread and salted butter at Kødbyens Fiskebar, in the meatpacking district of Copenhagen, Denmark, started by a Noma alumnus.