Food. Memories.

December 3rd, 2013, 11pm

This plate of pasta was one of my favorite things in the world in college. Hot, tomatoey, comforting. At $17 a plate, it didn’t come cheap, but it was my little luxury. My “petit zeitaku”.

Thinking back, college was a time of experimentation, of a string of love affairs. With food. Finding myself, for the first time, truly away from home, it was in food that I found my solace.

First, it was looking for familiar foods in an unfamiliar place. The Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown that served food close enough to my childhood in Singapore. The suspicious Chinese dim sum place that was surprisingly edible.

Then, meeting people, bonding over food. Heated conversations over a shared love of tom yum goong. Chatting to someone I met for the first time about sushi. People who I felt I had nothing in common with, I befriended over a passion for flavor. Bonds formed in shared quests for some taste, any taste, that could ease some of the displacement we felt.

Food became an event. My best friend became my dinner companion. My brunch buddy. Food was an item on the calendar we could look forward to. A reason to dress up, go out, do something other than stare at the unfinished reading assignment sitting on the floor. I looked forward to new food like a new movie, new book. Familiarity was wonderful, but I savored the stimulation of something fresh.

I fell in love with pho. Something new yet something familiar. Hot, soupy, flavorful. All the tastes my palate would love, but in an unfamiliar form. Trying to get wine in the pho restaurant without an ID, nearly being kicked out.

I was re-educated about pasta. Spaghettini Aglio e Olio con Pomodoro. No longer just bottled meat sauce thrown over soggy noodles (delicious in their own right.) All these foreign words. Antipasti. Linguine. Prosciutto. Going back again and again for that spaghettini, first the infatuation, then love. Its warm flavor, so comforting.

My first foie gras. Swept me off my feet. That melting sensation! The fat, coated in tangy sauce, overwhelming in the mouth. So this is foie gras!

Then, uni. Memories of the first time my mother introduced me to them in a revolving sushi store in Tokyo. It was such a foreign texture, so confusing. I learned to love it as I learned to love wine, learned to be grateful that these wonderful things could be a part of my life.

Every food is tied to a dozen memories. Yearning for the memory makes me yearn for the food. Craving the food, I recall all these memories. Food is so many things to me, and it will be so many more things yet to come.

Gully, David Wade and Mona said thanks.

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Yiling Ding

Think too much. Write too little.

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