Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cold Turkey in Arizona

To the gourmand,

There are meals, and there are memorable meals.  And the memorable ones are the more precious by virtue of their poverty of frequency.  As Joseph Wechsberg, the author of the celebrated Blue Trout and Black Truffles, wrote in 1962, "I've had memorable meals in my life but never too many in succession, and there are often long, lean months between these festive occasions."

Truer words, my good fellow.

There are meals that are outstanding in my memory - a blazing fire, the conversation and forks moving excitedly, the laughter going on long, the companions seated at the table hours after dessert has been set aside and the candles wilt low in their holders.

Food is, above all, a time of communion.  I've discovered that it is very difficult for me to eat alone - I need the presence of someone else to share the delight with, to enjoy the moment, to savor the company of one engaged in what is not only a most rudimentary need for survival, but also one of the most highly refined pleasures society can offer.

I know I am not alone in this, and it makes sense that in this light many of our favorite food memories are necessarily centered not on the exquisite tableau of food itself, but rather the delight that the company offered.  Tonight, it is raining outside, and cold.  Thanksgiving is drawing close, and this stirs my memories to a dinner from last November which shall forever stand as one of my all-time favorites.  The food, in my recollection, was astoundingly good and filling.  The company, above all desirous.  The setting, never to be reconstructed in its singular exceptionality.

On the way down southwest, we took the scenic highway through California
and drove through the redwoods and along the coast. 

It was only a day past Thanksgiving, and Mr H and I were making a long drive home from spending that cibarious holiday with family in the the southwestern United States. We were stopping in Arizona that night, on a high desert plateau at a quiet, clean rest stop.  Temperatures were at freezing outside, but because we were in the spirit of adventure we didn't mind sleeping in the car.  We hung towels, sweatshirts, and every piece of spare fabric we could find from the mirrors, the window-handles, and stuffed into every frosty crevice the car offered.  While Mr H assembled this contraption, I went outside the car and opened the trunk. Inside was a cooler replete with leftovers from the Thanksgiving orgy of food.  I pulled out a hefty slab of cheddar cheese, a huge turkey breast, and a pan of pumpkin pie.  With these chilled items in my hands, I shuffled back into the car and we turned the heater on again to warm up.

Dinner was succulent, rich.  We were hungry.  We tore the cold turkey with our hands and ate it with broken-off hunks of cheese.  We scooped the pumpkin pie with a spoon and shared the utensil, leaving the crust in the pan with the cold turkey fat, leaving some leftover turkey in there, too.  We ate until we were full and we stashed the rest for morning.  Together, happy, content with the company of each other, with satisfied bellies and slightly greasy fingers.  We ran the the engine again to heat the car, talking, chuckling at our sleeping quarters, swathing ourselves in a shared quilt and snuggling into icy pillows.  Between dinner and dawn, we woke several times to run the engine again and heat the frosted car.  By morning, the towels were frozen to the windshield, we were frozen together, our feet were solidly numb, and the turkey had to be broken out for breakfast.  That didn't matter - as cold as we were, we were plenty warm.

What is your memorable meal, and what made it so?

Mrs H



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