by Lara Gladych –
Seaside Magazine wants to live up to our slogan of being “the voice of the Saanich Peninsula,” so in every issue we’ll be asking people to answer one simple question. We’re looking for responses from all ages and across the diverse neighbourhoods that form our community.
When I contemplate my most memorable meal ever, about five occasions come to mind. What I notice immediately in recalling these memories is that it wasn’t solely the food that made the meal memorable, but rather, it was combined details of setting, occasion and company that, taken with the outstanding food, made them memories of note.
At the top of my list of most memorable meals would be dinner at Bern’s Steak House, in Tampa, Florida. The occasion was meeting for the first time the man who years before had stepped in as father figure to my then-fiancé after Rick lost his dad. I had heard many special stories about Lew leading up to that night.
At the restaurant I ordered Steak Tartare, another first for me, as I surmised that if ever there was a time and place to try it, this was it. It was incredible. Their website summarizes my experience: “Perfectly aged steaks. One of the largest wine collections in the world. An internationally famous dessert room. Wine cellar and kitchen tours available for all guests.” We took the tour, along with Dr. Robert Schuller, of Crystal Cathedral fame. I was in awe of it all. After dinner, Lew and I shared Cherries Jubilee in the dessert room. I could write an entire piece dedicated solely to the details of the evening.
So, what is your most memorable meal, anywhere in the world at any time in your life?
“Bistro Suisse. We don’t live here, but we go every time we come.” This was the family of Cam, Susan, Max and Otto. Their favourite meal? Bratwurst and Rösti. “We eat super clean. We like it, and it fits well for us. We can walk in there and actually get food [that works with our dietary restrictions].”
“It was in Italy, Tuscany somewhere, up on a hilltop at 10:30 p.m. We couldn’t speak any Italian, and they just brought us whatever they wanted. We had pasta, meats, all kinds of stuff. It was amazing,” said Tonja.
I approach a group of cyclist friends enjoying their post-bike coffees. Jacinta said: “I went to a restaurant in London called Black Stalk. The restaurant basically served nothing but meat. We went as a group, and one of the fellows with us, Ken, bought this amazing steak, that, I kid you not, was probably about 50 pounds. Probably the most memorable thing about that was that we lost Ken a couple of months later; he died of a heart attack.”
“Paella on the beach in Mexico,” said Ray, a friend of Jacinta’s. “It was this massive paella with tonnes of seafood, all cooked right on the beach.”
Corrin shared a similar memory. “It was my birthday, in the Dominican Republic, and the meal was crawfish that was cooked right on the beach. The best part was that my friends paid for it,” she said with a joyful laugh.
Mark, too, had a special seafood memory: “My most memorable meal would be fruit de mer – so a big plate of seafood – in Brittany, in a town called Roscoff. It came with about four levels: crab, and lobster, and scallops, and whelks, and mussels … so it was the shock of it being massive. And it cost a lot, but we didn’t ask that at the beginning! It was memorable for all sorts of reasons.”
“My most memorable meal was In-N-Out Burger, at my wedding,” said Trevor. His wife, Kendra, added: “I would have to say breakfast at the Mauna Kea, on our honeymoon, because I got to do that every day, and because breakfast is one of my favourite meals.”
A couple tell me that their most memorable meals have been the seafood dishes that she, Lourdes, prepares at home. “I usually buy clams and mussels, sometimes crab, and make a steamed clam and mussel boil. That’s one of our favourite meals.”
I cross paths with another group of bicyclists. Judith is the first to respond to my question. “A salmon lunch I had at Poplar Grove Winery last year.” Another of the ladies, Ev, shares her memory: “We went to New Zealand and stayed in a tiny little place on a 10-kilometre beach, Ohope Beach. The people from whom we rented had a farewell wine and cheese for us when we left, and treated us like we were family.” Ev also recounts how the same people shared homemade scones and access to their personal vegetable garden.
I found a quote from British celebrity chef Heston Blummenthal. He said: “To me, food is as much about the moment, the occasion, the location and the company as it is about the taste.” Yes, this is what it’s all about.