Food and memory are tied up in kitchen twine together in my heart. Somehow, one does not seem to follow well without the other. I’ve had memories and I’ve had meals; but the moments that seem to ripple the strongest against my internal sounding board are those where the two meet up in a perfect mix of time and place and flavor and someone to share it with.
For me, eating is tied with listening – listening with your soul to the sounds around you; to the quality of the light; to the tone of the conversation; to the feeling of the moment. If you attune your soul to the surroundings the very act of eating seems to cement all those impressions firmly.
The drop in time that I first noticed this connection wasn’t until I was 18ish. I hopped a Grey Hound bus to San Francisco with a friend which was something that I think should only be attempted at 18 – not before and most decidedly not after.
We wandered and bought flowers to wear in our hair – probably because of that old song. Discovered a love for Rodin and ate good chocolate and bad chowder. I seem to remember that no matter where we were, we always had to walk up a big hill – but I think everyone remembers that about the city by the bay…
On a cold afternoon we meandered to Golden Gate Park and found ourselves deliberately but in an unfocused way at the Japanese Tea Gardens. The fog had rolled in that morning and never saw fit to roll out, so the gardens were more than just the usual lovely oasis, they were wrapped in wispy whipped cream.
I remember loving the gardens. But what I remember most is the moment we settled our cold selves (remember, the fog?) in the little tea house and ordered steaming cups of Jasmine Tea. I’m sure I read about jasmine tea or had heard it spoken of here and about, but can’t place the when/where. I will never forget though the first moment I had a sip. It was floral and grassy and hot and greenish-clear with a few leaves still dancing in the bottom of the cup. It seeped warmth into my hands and tattooed the jasmine flower scent in my mind.
Since, I have learned how one makes jasmine tea and about the quality of tea leaves. I have grown (and accidentally killed) a jasmine plant. I’ve been back to the Tea Gardens and had cup after cup of green tea on cold days. But all those things form ripples out from that first momentous sip. And jasmine tea will always be tied with kitchen twine to San Francisco and being 18 and traveling and fog and lush stylized gardens and my friend.
-Lydia, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair