It is well-known that we remember most what we fully participate in, what we engage our whole selves in.
It is not surprising then that some of our fondest and happiest memories are those related to food. How many times have we gone into a restaurant and tasted a dish so divine we always keep on referring to it and, in future occasions, compare it to other lowly meals? How many times have we longed for the simple food of our youth when we feel down or unwell? How many times have we tried preparing food for someone we want most to remember us?
In the final moments of the Pixar film Ratatouille, it is this food-linked memory that saves the day. Food can lift us up, warm our hearts, and bring us together. Even in Christianity, we Remember by celebrating a meal.
Food simply engulfs a person completely. The colors of vegetables in a home-cooked stew. The crunch of a freshly cracked strip of pork rind. The smell of cookies being baked snaking its way into your room. The feel of different textures as you combine something fried, steamed, and sauced. The taste of perfectly-balanced spices in a traditional dish. This barrage on one’s senses often leaves a permanent mark. If one grows up preparing the food of his youth, like I did, the mark is set even deeper, and the memories more vivid.
When I left to pursue my Ph.D. here in Germany, not too long ago, I knew food would be the quickest answer if I ever got homesick. It’s not that I don’t like European food- I probably have palate that’s as experimental as one can get and I’m open to new flavors. It’s just that I know at one point, I’m going to start yearning for home and I wanted to be ready when that comes.
Thus, I decided to have a stash of Filipino goods even in my first few weeks here. It was difficult limiting the items to bring since I didn’t want to have overweight luggage. In the end, I was able to do a “food edit” and pack what I needed. When I showed this to Kookie, another author of this blog, her immediate reaction was, “You have to take a picture of this and write about it!” So I did and here it is:
Pinoys, what can you spy?
On my second week here in Heidelberg, I started scouting for some Asian food shops. I found two good ones across each other in a central part of town. One of them, the Tiger and Dragon Food Store, was so complete, I probably won’t need to ask anyone coming over from the Philippines to bring some native flavorings/ingredients. (More about this in another post, perhaps.)
Just last week, Kookie let me know that Aldi, a popular supermarket chain in Germany, had all its ASIA-label products on sale for the week. I immediately rushed to the nearest Aldi this weekend and stocked up on some ingredients. Looking at the expiration dates on some of the stuff surprised me- they sure know how to prolong the shelf life of goods here in Deutschland. At least now I wouldn’t have to worry about some ingredients of my favorite Asian recipes.
It somehow reminds me of an Asian-inspired gift basket…
Here’s to a great start and more posts on food and remembering here in the Phoodjournal.