I am starting with this because this topic comes up a lot in the shows I watch and conversations that I have.  What can I say?  I love food, so that happens.  Most people mention things like their favorite restaurant meal, or something that their grandmother would often make for them.  You know, the standard stuff.  A lot of hard-core foodies will rattle on and on about the tasting meal at some place like noma that costs an arm and a leg and takes hours on end.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I would love to dine at a place like that, and I am sure that those make for extremely memorable meals.  But for me?  Not even close.

For some reason, when I think about the most memorable meal that I have ever eaten, I can’t even categorize it as a meal in the literal sense.  It was really only one food.  An ear of corn, to be exact.  But it was the most perfect ear of roasted corn, eaten in the most amazing place, at the most ethereal time, with the most interesting company that I could ever imagine.

Picture this:  It’s just coming into full darkness on a small, extraordinarily remote island.  So remote that vehicles aren’t known, electricity is a foreign concept and ice isn’t even something that people can wrap their heads around.  Now, picture the night sky so clear that you can literally see satellites when they float by, blinking.  Letting you know that, despite what you think, you are not actually truly alone out here.  Not completely.  Couple that with the fact that you are sitting on a bench; well, okay a large chunk of drift wood, or rather, the island’s version of it.  It’s about the length of a car, but not quite a cushy.  Still, though, it makes a satisfactory place to sit for a bit.  The “bench” is right on the beach, though, so you have a perfect, unspoiled view of the ocean.  The vast, endless, ocean before you.  And you hear the now-tiny waves, the last remnants of the tide.  That’s really the only sound that you are concentrating on the time.  You are miserable.  So much so, that you hope that no one sees you if you suddenly start to cry.  You are starving, but although you are surrounded by fish, thanks to the island having long ago been (at least, marginally) missionized by the Seventh Day Adventists, you can’t actually eat most of what’s out there.  Instead, you have eaten the rice that you and your colleague have kindly brought with you, along with all of the pumpkin on the island.  That’s right, you ate them out of it, and more coconut that you ever want to imagine eating again.

Suddenly, Herman comes up behind you and presents you with an amazing gift.  It’s an ear of corn that he found.  The last one on the island, to be exact.  You already ate the rest, since you still don’t consider sago or taro to be edible and papaya makes your stomach churn.  You didn’t think that there was any more, and you have become resigned to eating nothing but rice and banana, and maybe some scrounged pineapple, for the rest of the time that you are there.

Instead, he has brought you a perfect, roasted, char-flecked ear of corn.  He doesn’t say anything to you.  He knows that right now you aren’t really interested in conversation.  He just hands it to you, smiling and flashing you his red and black colored teeth – stained, from years of beetle nut chewing – and sits down next to you, whipping out his harmonica and playing a slow tune, accompanying perfectly the sounds of the waves and sounds of your munching on that ear of corn.

You eat it all.  Every single bit of it.  So much so, that if you were at home, someone would think that you might be distantly related to a wolf.  It looks like someone had a real grudge against it and wanted it destroyed.  But it was so sweet, with just a hint of char.  No salt, no butter.  No need.  The juice shot out of each kernel and warmed your soul.

And despite everything that had happened on this trip and how you have felt for weeks, for a short time – really, just a few minutes – you feel whole, satisfied, happy.  Content.  And suddenly, spending a little more time on this small chunk of rock out in the middle of nowhere, doesn’t seem as horrible as it did just five minutes before.

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