Friday, November 18, 2011

13 Days of Thankfulness: A Good Meal

I'm been very fortunate in my life to have some pretty darn good eats in my day. From my mom's spectacular BBQ chicken pizza to homemade pasta with meat sauce with my dad, I've grown up with some pretty delicious meals. And just last week while in Las Vegas I got to try out chef Tom Colicchio's (of the show Top Chef) restaurant CraftSteak. Let's just say it was incredible and I was able to try a lot of new things like caviar, frise'e salad, and gold sprinkled chocolate (all separately of course). But it was a tremendous meal that made me think about how appreciative I am of a good meal.

Making homemade fettuccine at home in New Hampshire.
Over the years I have had the chance to try all different kinds of foods from around the world. I spoke at a Peace Conference last month which was mixed with a traveler's forum and one of the questions was asked, "what is the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?" I had to dig into my brain a bit to think about exactly what it could have been.

It could have been deep fried crickets and cockroaches outside of the bars in Bangkok. It might have also been alligator bites in New Orleans on Bourbon St. I didn't have the pleasure of eating/drinking snakes blood and heart as it beats in a shot glass like some of my friends did in Thailand but I did get to try scorpion and I must say it was quite delicious. But anyway, this isn't about weirdest foods, it's about great wholesome meals, such as Thanksgiving dinner (the whole reason this "Days of Thankfulness" blog series started in the first place!)

When I think back to some great, well rounded, delicious meals with great company and intriguing conversation, obviously the first meals that come to mind are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter lunches/dinners. But others stir up images of sitting on a elevated open-air porch outside of Colombo, Sri Lanka with one of my best friend's Dan and Michelle eating rice stick noodles, biriyani, string hoppers, pol sambol (coconut sambol), samosas and the most amazing fish platter I've ever had... and eating it with my hands with all of the curries imaginable. THAT is a meal (which I had often while in Sri Lanka) that I won't forget, and was cooked entirely by Dan's mother with a little help from me via hand motions in replace of English.

Homemade, traditional Sri Lankan meal (top), tangy star fruit served for dessert (middle), and spicy biriyani as my first meal in the country at a roadside stand (bottom).
Another meal I think of is during my time in Sapa, Vietnam at a home stay. My 17-year old guide, Chi, who showed us around her beautiful village and then spend hours cooking some of the best, traditional food of northern Vietnam/southern China... and of course throwing back dozens of shots of rice whiskey after their casual way of cheers "gow to gow to gow gow!" "cheers to drinking to getting drunk!"
Chi cooks up some of the best fried rice and other traditional Vietnamese dishes ALL in the wok. Notice the soot on her face. Shots of rice wine throughout the night (bottom).
Of course I cannot forget Maryland blue crab meals. Those are an event, not an eating occasion. Although I have had many crab feasts in my day, there is nothing like eating crabs just yards away from where YOU caught them off the Eastern Bay of the massive Chesapeake Bay. It is not as easy as you think dropping traps and catching them yourself, but it is a lot of fun to stack up a full bushel of them only to eat them a few hours later and the spread out paper cloth. That is a traditional Maryland meal!
Our fresh catch on the bay in St. Michael's, MD
Lastly, although I have dozens more amazing meals I could discuss, I will end with simply the great love and happiness that is a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. Being able to discuss at the table the things we are thankful for each year and having the opportunity to spend time together is why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Yes, the turkey and stuffing (oh the stuffing!) is so amazing, but what makes it taste even better, what makes it even more special is the company shared. This will be my fourth Thanksgiving I will be unable to spend back home in New Hampshire with family, but it simply goes to show how appreciative I am of such an event as it still brings me back to my house the moment I smell turkey or once the autumn begins to bite: you know Thanksgiving is on its way. Happy holidays to everyone and be sure to indulge yourselves with some great food while remembering how fortunate you are for the meal, family, health and happiness you have.

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