I know, I know - that's supposed to be 2019. But I will gladly give 2018 that title. When I was younger, I could think of no better life than eating my way through the world. How this might be accomplished never crossed my mind, only that I oh-so-badly wanted to pick destinations based solely on the cuisine, travel there and pig out, all while never gaining an ounce, of course.
Then came marriage, and two baby carriages, one after the other. My husband, as much as he enjoys food, prefers it served at his own kitchen table. Decades passed, children grew, the schedule became a little more flexible, all without my really having realized it.
This summer, my brand-new eighteen year old and I embarked on a cross-country drive, based on carefully researched restaurants along the way. We dined sumptuously in some places, while some days we chose to forego a meal because we couldn't bring ourselves to stop for the available options. From a bacchanal of twelve courses one day to searingly spicy hot chicken the next, re-visiting an iconic childhood ice cream shop to coffee so bad that I couldn't drink it even though I desperately needed the caffeine, we sampled a lot on that road trip.
Then came an unexpected two-day trip to Providence, Rhode Island. How could I possibly have forgotten the existence of a world-class culinary school housed there, that churns out sorcerers who have opened restaurants, which fed me some of the finest meals I have consumed stateside?? And y'all, we live in Raleigh, where we already have access to some fantastic restaurants, am I right?
Then came my mother's sudden stroke, and I flew to my hometown in South India as soon as I could. Turns out, only being allowed to see her for 30 minutes, twice a day left a whole lot of time in-between. So what did we do? Why, we ate, of course. From the comfort of home cooking to street-side food vendors, fine dining restaurants to finger-licking chaat, I ate it all. Food is my old friend for distraction and comfort.
A week after returning, off we went to Spain for a pre-planned and pre-paid trip. Once again, from Madrid to Barcelona, we ate. And ate. An encounter with strangers at the next table led to them insisting that we share their bottle of Rioja, beginning a correspondence that still has a healthy amount of back-and-forth. Food halls and marketplaces, fine restaurants, veritable institutions in chocolate and churros, centuries-old bakeries. We devoured them all, and were amazed that we simply couldn't get enough of the simple, but crave-worthy flavors of Spain. Salmorejo was a revelation. I sampled my first sea urchin. And the list continues.
According to the Chinese, 2019 is the Year of the Pig. But if you've made it through this post, you'll agree that I was quite the piggy in 2018. And I wouldn't change a thing.