Most Memorable Meal–Amanda Kuehn

Posted on January 24, 2014

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One of the first assignments to come from my food writing class was to blog about my most memorable meal. My first thought was, “Crap! I really don’t want to relive that again,” which is not something you’d expect from a woman who loves her tastebuds as much as I do. My second thought was that I didn’t even know where to start.

You see, in the two years that I dated the man of many flavors I had no small number of incredible culinary encounters. I tasted my first oyster, my first lobster, my first bite of perfectly marinated shiitake mushrooms, my first risotto, foie gras and slice of fresh mozzarella. I ate wildly amazing meals, but my heart is too tender to relive those moments, tantalizing though they may have been. So I dug deeper, further into my file cabinet of flavors, for a memorable meal that was in my memory alone.

It was December of 2007. The time was 8 pm. The city was Oxford, England. The location was Phil and Rachel’s place on Headington Way–my bed for the night and home for the weekend.
I walked into the house to find Phil, Rachel and several of their friends chatting in the sitting room.
“Can I get you something to drink?” one of them asked.
“Um, sure,” I replied.
“Hot or cold, soft or hard?” she asked.
“Um, I don’t know…” I stammered. I ended up with a glass of red wine. Having only just turned 21 and having never attended a proper dinner party, I had little understanding of before dinner drinking etiquette.

Having arrived after eight, I wasn’t expecting dinner. After a week of traveling on my own, I was used to early evenings. I made small talk with the guests as I fiddled with my glass, occasionally sipping the bitter cabernet.

Eventually, we moved into the dining room where the eight of us were seated at a white-clothed table. There were two forks at my place setting. Two. Rachel brought out plates of cold green bean and squash salad, while a friend went around filling the wine glasses. “Sam and I are trying to decide which wines we want to serve at our wedding,” he explained. “You all get to be our guinea pigs.” How is it that even a word like “guinea pig” can sound dashing when said with a British accent? I could count on one hand the number of wines I’d tried in my life. How would I say anything about these?

roasted-parsnips-new

But as the wine flowed and the meal was served, I found I had very little trouble offering my opinion on just about everything. The salad plates were cleared and Rachel returned with a platter of pheasant. It was gamey and tender, like the skinless dark meat of a perfectly fried chicken. She served it with steamed brussels sprouts and potatoes, fresh green peas and sweet, delicate white parsnips. They melted on my tongue, not like snowflakes, but like butter, warm and salty. I thought back to my train ride and the half baguette, warm white cheddar and remaining English cucumber that made up my last meal. I now regretted the space it had taken in my stomach.

I was well past full when Rachel cleared our dishes, put on the kettle and asked if we’d like tea or coffee with our pudding. “Tea,” I said. “Milk and one sugar.” How I took my tea was one thing I had nailed down during my four months in England. As the water heated, Rachel brought out bowls of black currant crumble and a pitcher of steaming custard. “Isn’t custard just heaven?” Phil remarked, smothering his crumble in creamy yellow ripples. It is, I thought, spooning a bite of juicy dark berries into my mouth. Really and truly.

rosecitychocolates

We took our tea back into the sitting room, warmed by a heat of the fire on the hearth. As we discussed grown up things, Rachel brought out a box of hazelnut chocolates shaped like seashells. “You must try one,” she insisted lifting the lid. “They’re dangerously morish.” I did not know that “morish” was a word, but after biting into the hard white shell and wrapping my tongue around the creamy rich center I felt I knew perfectly well what it meant. I wanted more and more for the rest of the night.

One by one the dinner guests drifted out. I sat there with my tea, drinking in the warmth of the evening and dreaming of the day I’d host my own dinner party.

Photos thanks to: Simply Recipes and Rose City Chocolates
http://www.simplyrecipes.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/roasted-parsnips-new.jpg
http://www.rosecitychocolates.com/images/Collections/belgian-seashells-750.jpg

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