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June 15, 2011

Why I Love Food

I love food!  Food makes me happy.  The anticipation of a great meal’s expected arrival at the table has been known to make me giddy like a schoolgirl.  Yep I said it.  Down right giddy with excitement about the moment about to be enjoyed and savored.

There are so many things I love about food.  The need to eat connects all living things.  Everyone eats.  Men.  Women. Young.  Old.  Every race. Every culture.  From the moment we are born our bodies understand the need for nourishment even before our minds do.  We even start craving foods and developing our eating habits before we even know what we are eating.

I love the communal experience of food.  Getting together to “break bread” is a time honored human tradition.  When friends and family gather for any celebration it almost always involves a meal.  I can think of so many great evenings and times with friends that have revolved around food.  Watching someone enjoy what you have created and shared with them and vice versa is a great way to connect with people.  What better way to get to know someone, to catch up with an old friend, to get an update on the kids happenings at school, to take time to enjoy life or to learn about another culture, then to sit down and converse over a meal.

I love the sensory experience of food.  You use all five senses with food and all have a role in what you ultimately taste.  The mere sight of your favorite dish can make your mouth water as you start to think about how it will taste.  The touch of tomatoes and fruits while picking out produce or pressing on your steak to check doneness can tell you what you want to know.  The sound of your fish sizzling as it hits the pan tells you it’s ready to give you that nice sear you’re looking for.  Then there is smell.  Oh I could go on and on about the smell of food.  For me so much of the overall enjoyment of cooking and eating comes from the smells.  I love the way smells can linger and keep reminding you of what’s coming or what you may have already had.  I love the way my house smells after baking bread or an apple pie.  I love the way my fingers smell like fresh garlic for a day after just about every meal I cook.  (I love garlic!)  I love the way the air smells around my neighborhood when the brewery is cranking out the golden liquid that helped build St. Louis or when Skip is creating new BBQ favorites at Bogart’s.  All of this before you even taste anything.  When your taste buds finally do get involved the chemical reaction starts and your tongue picks out the salty, sweet, sour or bitter flavors.  Your brain takes in that info and all the other stuff your senses gave you to process to produce the actual taste of the dish and your ultimate sensation of pleasure or displeasure.  The explosion of flavors you can experience during a great meal can evoke many feelings and emotions.

That brings me to the part of food that goes beyond the basic five senses. It’s the part of food that I really love the most and that is the way food can make you think and feel.  The smells and tastes of your favorite foods can take you to a place in time, they can remind you of a season, a special moment or person or a beloved relative.  An amazing meal can change your life.

When I drink orange soda I think of the first time I ever had it at summer camp.  When I smell the brewery I think of our Sunday drives down Highway 55 from South County to church at St. Raymond’s.  I would always hope it would be a day we could smell that great aroma and my sister would always hope we wouldn’t.  I still love that smell and she still doesn’t.  I love how when I eat at St. Raymond’s on Wednesdays I think of all the hours my great aunts and grandmother volunteered in the kitchen preparing traditional Lebanese dishes and how to this day I have yet to have a piece of baklava that’s as good as grandma made.  I love how the smell of fried potatoes will always remind me of being a kid on Saturday mornings being awakened by the smell of my dad cooking his in that well seasoned cast iron skillet and then, still half asleep, stumbling to the table to find a plate of mom’s hot pancakes waiting for us.

I hope I never lose those moments and that I always have the good fortune to enjoy good times with good food and good people.

I love food!

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