What is Your Greatest Meal Memory?
My 4 All-Time Favorite Food Memories
My husband and I were recently inspired by an article about the most memorable meals. Milk Street Magazine Editor Christopher Kimball, an internationally known food guru, shared some amazing stories of meal adventures from around the world. For a guy who has feasted on almost every continent, it’s surprising to me that some of his greatest meals were from the yellow farmhouse of his childhood.
I also grew up in a yellow house, albeit more mustard than sunshine yellow. But some of my loveliest meals were from the vantage point of the worn and humble kitchen table of home. Meals are like that. Memorable feasting is more than fancy food and gourmet chef stuff. A meal that stays with you gives you something lasting - a sense of true pleasure and finding home on a plate.
With inspiration from Mr. Kimball, I took a turn at my own greatest meal memories. Although I have never eaten Weisswurst in Austria or couscous in Algeria, like his, my list speaks straight from the heart.
1. Summertime Pig Roasts at my Dad’s in Howard City, Michigan
Any time there was an idea of any celebration, there would be a pig roast. Graduations, birthdays, Fourth of July holidays, weddings, relatives visiting, literally any family occasion meant pig roast. My dad loved the adventure of cooking the pig from start to finish, a multi-day process. As a kid, the festivities felt like an endless summer party with fresh roasted corn, juicy tomatoes, and endless slabs of watermelon. Pig roasts always culminated with fireworks in the backyard for extra sparkle.
2. Cheese Cart from Chewton Glen, England
The first time I traveled overseas was when my husband and I were newly married. Seeing England through his eyes was like traveling with a local, as he had lived and worked there for many years. We stayed at an elegant country inn that felt like Robin Hood meets Downton Abbey. Every staff person greeted me as “Mrs. McLauchlan” and as a new wife, this felt magical and transformative.
Our first meal finished with a lush cart with cheeses from every farm in a 60-mile radius. The sweet young server explained each village that it came from and the process of how each cheese was made. I have never loved cheese so much. Glass of port in hand, I felt like I had died and gone to cheese heaven.
3. Risotto Balls from Sorrento, Italy
Everyone eats outdoors in Italy. In fact, they charge you extra if you want to sit at a table in a restaurant. I thought this was strange at first, but there are so many gorgeous perching spots everywhere that it soon became an adventure to find the best landing area. Giant foldable slabs of pizza next to a centuries-old fountain, yes, please. Cheesy calzone half-moons next to gladiator monuments, of course.
The city of Sorrento reminds me of everything you ever imagined Italy would be: cobbled streets, geraniums spilling over wrought-iron balconies, shops, and streets lined with colorful delicacies. My favorite memory is discovering a side street risotto ball shop that a local told me about in passing. My son and I purchased small bags of risotto balls steaming and freckled with parmesan cheese. Near a lush fountain, we feasted on the creamy orbs overlooking the town and nearby ocean. It was never lost on me how much beauty and history unfolded in any spot you found yourself in Italy. That day we felt like we might have discovered the greatest secret in the world.
4. Mom’s Kitchen from our Yellow House in Lakeview, Michigan
I could write long elaborate novels about my mom’s lasagna, homemade bread, apple crisp, and cornbread. But more than the food itself, meals around our heavily worn and deeply loved kitchen table were truly authentic. My mom wasn’t wealthy, but when she cooked for our family, you felt as if life was vibrantly abundant. Her ability to make ordinary meals feel like a true celebration is a quality I long to re-create.
Memorable Meals Feed Every Part of You
What I learned from my parents is that cooking is more than ingredients. Meals that sing have more to do with the company, the experience, and the attitude. Not just the pleasure of eating something delicious, but what it gives you in your heart.