Coffee with Mimi: The best thing I ever ate

Published 8:21 am Monday, September 27, 2021

When I graduated from college, my very first job was thought by some of my friends to be the stuff of dreams.  Within one week of the hard-earned and long-awaited ceremony, I was on an airplane headed to New Mexico on an assignment representing my first official employer.  It was pretty heady stuff.  Armed with a company credit card, reservations for a hotel and rental car, I was on my way.

And, I was on my own.  My work day was established, but there was plenty of free time to spend as I wished.  I took advantage of my good fortune on that trip and on the many others that came my way.  I learned to navigate the highways and bi-ways all over the country in pre-GPS days.  I traveled like a seasoned veteran, devising techniques which got me efficiently from one city to another in different time zones and varying weather situations with little passing time in my own home.

I learned to be comfortable being on my own in all sorts of situations, some of which were a bit unsettling in hind-sight.  There was the time all my luggage was lost heading into Washington, DC.  My travel arrangements had been too hastily packed by the office and placed in the work bags – lost somewhere along the East coast.  In the dead of night, in pre-cell phone days, I set up camp at a pay phone in the baggage claim area and prayed I could make contact with any co-worker who would know anything off the top of his or her head about where I was supposed to sleep that night and be the next day.

From around the corner appeared friends who were in town for another meeting. I was gathered into their group, taken to a welcome dinner, and attached to their block of hotel rooms.  In the morning, all was cleared up and I got to work.

One aspect of traveling alone is eating alone.  While in college, I had lived alone in apartments at various times.  Being of the college age, I rarely spent time cooking on my own.  I had a regular set of friends and activities and a refrigerator with not much of interest to offer.

When on the road, I needed nourishment and had choices.  I had my first taste of real Vermont maple syrup, tried dim sum, and ate swordfish.  I’m an adventuresome sort, and liked the novelty of being on my own and having opportunities. What a great way to see the country, try new things, experience the flavors of wherever I was on a given day.

There is a foodie TV show recounting stories by famous people who rave about the best thing they ever ate.  I have some really good stories about some really good things I have eaten in some really interesting settings: maple syrup at a mom – and – pop restaurant in rural Vermont, dim sum in a famous Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia, swordfish steaks in Chicago.

But the best thing I ever ate has little to do with exotic locations, though that may be an incidental factor.

Today, the best thing I ever ate was a breakfast sandwich and roasted, herbed potatoes at a crowded restaurant on the way home from a positive doctor’s appointment with my daughter.

A couple weeks ago, the best thing I ever ate was a steak grilled out by my husband for a dinner with some friends on their first visit to see our new porch.

Earlier in the summer, the best thing I ever ate was the now infamous octopus dinner cooked with my mom, while on vacation in Greece.  I do admit that is a rather exotic location when you consider the table was set in full view of the Parthenon and the wine was a very nice selection from a Greek island vineyard.

Several years ago, the best thing I ever ate was a totally decadent chocolate cake made by my daughter for my birthday.  The cake completely collapsed, looking more like a volcanic eruption, but my kids and husband, mom, brother, and sister-in-law were all gathered for the occasion.  And, the cake was truly delicious.

One would think I would be clamoring to recreate the best things I have ever eaten, to add the recipes to my regular repertoire.  It is possible, I suppose.  But I don’t consider it necessary.

I tried that once before with a pumpkin cheesecake.  At some point prior to Thanksgiving, I had served the dessert for some function and it was a hit.  I was often assigned dessert for the family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  This year was one of those times and I had the perfect, memory-making offering.

The pie was prepared and placed on the table.  It was a colossal flop.  No rhyme nor reason can explain it.  It wasn’t the best thing anyone ever ate.  It was monumentally forgettable.  Thankfully.

Lately, I am assigned to bring the dressing.  The leftovers can be frozen as individual servings to be forgotten in the depths of the freezer.  You can’t force a best thing.