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What book was I reading that said if you looked at any large quantity of your writing, you would see a few particular words that appeared again and again, words that you unconsciously gravitated towards? Those were your dears, your family, your jargon, but most of all, they were your own — that was the thing.

I see the same thing happening with food. If you look at menus, or say I look at my Thanksgiving menu, what I see are my favorite flavors emerging: fennel bulb – check!; maple syrup- check!; and anything sour – check plus!! (hey, I do eat whole, raw lemons).

But the question is why do you gravitate towards what you do – whether it’s words or foods? I recently went to a concert performed by a Julliard-trained musician – and when asked about why he liked a certain piece, he responded back with a question — why do you like your friends? There’s something that connects you — often times you can name it, certain characteristics that you both share or ones that you admire, but there’s also an element of mystery.

And you know how much I love mysteries.

When I first came into interview for a reporter job at Minnesota Public Radio, I knew I would like my editor because we both liked tea. He let me smell a steaming cup of a rather atrocious (sorry Euan!) brew. It was so smoky; it caught me off guard. I think he said he first got that particular tea as a gift, but instantly loved it and sought it out. Only much later did he uncover that this tea was actually the same brew his ancestors in Scotland drank. It was like flavor fondness had mysteriously passed through the generations.

With a few dear friends announcing their pregnancies, I’ve also thought about food cravings that pregnant women have. It must have something to do with what their bodies need, but perhaps the particular request that the flavor or nutrient comes in, is individual. On TV, these cravings are usually pickles and ice cream. For my mom, it was lime pickle – which we make in Goa (still waiting for that recipe, Auntie Imelde!). This has nothing to do with cucumbers, but rather, preserving cut-up limes in spices until they are soft and orange and sharp-tasting while retaining some citrus notes. Kind of like how that kumquat compote works, but in this case, the distant branch of the citrus family values sharpness over sweetness and patience (some lime pickles take months!) over same-day speed. Just thinking about lime pickle is making me crave it — it has such a profound zing!

And then there’s the “acquired taste” – like the one for bitter melon, that we grew up eating and that we grew in our yard. I have an Indonesian friend that says he craves bitter melon – a notion that had me almost drop my knives in the kitchen we work in. For my sister and I, eating bitter melon was a bitter pill to swallow, for sure. Even though my mom stuffed it with spicy shrimp, even though it looked gnarly (that was a pun), it still tasted so bitter!!! But, my friend has a great point; sometimes the unbearable flavor is also the most memorable. Strong emotions, either way, make an impact, right? I think he too, at first disliked it — but now misses it.

Some people suggest that the tartness of bitter melon adds “depth” to all kinds of dishes – hot, sweet, or sour. Maybe. I’ll see what my friend cooks up for me and report back.

Until then, what flavors do you crave?

One Response to “Cravings”

  1. jazzy says:

    i’m glad your blog is back, rosie-p!!!
    happy holidays 🙂

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