I’m finally back home and decided to get cracking on the blogroll because I’m a couple behind. Here is the question from this week:
What’s the most expensive meal you’ve ever eaten and what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Isn’t is sad that the question assumes that the best meal you’ve ever had is not the one you paid the most for? Yet, what’s even sadder is that it’s true! For me, I’ve realized that what makes a meal the best meal is not just the food but the company you’re in when you eat it, the occasion, and the feeling that the food gives you. After all, the most incredible meal ever created might take on negative connotations if served at a wake, while something humble and simple might blossom into magnificence in memory if served at a wedding or in celebration of a birth.
I have two meals that were equally expensive, but I only paid for the second, so I’ll include both.
In college, my roommate’s older brother would come stay with us from time to time to attend football games. One Saturday when he came up, he took me, roommate, and another friend of ours out for steak at this fantastic restaurant down on the main drag near campus. Far and away the best steak I’ve ever had. He paid, bless his heart and thank him from the bottom of mine, for a meal that came out to roughly fifty dollars a person. Southern Honey and I never did eat there because of the price, but if we had, it would have tied meal number two.
Meal number two came about last month while Southern Honey and I were in Las Vegas. We splurged on the prix fixe meal at our hotel, and I treated myself to a glass of wine that cost twice as much as the bottles I normally buy. Everything was delicious, so I declared it worth every penny of the one hundred dollars we spent (with hefty tip, I promise — made heftier by the wine, I’m sure). I know that’s not much to some people for a meal, but it was the first time we’ve really treated ourselves because we’ve never been in a position where we could. I even told Southern Honey that spending that much made me feel like an adult.
Neither of those meals, though, would qualify for the best meal I’ve ever eaten. They were excellent, don’t get me wrong, but not The Best Thing Evar™. Two other meals lay claim to that title, and I think they both deserve it.
The Best Thing Evar™ #1: I took Arabic in college from a professor who grew up in Lebanon and went back there on a regular basis. He took fantastic care of us as students and helped to nurture a love for the language and Arab culture in all of us. Because College State is not known for being terribly cosmopolitan, he decided that the best way to introduce us to Middle Eastern cuisine was to cook for us. So, he and his wife (American but adept at both Arabic food and the Arabic language) cooked a feast for the ten or fifteen students who had stuck out the first two years.
How grand a feast, you ask? We’re talking lubna and hummus, tabouleh and stuffed grape leaves, plus a myriad of other dishes I can’t recall the names of. It was incredible, and they had made it all. That meal instilled in me a serious adoration of Middle Eastern food that was only cemented by others during my senior year. But it was the first and the greatest.
The Best Thing Evar™ #2: I know I’m going to come across as the biggest mama’s girl in history by writing this, but I don’t care. The other meal that is the best ever, in my opinion, is my mother’s chicken and dumplings. This is quintessential home cooking. For me, in fact, it’s the epitome of that “home” feeling, and that may be a large part of why it’s the best meal I’ve ever eaten.
Chicken stock, celery, carrot, biscuits torn in thirds and cooked in the stock, seasoned with salt, pepper, and seasoning salt, then thickened, sometimes with the chicken pre-torn and tossed right in. That covers the “chicken and dumplings” portion of the meal. In addition, she usually serves mashed potatoes, from scratch, and one or two vegetables. Mashed potatoes with the sauce from the chicken and dumplings is the best way to eat them in my book. Mmmmmm…
You’ll have to excuse me now. All this talk about food has left me drooling, and I have condiments and meats but no veggies or drinks in the kitchen. Off to the store!