Recently, Seth and I were discussing this topic - the best thing we had eaten in 2015. It seems fairly straightforward - what was the tastiest thing we had consumed?
But appearances can be deceiving. Unlike Seth, I couldn't separate a food/meal from its context. Was the best thing I ate..
1) The first cake I had baked here in our new home? It was absolutely not a fancy cake. It was a simple one - a chocolate chip one perfect for snacking - no icings, no fillings, no decorations. This cake, however, was the first thing I had baked in approximately 4 months. Between Molly's birth in November, the international move, and living in temporary housing for 2 months, baking had become almost impossible. But finally, a few days after moving into our new home, everything came together and I finally had the material and the time to bake a simple cake. And it was grand.
2) Or was it the first doener kebab I had here in Hamburg. This - this is the food I had fallen in love with during my study abroad in Berlin. And had never been able to find in the United States. In fact, Seth used a photo of doener to help me concentrate in getting through contractions during my unmedicated birth of Molly. And now, here it was back in my arms, after being away from me for almost decade. That wonderfully seasoned meat, the salad and sauce, the bread - it was everything i had hoped it would be. While I loved every bite of it, I am sure that objectively, someone would find it uninspired and not the best version in the city. But I don't care.
3) Or was it the multi-course dinner served in Hotel Schoenburg during our trip to the Rhein River Valley? It had been a warm summer day, and we had been out exploring. I should note that "out exploring" means that I trek around while wearing Molly in a baby carrier and lug a giant purse/diaper bag. Seth got it into his head that we should see the town of Oberwesesel and its old Roman wall. And that we should walk all away around it so that we can see as much as possible. This idea - pleasant at first - became absurd, as it became clear that we were unable to easily find an opening through this wall to get back into town and into the car and to rest and to food and to water. But finally, finally we were able to hike to just the right place to get around that wall and back into town and then to the hotel where a civilized, delicious dinner was available. How that food refreshed my body and soul! And oh that glass of beer - I'm not sure any will ever taste as delicious as that did! The food and service for dinner at the hotel can border on stuffy, and quite frankly, ridiculous, with its pomp and circumstance. But all was cherished that night. The truffle cream pasta, the veal medallions in mushroom sauce, the mashed potatoes...on its own, each was good, but not outstanding - but that night, together, they were everything.
Of course, I have no idea which of these is the "best." And there have been many other delicious things I've eaten this year - including so many new ones! But time and memory seem to have carried them away. So I suppose, at least for me, it truly is the context - the emotions, the circumstances - around food that turns them into precious memories.