As this is my final column, and quite possibly the last time I will ever have a byline, I’m trying very hard to be poignant. I could carry on about the lessons I’ve learned as a food writer, about the tips I’ve gathered from the people I’ve met, or I could compile a list of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten in Washington and so on, but I won’t. My mind is too busy being preoccupied with to-do lists, worries over my financial situation, final exams to cram for and goodbyes to make.
Like many others, my real life begins on May 12. In just two weeks I will be thrust into my future, a place where I’m forced to grow up and a place where it is no longer acceptable to stay up until 3 a.m. chatting with friends because in two hours I’m expected to wake up and schlep to my low paying, entry-level job. So in essence, my future is both exciting and bleak.
Like I said, I’m trying to be poignant.
As this column has been a place of indulgence for my love of cooking and eating, it’s only fitting that I indulge in another love: giving advice. I’m not worldly or overtly intelligent, but I have read and lived and eaten enough to have an arsenal of advice at my fingertips. So listen up.
If you allow yourself to have one, food can be an adventure. You don’t have to fly to Paris to experience exquisite French food, or go deep-sea fishing to taste sea bass.
But you have to take chances. Don’t eat the same meal twice, no matter how good it was the first time; don’t be afraid to try something new. To me the thought of eating flowers was both ridiculous and stomach churning, but at the urging of my father, I tasted fried zucchini blossoms last spring in Rome. Lightly battered and stuffed with salty sardines and creamy mozzarella, they were completely and unexpectedly delicious. Revel in these: the unexpected delights; the mysterious menu items that sound exotic; the food you swore you’d never eat again but want to give another try. Those foods create the best memories.
But above all else, don’t do it alone. My favorite meals aren’t the ones I cooked on a Tuesday night, alone, in the lounge of my dorm, but the communal ones. I ate my first tapas at Bethesda’s Jaleo with a group of people I barely knew, where I fell in love with creamy Romesco sauce and rich, decadent goat cheese ice cream. I remember eating shrimp tacos with my family at a roadside taqueria in the Yucatan Peninsula, where the vinyl tablecloths were ripped and sticky and the shellfish were plump and spicy. I tasted sweet strawberry wine for the first time on a rickety boat in the middle of the Mediterranean, surrounded by friends and the salty smell of the ocean. And I spent five hours making Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon with my mother, the smell of onions and tender beef wafting through the kitchen as we talked.
If I’ve learned anything being a food writer, it’s that the adventure doesn’t happen alone. Because food, like life, is better when shared.