…the ‘aha’ moment…


There is, I’m certain, in every serious food lovers life a pinnacle event that changes the way they see the world and the things they eat. It’s the moment where food ceases to be something which is eaten, or merely something that one likes and enjoys – suddenly and without any particular reason, it becomes something far beyond words.

It’s similar only, perhaps, to going through puberty – a thing that science accredits to biological changes and hormonal shifts in the body – it’s the only time in ones life when you are consciously and knowingly altered without asking or even wanting to be. Awakened one day to a different realm of existence without choice, without the option of ever going backwards, as if a veil has been lifted from your psyche – where suddenly girls become something much different than the odd acquaintances you’ve ever taken them for, along with most of your friends mothers, turning overnight into a symphony of beautiful curves, flowing hair, and alluring mannerisms you’ve never seen before.

It’s a question – or at least one I’ve heard bantered about among celebrity chefs from time to time – the final meal request. The scenario is, of course, this; you’re on death row. It’s your final meal. What is it you’d eat? I’m still not sure I could ever answer that question. Maybe I’m just not that developed yet, or haven’t experienced enough.

I do know the moment though, when it all changed for me, when food and eating became totally different than anything I’d ever known prior. A simple thing; a bagel, a few slices of salami, a healthy schmear of chevre-like goat cheese. A single bite changed my entire world of thinking…

It wasn’t just any bagel – it was an imperfect one I’d made – pushing a klutzy thumb through an orb of a wild yeast leavened dough I’d squeezed through an ‘O’ made by my other thumb and forefinger, before plunging it into a bath of boiling and salted water. Something I’d fumbled with, clumsily liberated from the boiling water with a pair of spatulas, set on parchment and then brushed with an egg wash before baking…

It wasn’t just any salami either. It was one of my first attempts at making such a thing. Dry and hard, cured in red wine and kosher salt and an abundance of garlic, with beef and fat from a cow I’d known first hand. Ground, mixed, then stuffed into a casing by my own hands…

And the cheese wasn’t just any cheese either. A simple thing I’d made – one of my first attempts at it – a half gallon of goats’ milk, split with lemon juice and drained of whey overnight through a cloth.

It’s the realization, as that first bite crosses your palate, that no one else on the planet could possibly be eating what you are. There is no meal anywhere that is just like this, and no one, unless they were standing there sharing it with you, ever could. It’s so fleeting. No one will ever have the strain of yeast you have, or struggle with turning it into a bagel. No one else has this salami, nor could (or would) make it quite the same, and no one else has this cheese.

It’s a moment of revelation – maybe like the scene in the Karate Kid, where after months of ‘wax on’, and ‘wax off’ – all of the clumsy and repetitious moments synchronize and mesh into something rather astounding. Even if all of the parts are imperfect and flawed, you suddenly see the synergy of combining them as a whole, realizing only then what a beautiful world you’ve unlocked without ever trying…



One thought on “…the ‘aha’ moment…

  1. Thanks again Tom for another wonderful read… I thought I might have had that ‘aha moment’ you spoke of… I did, but I just wasn’t the one who cooked or baked all the lovely pieces of the meal as you have….

    Posted by Mamapotpie | September 21, 2011, 8:35 pm

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