The Persistence of Food

The upcoming release of the flick “Looper” has sparked conversations about the possibility of time travel. Physicists discount the notion – something about the improbability of quarks, black holes and sun spots occurring simultaneously to produce the necessary quantum vector spatial shift.

Scientific mumbo jumbo. Time travel’s as simple as queuing up “California Dreamin'” on Spotify. WHOOSH!! I’m back in Colgate University’s pub, creatively named The Pub. The jukebox is pumping out the Mamas and Papas (it was stocked with music in 1965 and no one ever updated the selections), and I’m downing a quarter draft, waiting for the presidential debate between Dukakis and Bush Sr.

Food possesses the same teleportational ability. Cheesesteak? I’m sitting on the curb at Pat’s in Philadelphia, shivering in the cold while devouring my sandwich. Paella? My twenty-first birthday in a cafe in Barcelona. I’d already splurged on a pair of leather boots in a shop on La Rambla and figured “Hell. What’s a few more pesetas?”

One summer vacation, after spending the day touring San Francisco, we were driving along the Pacific Coast Highway back to our hotel in Half Moon Bay. Too many hours had passed since our sourdough chowder bowls at Fisherman’s Wharf and the collective mood in the car had turned dark. We pulled into Pillar Point Harbor, hoping to get served, quickly, at Sam’s or the Princeton Seafood Company. Both had long waits. We put our name on the list at Princeton and glumly wandered around the parking lot. I walked into a fish market to get a bottle of water and the owner was grilling out back. Hopefully, I asked if the place was also a restaurant. With a wink, he said it wasn’t one officially, but he could throw something together for us. I ran outside and grabbed the family. To this day I can taste the grilled rockfish, drizzled with lemon, served over rice with zucchini, artichoke and a chilled Bonny Doon white. Oddly, we’ve tried to find the place on subsequent visits, but it’s disappeared. Perhaps there were Department of Health permit issues. I prefer to believe it’s Brigadoon and only appears every twenty years or so.

Right now I’m trying to recreate a bit of Moroccan tagine magic but have not found the right chicken/couscous/apricot recipe yet. Please send any suggestions. Or share a personal food/place pairing. Crabs in Baltimore? Gelato in Sansepolcro? To steal from the Staple Singers (another regular in the jukebox), if you know a place, take me there.