As much as I like the idea of a romantic dinner for two at a wonderful French bistro (you know, the type with the crisp white table cloths, glowing tea lights, crushed velvet draperies, and perfect foie gras and creme brulee), the very best meals I’ve enjoyed in my life did not come accompanied by silver cutlery, impeccable service, or elegant wine glasses. Surpassing the others, the best meals I’ve ever eaten did not even come with a roof over my head!
During harvest time last year, there was the supper that was eaten in the back of a friend’s Dodge pick-up truck in the middle of a hay field in southern Saskatchewan. There were eight of us piled in the back of the truck, all sweaty, achy and exhausted from a day’s worth of heaving bales of hay and driving tractors. We were eating oven-roasted chicken and macaroni salad washed down with Carling Black Label beer that was so cold it made your jaw ache just looking at it. For dessert, there was apple and cream cheese pie, with a crust as golden as the fields.
Then, a few years earlier, there was the midnight meal of deer sausage and smoked oysters eaten with good friends in a natural hot spring in the Kootenays. The deer sausage was made the day before by my friend, Gary. The oysters were brought up fresh from the Gulf Islands by his cousin, Eileen. She prepared them by smoking them over a small glowing fire surrounded by a ring of heated rocks. We passed a bottle of saki (i.e., Japanese rice wine) back and forth across the hot tub by floating it to each other. The moon was high in the sky, and far below us we could see the snow covered beach of Slocan Lake glowing a bright white.
Over the years, I have collected memories of these very special meals and others like them. The roadside picnics with my family and friends. The barbecues at the beach and the lake. The thermoses of hot soup eaten on the back of a snowmobile. The sandwiches made of thick French bread eaten while sitting in a canoe watching the sunset. These are some of the moments of my life that I relish the most. For years, I have not traveled any distance from home without bringing along a glass, a thermos of coffee, and a good sharp knife. It’s amazing how often they come in handy!