Since I have been traveling I have been diligent in partaking in local cuisine. Some observations I have made: Portuguese bacalhau is dope, Spanish churros taste better than that Taco Bell
tripe, French cheese, wine & bread are a trifecta of
schway, and Italian pasta can’t be touched. “Well sure” you say, “thats what those countries are known for; of course its going to be better there.” Well that line of reasoning might suffice for the reasonable mind, but dammit I need to delve deeper into the questions that have been answered to everyone else’s satisfaction.
This is more (not much, but a little) than simply making much of an issue for the sake of something to write about; I got to thinking about how up until this last visit to France I have typically hated French wine. Seriously, I cant remember buying a bottle or trying a glass in Canada that I thought much of in spite of the fact that they were marketed as mid to mid-high level wines. However, I come to France and every bottle of wine, no matter how inexpensive, is some wild ass shit
. Ditto for the cheese: I have always loved Brie, but never did I enjoy it as much as I did in France. I brought a smilar observation up to my cousin here in Legnano, Italy while we were enjoying some Gorgonzola, grapes, and bread. Now since I have been here in Italy I have had something of a love affair with Gorgonzola which, in case you aren’t familiar, bears more than a superficial resemblance in appearance and flavour to blue cheese. While crushing our nth wedge of this cheese tonight I inquired as to what the difference was between Gorgonzola and blue cheese.
“It’s the same” my cousin told me.
“Then why has blue cheese never tasted this good at home,” says I.
“Well ya see (you simple fuck) things taste different depending on where you eat them. Aside from the fact that they make it here, you could drink a bottle of wine made in Padua two hours away and it will taste one way. But you take that same bottle down to Naples and drink it there and it’ll taste different. It’s something in the air affects the flavours.”
This explanation partly satisfied me mostly because it was an alternative to the common and widely accepted answer (if everyone believes it; I can’t help but be suspicious). However, it still sounded like some old bullshit. Not to discount atmospheric effects entirely; I mean I could see such factors making a difference if you simply walked into Mordor with your fancy cheese and let the heat, sulphur fumes and ash really absorb into it for a few hours before eating. But what kind of pretentious cheese/wine/bread conoisseur can claim with a straight face that they notice the subtle difference that geography of consumption makes in the bouquet, body and aftertaste of their delicacy of choice?
Since I obviously take issue with the “it’s just better there” reasoning and I find the atmospheric influence reasoning a little suspect, I’m going to go ahead and assume the food tastes better here because my mind is playing tricks on me. That is to say, I am probably just idealizing things in my head. It makes sense; all of the amazing meals I have had here I associate in my head with where I ate them, the time of day (usually watching a sunset or sunrise), how good I was feeling at the time and how much progress I had made that day. In fact , when it comes down to it, my meals have become ritualized to the point where simply eating is no longer sufficient; it has to be a multi-sensory experience. Obviously, I could eat some pretty crappy food and in these circumstances I would probably remember it fondly.
The ability of my mind to trick myself both saddens me and reassures me. It is kind of sad to think that perhaps the food that I am enjoying so much here is no better than what is available back home (this is a fleeting sadness however, as my enjoyment is ultimately what matters most). The reassurance comes from the knowledge that I have the ability to idealize and enjoy any meal and by association, any life experience more than I normally would by taking the time to do it right and incorporating as much pleasurable aspects into it as I can.
George Costanza: A rare genius unappreciated in his own time