Our Readers’ Greatest Meals

In issue #132, we invited some of our favorite writers and cooks to share the greatest meals of their lives. We also asked our readers to send us memories of their fondest dining experiences. Here are some of their stories.

In issue #132, we invited some of our favorite writers and cooks to share the greatest meals of their lives. We also asked our readers to send us memories of their fondest dining experiences. Here are some of their stories.
To share your most memorable meal, send your story and a photo to Beth Whittingham Goehring I'd never traveled out of the country until I participated in my college's junior-year-abroad program at Oxford University. On my first night in London, my father and I stayed at the Savoy Hotel. After an evening at the Savoy Theatre, I ordered room service. Because I was new in England, I wanted to have a specialty. I decided on the kidneys as my entree and strawberries for dessert. The waiter rolled the beautifully laid table into the room and lifted the silver dome from the main dish. The smell and sight of those kidneys almost made me hop on the next plane back to the States. After the waiter left, I cut tentatively into one of the lobes, nibbled, and slammed the dome back down, settling in with the more familiar strawberries. Since then, I've traveled quite a bit, and my tastes have grown as I've sampled the exotic foods of many countries. As any parent knows, if you can just get a child to try the first bite, a lifetime of adventurous eating is in store!
Dena G. Miller

An unplanned pan-Mediterranean meal is still vivid in my mind. My husband and I had spent a sun-drenched afternoon kayaking with friends on an old strip-mining lake near their home in rural Illinois. For dinner at our friends¿ house that night, I’d brought along a large batch of keftedes as well as some nice French goats’ milk feta to turn into grilled feta-stuffed Greek burgers, not knowing what else would be served. Our friends had prepared a smooth and hearty white bean pate, which they served with crudite and homemade bread toasts. We also mixed up a brilliant tabbouleh made with red quinoa. To jumpstart our evening, I’d shaken up a round of French 75s, the classic gin and champagne cocktail. We dined outdoors under a gazebo. The temperature was perfect; at this point in the evening, everything seemed perfect. We sipped a rioja wine, which turned out to be just right with our meal. The summer light lingered well into the evening, and as we ate, the light took on a golden hue, illuminating the dragonflies’ inexplicable aerial ballet.

Martha Mendoza

Ceviche de concha negra in a restaurant called Sonia’s in Lima, Peru: Black mollusks, found only on the shores of Peru, made for an outrageously exotic appetizer. My husband and I promptly ordered another serving each. I dream of the day when I can taste that dish again.

Christina Lee

My uncle, Andrew Lau, made me my most memorable meal. I was living with him and my grandmother in New Jersey while attending the French Culinary Institute in 2000. I didn’t know much about him at the time; he had joined the Army when I was about six. Every now and then, he would make his Chinese curried chicken, a simple but tasty dish. The night before my final exam, Uncle Andrew made the Chinese curried chicken for me. It was so delicious that I had two bowls of it! He asked me why I liked this simple dish, reminding me, “Your mom knows how to make this too.” But it wasn’t just that it tasted so good; it was about getting to know my uncle, and watching him cook in the kitchen while he smoked his cigarette and sipped his whiskey. That was the last time I had Uncle Andrew’s Chinese curried chicken. I graduated and went on to work with some amazing chefs around the world. Eighteen months later, he died of colon cancer. Now I always think of him when I cook, and fondly remember our shared times in the kitchen.

Barbara Freeze, Ontario Years ago, while living in Calgary, I noticed a small advertisement for a Turkish restaurant in the newspaper. There were not many restaurants in Calgary then, and I'd never had Turkish food before. It asked that you book ahead, as the restaurant was small and could only accommodate a few guests. I phoned to make a reservation and a woman answered shyly. Yes, she would serve dinner at 7 pm on a weekend a month away in the early spring and I could include my friends. We would be the only guests. She smiled and welcomed us to her home and led us to her dining room. It was a typical dining room in a typical Calgary suburban bungalow. A table was set with a colorful embroidered cloth and what appeared to be her best silver and gold cutlery. The glassware and dishes were colored with gilt embellishment. I think we expected to hear Middle Eastern music of some sort, but from the wobbly needle came the scratchy sounds of Edith Piaf. Our hostess smiled quietly, excused herself and went to her kitchen. She arrived at the table bearing a tray of many small dishes, each containing something different, each exquisite to the eye. She placed them on table carefully, one at a time, explaining each to us. They were beautiful to beholdmdash;small pastries of stuffed phyllo shaped like pillows and cigars filled with herbs and spices and nuts; the tiniest, most delicate of dolma; small skewers of grilled meat; lamb-filled dumplings bathed in a garlicky, golden yogurt sauce; miniature Turkish pizzas; jewel-colored vegetables in olive oil and lemon, both stuffed and unstuffed; and what resembled small imam bayildi. The food was the most sublime that I had ever eaten. She watched us taste each dish, our faces collapsing into pleasure and delight. Again she smiled quietly to herself--a knowing smile. Then she disappeared into the kitchen again. Our hostess returned with the main course. Small birds, most likely squab stuffed with rice and sour cherries, pine nuts and spices, poached in broth and then roasted. Delicious! Dessert was chocolate souffle s, as light and tender as feather down, rich and dark--a French finish to a perfect meal. And then, of course, Turkish coffee. Edith Piaf was silent and all too soon our evening was over. Our hostess was tired and seemed a little let down, her pleasure over as well. We praised her, paid her, and left reluctantly.
Katie Kwan,Kitchen Sidecar Proud to a fault, I had refused help from the commercial tourist agencies, and had successfully gotten myself lost in the local hustle of Vietnam. Carrying a 30 lb backpack and zero language skills, I had set off to find the orchard of Anh Binh, a family run homestay in the tangled mangroves of Vinh Long. I asked every person I passed if they knew where the orchard of Anh Binh was. However, they couldn't answer my questions, not because they didn't know where it was, but because I could not produce the sounds required to adequately communicate what it was. Moto taxi drivers shrugged and old women pointed me in different directions. One young man knew, but he was neither a moto taxi driver, nor interested in driving a stranger around. He was, however, kind. And he saw the desperation in my eyes. So he sighed and started up his moped, signaling for me to jump on. I leapt at this chance and held on tight as we zipped over two foot-wide bridges and under jackfruit trees. When we got there, I tried to pay, but he refused. He said that it was Tet, the new year, and this was his gift to me. I nearly collapsed on the steps of the house at Anh Binh. A girl smiled down at me and offered room and board for $10 US. I gladly accepted. Later, I sat down with a few other guests and enjoyed a breathtaking meal of crispy taro spring rolls, deep fried elephant ear fish with herbs and translucent rice paper, poached spot prawns, stir-fried pork and bitter melons, and a soup of what looked like collard greens. Over lots of beer and laughter, we ended the meal with bright magenta rambutans.
Warren M. Bobrow My favorite meal memory is eating at the former Chanterelle in NYC the night I asked my wife to marry me over a lovely bottle of Ridge Monte-Bello.
Tyla Fowler, Learning to Live Without a Microwave

“…One day I showed up for lunch at her house to find a plate of warm waffles next to a bowl of freshly cut strawberries, Ginnie was nowhere to be seen. When I called out, she yelled from the kitchen where she had just finished making a bowl of fresh whipped cream. I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I’ve had homemade whipped cream, but it was the first time I remember realizing how whipped cream is made….” Read the rest on Learning to Live Without a Microwave

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