IF YOU’RE AT all familiar with our wine columnist Seth Eli Barlow’s work, you know what I mean when I say this: Wine is never just a wine. It’s Jolly Ranchers, and bottled sunshine, and bottled sunflowers, and “flying through hyperspace in a walnut.” (In our summer issue’s installment of Cork Dork, it’s: “I often liken Champagne to a ballet dancer, a graceful spiral of electric motion, but California’s wines are like Olympic gymnasts, each one taut and lean, robust and full of energy.”) In his work, there’s a reminder of something that I think is especially pointed in this issue’s cover feature: Food and drink have an amazing capacity to be vessels for all manner of memories and associations. This goes double for anything ever made in a family member’s kitchen—triple if it’s delicious.
But the same can be said of dishes that are less formative, that might not define our childhoods or memories of our parents, but define, for whatever reason, some brief stretch of time. They might not have the staying power of, say, fried chicken, but they are no less evocative.
Even during the final stretch of this issue’s publication, I feel as though I’ve been gradually populating an especially fleeting mental smorgasbord of lesser food memories.
After a long weekend at the office, it was leftover homemade pupusas, eaten cold, and the last bowl of chili from a batch made the week before (inexplicably, it’d gotten better as the week went on). On a long trip back from the Delta—specifically, after changing a flat tire on the side of Interstate-40—it was flavor-packed corn chips and a large Styrofoam cup of coffee. On a farm just outside of Marshall, it was a breakfast of crepes, blueberries, house-made ricotta and three cappuccino-chip muffins with homemade butter, all of it produced either there on the farm or just up the road.
I can feel myself salivating as I write this, so maybe “lesser,” isn’t the right word.
However, it does then beg the question as to why some recollections make it into long-term memory. There’s an inherent awareness, I think, something bordering on instinctual, that automatically sets those memories apart, that elevates them, triggering them for posterity. Although our brains are weird magpies, flagging unexpected bits of information, trivia and song lyrics to hoard away for the long haul, there’s a secret to ensuring that something sticks: By allowing our interactions with loved ones to define the meal, by partaking in fellowship, by treasuring those moments, we may finish what’s on our plate—but it’s never gone. Not really. In that way, we keep the memories forever preserved—no matter the expiration date.
Groceries acquired in the making of this issue:
Two dozen handpicked eggs and three potatoes (red, white and purple) from Dogwood Hills Guest Farm.
A 500-milliliter bottle of Hawk Moth’s The Dark Arches, which at 16.1 percent boasts the state’s highest alcohol content produced in a beer. (It’s also delicious.)
Fried chicken from Advada’s Diner in Carlisle* and Haybird in Little Rock.
Strawberries, radishes, bread, nectarines, chicken, poultry seasoning, corn on the cob, cucumbers … from Kroger in Little Rock.
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*Correction: In the print edition, we incorrectly noted the location of Advada’s. It is in Carlisle, not Hazen. Our apologies for the error.