Pleasing The Taste Palate

Pleasing The Taste Palate

Food has the wonderful quality of uniting us no matter where we are. There is nothing partisan or narrow-minded about food. It simply invites us to indulge, create recipes, and share with others. Two of my favorite Polish dishes (included in the collage created of my photographs) are pierogies and barszcz czerwony – a beetroot soup – served on Christmas Eve in Poland.

How does food bring us together? What are some of your favorite dishes and why? Can food trigger memories?

18 thoughts on “Pleasing The Taste Palate

  1. Many years ago I met a young Italian who was disgusted at how the English eat and run. He waxed lyrical about meals with his extended family, sharing, socialising, encouraging kids to learn how to eat and behave well, to understand others. He said, “in Italy, we eat knowledge’. Indeed.

    1. What a powerful statement! Eating is a very social activity that can definitely serve to create an understanding of others. I remember my own extensive family dinners, and how my mom encouraged good etiquette. I’m glad she did.

      1. People think eating is just about food, but it is so much more. It’s abut passing round food, trying new things, hearing stories, learning how to listen, to watch, to understand others, to take turns. I’ve travelled a lot and the people who seem to be the most content seem to be the ones with a real passion for food, especially the French and Italians.

        1. Oh definitely! The French, Italians, Spaniards, and I’m biased, but Poles, too! It’s about ambiance and as you said, sharing stories, listening and understanding each other!

  2. Food does bring us together and keeps us grounded and connected with our inner self, definitely! For that very reason – I think – there are so many ethnic restaurants where expats and emigrants congregate, and all those adventurous souls who want to explore new things.
    Also, cooking dishes familiar to where we came from provides a sort of emotional continuity.
    And as far as “food triggering memories” goes, don’t we all remember our favorite childhood foods and smells of home? Don’t we remember our Mom’s delicious roast, soup, cake? Our aunt’s desserts, our Grandma’s signature dish? Well, you get a point…
    Those memories are deeply imbedded in us. I discovered a power of such memories attending a business dinner a couple of years ago.
    No one I know would like to get teary and emotional during such an occasion. And yet it happened to me in the past.
    When a wild mushroom soup (with aromatic porcini mushrooms) was served to me, one sniff took me back to my Grandma’s farm. She was long gone, but spectacular summers spent with her were still with me. I had to find an excuse to leave the table quickly and without raising brows. I managed to compose myself and return, enriched by the knowledge that smells and memories go hand in hand, and are powerful.
    Maybe that’s why you, Nicolette, feel so connected to your heritage?

    1. “Emotional continuity” is a very interesting way of describing it! There’s much to certain smells or favorite dishes triggering childhood memories. I’m sure there are many who have a favorite dessert, or soup, or other signature dish, as you suggested! I think the emotions are a natural expression of such powerful memories, and there is nothing wrong with them! That wild mushroom soup sounds delicious! I feel similarly connected to my Polish heritage due to my grandma’s chicken soup. Such a simple dish, but made with so much love and attention. As Susan noted I believe it is also about a level of comfort!

  3. Yummy subject Nicolette, great post!
    I so agree with Susan! Love and meals shared with the loved ones are the healers! Food and gatherings at the table, in my experience, always brought people together and gave us time to listen to each other. Conversations taught children social skills and table manners, and were sources of so many memorable moments.
    My own Mom established an open house that became a second home to many of my friends. There was always plenty of food for those unexpected, but welcome guests. All the good things that you learn at home you are likely to copy in your adult life. And so I did!
    My daughter felt comfortable bringing friends home and many begged to stay for dinner. After brief “consultations” with their parents, they stayed and were exposed to different foods and traditions at our household. It was fun and intimate…
    When we moved as expats to the US almost a decade ago we got a warm welcome from the neighbors with cookies and casseroles. As much as we appreciated the gesture, after a while we longed for an invitation to their home for dinner, or drinks, or whatever! Occassions that were a way of socialize back in Europe… But oftentimes, after I gave a cocktail, or a dinner party we were not invited back…. What the heck, I thought! What did I do wrong?

    Apparently nothing! People would much rather take us to a fancy restaurant and foot the bill than serve even the simplest, home cooked meal at their place. It took me some time to understand that many Americans – as lovely, vibrant and friendly they are – guard their privacy and prefer an easier way – going out. Maybe that’s why you hear and see horror stories about the Thanksgiving dinners. Estranged families “endure” each others company, tensions rise and exhausted hostesses cannot wait for the ordeal to end!
    Of course I exaggerate a bit because it’s not a standard in all American homes, but it happens often enough to mention.
    Those of our American friends who do allow us in the intimacy of their homes tend to be well travelled. Coincidence, any one?
    We do speak the same language, and I don’t mean just English… We CHERISH those moments more than an evening in a trendy culinary hot spot!

    1. Thank you for sharing those memories! Having an open home seems to be a logical and heartfelt way of life, to me. The ability to invite others into our homes and share in our rituals or even over a simple meal sounds great! It is disappointing that some people do not return the favor or do not see the need to socialize in similar ways, since food allows us to share an experience together!

  4. What a neat perspective on food by focusing on its healing powers. It’s good to see that despite hardships you encountered that you’ve maintained and developed an appreciation for the uniting quality of food. Those Italian dinners you describe sound similar to how I remember large family gatherings in Europe – always fun, plenty of food to share (my grandma cooks deliciously for what could feed an army!), and great conversations. There is a social aspect to meals that present us with an opportunity to share a funny story, or reminisce, or even explore new ideas.

    P.S. I did love that red IKEA kitchen! What a beauty! And so functional!

  5. Food can be the great healer (why is meatloaf known as comfort food? Easy … :-)). Our household was dysfunctional food-wise because a sibling of mine had anorexia and bulimia. It had turned our dinner table into a war zone such that we no longer ate there but ate in front of the TV.

    In meeting my husband Rich, I came in contact for the first time with an Italian household (my family is decidedly Yankee). It took a long time for this very reserved girl to get used to all the yelling, hugging and kissing but I grew to love it. Most of all I loved the 2 hours we’d spend around the dinner table with all kinds of wonderful Italian dishes (the ultimate in comfort food) – ravioli made by hand, so tender and thin they’d fall apart (Rich’s Noni used to bemoan that fact! :-)), sauce made from scratch, tortellini in a chicken broth with raisins and a touch of lemon (they called it tutalings) … you get the idea. The fact that you could spend that much time around a dinner table laughing and eating was a new concept for me and extremely healing. I cherish those times and try to extend them to our dinner table (although I definitely lack the cooking skills!).

    I remember the priest that used to be in our parish talked a lot about the sacredness of the family meal, how it was a great time to gather together and share our lives. So true!

  6. They really are great, but the best pierogies I’ve ever had are my grandma’s! Luckily, my grandma, mom and I have had the pleasure of preparing them together. Thank you for commenting! What are some other foods you enjoy?

Let us know what you think