I tell myself I’m going to write. I figure I’ll come home, pop a squat at the kitchen table with a steaming cup of mint tea, and comb through the maze of thoughts in my mind until they resemble something close to coherent. I tell myself I’m going to do this because there is still so much I want to say about my time in France and so many vivid memories I want to give life to.
The enormity of the experience weighs on me, though, and I shy away from the daunting task of doing it justice. But I know that if I don’t try, the feelings, people, and tastes of the 8 months will continue to move farther and farther away from me. So instead, I stagnate somewhere in-between nostalgia and longing, in-between living in New York and thinking about France, in-between the past and the present.
And then, there’s the simple fact that I stare at a screen all day at work. So naturally, when I come home, the last thing I want to do is flip open my computer.
But I’m here now, and I’m trying to close the gap.
In Michael Pollan’s documentary series “Cooked,” he argues that we’ve lost touch with how food has gotten to our plate by letting other people, corporations, and institutions cook for us.
Just think about the way we refer to food, calling it pork rather than pig and beef rather than cow. We’ve distanced ourselves from the land, adopted an air of passivity in regards to the human institution of the meal, and lost a certain degree of pleasure around food in the process.
Although France is certainly not immune to these trends, I couldn’t help but feel a heightened degree of respect towards food and how it arrived to my plate while I was there. A privilege? Absolutely. But glamorous? Not at all.
I tried my hardest to stay calm every time I found a slug alive and nestled in my head of lettuce. I stared freshly caught fish straight in the eyes, unable to divert my gaze from the blood splattering across the floor as they were scaled, gutted, wrapped up tight, and handed over to market-goers with an exchange of pleasantries and cooking tips. And then, there was the blisteringly cold afternoon I spent patiently waiting in line for spinach only to be told there wasn’t any that week. No one to blame but Mother Nature, the farmer told me.
But through it all, I was – and still am – hopelessly enamored with the feeling of living so close to the land. Now that I’m back, I miss it so much it aches. So I suppose the best way for me to close the gap between New York and France is to close the gap between myself and the land, to do something so simple and raw, so natural and human that I wonder how it ever went out of style in the first place: eat real food.
Nothing fancy, here. Just homemade food with simple, seasonal ingredients left to speak for themselves.