A Not-So-Simple Thank You Note

August 11, 2010

I’m not sure how it happened.

One minute I was making breakfast and the next, I was in a pile on the floor, staring at tiles that I couldn’t see.  My mind was searching through seven thousand snapshots of my life (I forget my mental camera often) trying to place this buried, long forgotten … something.

What is it?  It’s on the tip of my…I can almost reach it…gone…there it is again.  Looks like, no it smells like…no, it definitely tastes like something.


Desiree, one of the friends that Twitter gave me, sent me a care package.  Desiree is in Singapore.  I’ve never received anything from Singapore.  I was giddy.  I still am, a little.  I tore it open like Christmas morning and removed a jar.  An unassuming jar containing this block of dark, sticky-looking, stringy goop.

And a love note, of course.

“The highlight of this pleasure chest of gourmet goodies is my mom’s olive condiment, personally stewed and spiced.  It goes with everything!” read the lovely, handwritten note.  She has excellent penmanship, no?

Pre-pile on the floor, I placed my homemade hashbrowns onto an eager plate and dropped a teaspoon of Desiree-goop on the side.  I innocently licked the spoon to make sure not a bit was wasted, and felt a shock in the bottom of my feet.  I swear.  I scooped up a little more (yes, I double dipped.  It’s my jar.) and let it rest on my tongue for a spell.

And that’s when I sat down.  I didn’t collapse or anything, although I was tempted to write otherwise.  I’m dramatic like that.  I sat down where I had stood, my back against the oven door, trying to place it.

“What is it?  It’s on the tip of my…I can almost reach it…gone…there it is again.  Looks like, no it smells like…no, it definitely tastes like something.”

The flavor is smoky, only a little briny, and so savory.  Much milder than it would appear.  I think of pickled radish, a favorite snack of my childhood.  The stringy appearance (think wet, shredded grape leaves) is absolutely deceptive.  The silky texture melts in my mouth as the flavors unfold like echoes in my mind.  But echoes of what?

It goes beyond the loss of my beloved mother, reminiscent flavors of my Vietnamese heritage,  or sentimental ramblings about the concept of home.  It’s more than that.  And less.

It is childhood.

That brief, distant time before you know anything.  Before you learn that people lie.  Before you’ve had a broken heart, or a wounded ego.  It’s bare feet and dirty fingernails.  When your world is someone’s lap, and you still get carried to bed.

I want some more.

So thank you, Desiree, for sending me childhood in an unassuming jar.


12 Responses to “A Not-So-Simple Thank You Note”

  1. Tony Says:

    I love when this happens. Taste memories can be so powerful and take you back immediately to a place, a period of time, a specific moment or even bring you into the virtual presence of a person.

    Nice post.

    I love food.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Felicia Yonter, Tony Ham. Tony Ham said: Food memories are the best! RT @FeliciaCago: New blog post: "A Not-So-Simple Thank You Note" to @desireekoh13 – http://trunc.it/a8tk4 […]

  3. Chanthana Says:

    Sounds amazing! It’s like deja vu for your taste buds.

  4. Felicia,this is just lovely. A simple, joy filled, sincere recollection of childhood instigated by food. The making and sharing of food truly are acts of the most profound kind of love. Lucky girl.

  5. Tom Rubin Says:

    Great post!!

    I’m the same way with scents and music! Reading this gave me a gigantic smile. Thank you 🙂

  6. Alicia Says:

    I thought this was great too 🙂 I love the feeling where you are on an edge of a memory, and then come into full realization with a smile. I hope that sometime in the near future we can have some Viet food together!

  7. My childhood something is the smell of caterpillars. They used to climb and nest all over our yard in the spring and after a rain their smell was everywhere. Whenever I smell them now I have a momentary nostalgic episode.

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