A sense of place
Oct 5, 2013 / 5:00 am
This morning I was out with Ella early in the orchard and as usual we both stopped to glean a pear to nibble on as we enjoyed the start of the day. The Anjou pears are just beginning to ripen and so we found a few amidst the windfall. As soon as I took my first bite I was transported by my memory...
The first time I sampled an Anjou pear was during my year living in France, years ago in my final year of university. We only had Bartletts growing up, and I remember them being overripe and mealy; I was not a fan. But the magic of the market in the city of Nancy was alluring, and the pyramids of rustic Anjous seemed the quintessential autumn treat. After having my hand slapped by the lady at the stand for trying to pick my own, I realized that protocol dictated I was to let her choose for me. Of course she would know which ones were best! She twisted the ends of the paper bag like she was tying a bag of bonbons and sent me on my way. I stopped to pick up some local cheese and then headed home for lunch.
Here in wine country we talk a lot about "terroir", that French term that translates to "a sense of place" and refers to how things grown in the earth tend to reflect their heritage in their character. That is to say, grapes - or pears, or cheese, or anything else that is food or drink - tastes of where it comes from, and so doesn't taste the same even if the same variety is grown in a different place. Certainly taste is a subjective experience - we don't all like the same things - but it is also linked to memory, and often those are linked to a place. Perhaps that is part of terroir too.
However you want to describe the science of it, as I stood among the trees this morning I was immediately seeing not the orchard and the pumpkin patch but the market stalls of Nancy and my little flat in the school where I worked. I could smell the paper bag the pear was stored in, and the crisp clear juice was as refreshing as morning dew. It made me think of my favourite accompaniment, a slice of Munster cheese. The pungent smell and rich creamy texture of the cheese completed the round of flavours with the pear... balanced on a slice of fresh baguette, it was a perfect lunchtime snack. This was one of my first local flavour experiences while living in France, and I guess I could say it changed my life. Moments like that swept me along into meals with new friends and an appreciation for food and drink that has become my passion in life.
I could feel a wistful smile cross my lips as I drifted back to the orchard and the present moment. My memory banks will now have this morning's magic with my four-legged pal to add to the list. Perhaps my sense of place is as much about the comfort of enjoying fresh flavours close to home. When the food is local, I feel like a local too.
Read more Happy Gourmand articles
- A great idea back in Vogue Nov 30
- What's in your lunchbox? Nov 23
- Isn’t it funny... Nov 16
- Coffee and a donut Nov 9
- All by myself Nov 2
- Fun out with friends Oct 26
- Fairytale season Oct 12
- A sense of place Oct 5
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