Remember that scene in Ratatouille when the ruthless restaurant critic Anton Ego takes a bite of Remi’s ratatouille and is instantly whooshed back to his mother’s country kitchen? His normally severe face melts into a kind of euphoria, and he drops his pen in the shock of recognition, in the transportive power of food. (As if to say, the feeling he gets from eating this dish is purely visceral, purely nostalgic…and no intellectual deconstruction of the meal can capture it the same way.) I have so many of those foods. My mom’s garlicky breadcrumbed zucchini. Her lasagna. The Nutter Butters that made the whole pantry smell like peanut butter. And not that I eat Creamsicles very regularly, but when I do, I am beamed right back to the town beach where I spent most of my early years, breathing air that’s been infused with saltwater from the Long Island Sound and the slightly rotten wood of the locker room. Which is to say, I’m beamed right back to a place of deep happiness.
There’s a chapter on “signature dinners” in my How to Celebrate Everything that’s all about capturing this magic, and I thought I’d throw it out there to you. If you had to answer the question you see in the above photo, what would it be? How do you think your kids would answer?