A Taste of Our Lives, Pt. 1 (UNCUT VERSION!)
WM asked Wabash alumni:
Is there a food whose taste, texture, or smell transports you to a different time or place, evokes a memory, or triggers a particular emotion?
We received a delectable digest of manly madeleines and edible anecdotes, but we had to edit and excerpt for the print edition.
Here are the unedited responses:
The taste and smell of things remain poised long time, like souls ready to remind us.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past
Sagebrush in Sparks
I recall the vivid experience of tasting a slice of dry, gamy, musky antelope [antilocapra americana] haunch in the Sparks Center. A gift of a sharpshooting alumnus that evoked memories of wide western prairies full of sagebrush under pure skies with snowcapped mountains in the far distance.
A liberal arts experience that tasted nothing like chicken.
Peter Toft ’71
The Best Bagels
When I first arrived in Montreal in 1973 I lived a few blocks from the St.-Viateur Bagel shop. Montreal bagels are smaller, sweeter, boiled and then baked, and have larger holes than their New York counterparts. Their traditional toppings are sesame or poppy seed (my favorite) and the best one is eaten right after you buy it, still warm, just out of the wood-fired brick oven.
For me they are a distinctive taste of Montreal and take me back to my first years in the city.
Richard Elson ’69
Getting Through Wabash on Hot Dogs
During the 1950s, my father, Robert operated his business, Brink’s Luncheon Meats, in Indianapolis. The wieners, smoked sausage, braunschweiger, and baloney he produced were delicious and without equal. My family ate some sort of sausage at least three times each week and I thought everyone ate like that.
As soon as I was tall enough to reach the top of a table and pack wieners into boxes, I worked for my dad. When the sausage plant was located behind our house, I worked before and after grade school.
I saved my earnings for college, and my parents had a plan: They would pay my room and board and I would pay my tuition. It worked, but when I paid my last-semester tuition, my savings account was bone dry.
Six months after I graduated, my dad died of lung cancer.
I have been a vegetarian for many years, but I cannot pass a meat counter without thinking of my dad and how his hot dogs got me through Wabash.
David Brink ’62
Cinnamon Roll Snob
For me, a cinnamon roll isn’t even worth looking at unless it’s homemade. My childhood made sure of that.
Growing up, I cherished everything about cinnamon rolls—the smell of them cooking, the quality time I spent making and eating them with my father, and even the way my young, chubby little arm gave out while helping to stir the thick dough.
Whenever my dad whipped up a batch, an uncle of mine would make the trek across town to have a fresh, warm roll with us. It could be 3 a.m., and he would be there.
I knew there was something special about my dad’s cinnamon rolls even then, but it wasn’t until I grew up and started making them for friends, and seeing their reactions, that I realized I was a cinnamon roll snob.
Maybe I’m biased, but I think that’s the best kind of snob to be.
Roger Market ’09
The Wabash Faygo Disease Outbreak of 1980
In 1980 the food provider at the Sparks Center introduced a soda machine featuring the Faygo brand. “Free” soda pop was as significant of a development as the destruction of the Berlin Wall. The grape flavor quickly became the preferred drink of all dorm residents. We were living large.
After a week or two someone asked if anyone else was having “digestive issues.” He went on to say he believed his internal organs had been inhabited by aliens—he was producing a fluorescent green by-product. He thought the U.S. Navy might be interested.
The chemistry and biology majors quickly traced the cause to the Faygo Grape, whose color attributes apparently survives the digestive process. We’d all been secretly worried that we were suffering from something serious. We were cured!
To this day I can’t see a Faygo Grape without remembering the relief of 30 or 40 guys at the Sparks Center who were all afflicted by the dreaded fluorescent green Faygo disease.
Name withheld upon request
Getting Their Goat
I feel a small pang of guilt whenever I eat goat.
My first experience with the meat was as a 16-year-old at a small mission hospital in Haiti, where my father was volunteering. We worked long days and dinner was always welcome, despite the menu being exotic for a Midwestern kid.
Hunger being the best sauce, I thought the goat was delicious.
The next day I asked my younger sisters where they thought “Billy,” the goat they had played with each morning, had gone. They searched most of that day as my brother and I planned the big reveal.
Kurt Knochel ’84
Some Fine Flan
I love cooking a great Spanish meal with friends: Tortilla Español, Jamon with
Manchego on toasted country bread with fresh tomato jam, Escalivada, Gambas al
Pil-Pil, Paella, and Flan Catalan. Fun to prepare, even more fun to share and enjoy!
John Porter ’78
When conducting research in remote villages in India in the 1970s, locating ‘safe’ food and drinking water was dicey, so I was extremely careful.
Perhaps, too cautious.
When I was staying in a temple where my meals were a breakfast of toast and coffee and a supper of kitchari, I ate so sparingly I lost weight. A young sadhu (monk) remarked, ‘I now know why Americans are so wealthy: They don’t eat!’
In another place I explained to my hosts that, to make the food safe, I preferred it boiled in water and stove hot. For supper that evening they ate a wonderful curry, which would have been very safe, and on my placemat was a pot of boiling water with a leg of chicken, a piece of goat, and a piece of lamb—tough and unflavored.
To this day, I don’t know if they were being solicitous of my well-being, or making fun of my strange eating habits. Perhaps both.
These days when I visit India I stay in the homes of friends and enjoy Indian food of all kinds. A common saying in India is, ‘Three people are to be treated as gods: your parent, your teacher (guru), and the guest in your house.’
Raymond Williams H’68
(We’ll continue to post new responses throughout the week. Check out the print edition for the edited version.)