Contest winners share notable meals, get Reichl tickets

October 16, 2013 

More than 25 people wrote about their most memorable meal for the Statesman and The Cabin’s contest to win tickets today to Ruth Reichl’s “Eating our Words” talk, part of The Cabin’s Readings & Conversations series. Here are the winners:

Gracie Bingham, Boise

Washington, D.C. these days doesn’t inspire many fond feelings, but it’s where I fell in love with mushrooms. I lived there for three month in 2009 as a State Department intern.

Two friendly sisters from the Dominican Republic I met at an outdoor jazz concert had invited me afterward to a Mediterranean restaurant where the younger sister worked. I sipped a glass of Turkish peach juice as small plates of unfamiliar food started arriving. Octopus tentacles? Delicate, a little chewy, and surprisingly good. But the mushrooms! They were unrecognizable from their rubbery cousins I detested. Perfectly sauteed small buttons, flavorful and flecked with herbs. I sighed, inhaling the garlicky steam. Since those mushrooms, I’ve never looked back.

Kim Warren, Boise

We spotted the Postcards Cafe just outside of Hanalei (Kaua’i) and held it in our thoughts as the sun swung high and we hiked along the cliff edge, cultivating hunger. Jungle mud extruded through our toes, the air around us sweet with heat and things once living, now fermenting.

Later — spent — we cruised the island’s only road back to our room, sluiced and dressed, then ventured north again to taste the strangeness of the daily catch. It surfaced on my plate like new-discovered love — Opah, poached in whites, herb-ridden, laced with lemon — on my tongue not quite substantial, otherworldly perfect.

George Callaway, Garden City

Ghost Ranch. Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted here. She found perfection in simple things.

The tamales at Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu (New Mexico) are like Georgia’s paintings, deceptively simple, perfect.

We pack them back to Ghost Ranch to eat under the blue sky and cottonwoods, golden leaves clicking in the breeze. Pink cliffs rise behind us, the mesa Cerro Pedernal looms in the west.

Painted into her landscape, we devour that soul-satisfying combination of pork and chile embedded in tender masa, and know — in strokes of heat and color on the tongue — the glory of the place and the day.

Andrea Woodyard, Caldwell

Thanksgiving 2008, I had the best meal of my life. The potatoes were lumpy, the marshmallows were burnt. When I tried to carve the turkey it had been roasted upside down and I had to burn off some un-plucked hairs with my brulee torch!

My husband never allowed anyone in his kitchen on this day. We all feasted and enjoyed one another on his last day of Thanksgiving. Eight months later, a brain tumor took his life. Every year since, I scour the magazines looking for the perfect turkey recipe, as I know he is standing next to me, smiling.

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