Friday, 5 February 2010

Food that shouldn't taste this good

Sometimes a situation leads to something becoming so much greater, more pleasurable than it actually is. To clarify with an example: when you have spent a few hours tramping up a cold wet mountain, the piece of melted chocolate that has solidified in an odd shape with all the weird white streaks that previously melted chocolate has will be the most delicious piece of chocolate you have ever eaten. Swiss chocolates have nothing on this squashed bit of Dairy Milk.

I had an example of this the other day. I had to go to Zvornik, a town right on the border about an hour's drive from Tuzla. This isn't normally a problem; I go to Zvornik quite a lot. It is a bit like hopping on the M4 to for a couple of exits, except it is more like the B4324. It's quite a pretty route, and just before you get to Zvornik you go through a range of forested hills and then you emerge, blinking, to see the Drina river flowing gently north and the Drina Valley stretching out before you.

This week it has been snowing, as is quite normal in February here. Everyone is equipped to deal with the snow so all the cars have winter tyres and carry snow chains by law, and pretty much everyone has a couple of rugs and emergency bits of food kept around their car somewhere. Just in case. Last year we forgot about our secret stash under the passenger seat and discovered it half way through the summer when the temperatures were 40C plus and all the chocolate had melted.

On this particular evening we had been to Zvornik and were on our way home.  It had already been a long afternoon, much coffee had been drunk which was making me a little more jittery than desirable. I was looking forward to getting home for some supper and a cosy glass of wine in front of an episode of The Wire, but it had started snowing again. The road hadn't really been gritted and it was very slippery. We could barely see out of the windscreen and were having to drive at about 15 mph. We were in the hills and it was very dark. Occasionally a car would flash past, a bus even came thundering around the corner at one point, but everyone was taking it pretty carefully and there were very few cars around. It's difficult to see the lines on the road at the best of times, but covered with snow it was impossible. Couldn't see the edge of the road either. We were moving so slowly that it wasn't really scary, more an acceptance that this journey home was going to be a long, dark, snowy slog. We carried on edging our way through the mountains, right up to the point we lost our grip on the road and the car set off on a gentle pirouette and turned a graceful 360.

We were lucky, nothing was on the road and we didn't come off it. We were going so slowly that we were not physically in danger but it would have been a real disaster if we'd slipped off the road and not been able to get on it again. We edged off again, taking it really carefully. But the combination of far too much coffee earlier and a lunch time that was now a distant memory and I was starting to feel a bit faint and in dire need of some food. A search of the car proved fruitful. I had been given a few days before some zeljanica (spinach pie) made by a friend's mother, complete with feta cheese. I'd eaten them hot, they had been wonderful, but that was a couple of days earlier. Now they were freezing cold. But they were without a doubt the most wonderful, delicious, satisfying meal I'd ever eaten. A small piece of me flew to heaven for a little while as we pulled over and sat munching on our stale spinach pie.

We set off again. It took us approaching 3 hours to get home. But I will never forget how wonderful it was to be sitting on the side of the road eating good, although not quite how it should have been served, food.

How about you? What food that shouldn't be good somehow became a deliciously memorable meal because of the situation you were in?


Gappy said...

At the risk of lowering the tone, drunken visits to the kebab van after a debauched night out in my student days spring to mind...

Michelloui said...

I relate to this. When I was a kid and my mom and I escaped the house while my dad was working on a massive-grumpy-making work project, we drove 2 miles to a bigger city with beautiful galleries, parks etc. We were in the car all day it seemed, and had a fun but long day. At the endof it we were driving home and for whatever reason couldnt find anywhere open for food. We were STARVING. It started to rain. It was getting cold, we were miserable. Then there was a tiny little Kentucky Fried Chicken open. Not normally fans of KFC, we stopped and had a delicious feast!!! It was fab, and KFC has never tasted so good before or since.

gaelikaa said...

When you've been on an Indian train for half a day, the packed food you bring, now cold, which you wouldn't even look at if you were at home, tastes just like manna from heaven.

Great post Emily xxxx

Heather said...

my god it sounds like quite a terrifying journey! I have been known to the odd thing or two on my travels when starving. Once had a roasted guinea pig on a stick. quite tasty actually, but I'm sure only because i was ravenous

Calif Lorna said...

Wow, how scary. Glad you got home safely.

It reminded me our car breaking down when I was a little girl and the only thing we had was a Soreen malt loaf. We just opened it up and ripped pieces off it. We were in the middle of a town but I felt like it was a life or death situation!

Iota said...

The tea and toast that you are served when you've given birth. The thought of it kept me going through labour number 3. I just kept looking at the clock and thinking "soon it'll be tea and toast time".

Hot Cross Mum said...

Yikes - sounds scary. Hmmm, no such dramatic stories but I always thing cold lasagne the next day tastes better than the hot version straight out of the oven. Tagged you at mine - but you may already have it covered!

Lady Mama said...

Good thing you had some food in the car! For me it's chocolate - especially after a very long day!

Home Office Mum said...

Great post that made me feel like I was really there. Food that tastes good even though it shouldn't - just about anything out of a tin after you've been at sea for several weeks.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Gappy - exactly! So true. So not nice, so lovely to eat.

Michelleoui - something happens when you get desparate and the food becomes amazing.

Gaelikka - Indian food. I'd love some Indian food.

Heather - not sure I could go quite that far.

CalifLorna - (come on England in response to your last post). Malt Loaf. I forgot about Malt Loaf. I LOVE malt loaf.

Iota - I didn't get any tea and toast! Feeling hard done by now. I want some tea and toast.

HCM - and so does cold chinese! Thanks for the tag. I'll be over to have a look shortly.

LM - Mmmm, chocolate. Yum.

HOM - I can imagine. Amazing what heaven can taste like if you've not been around normal life for a bit. What was your first meal when you got to dry land?

Anonymous said...

You write beautifully.

(Blogger is still sabotaging my OpenID)

Chic Mama said...

Oooo- I agree with gappy about kebabs after a night out! Still a must!
I have to say the meal I had a couple of hours after number five was born seemed to be the best thing eaten...ever!

nappy valley girl said...

Almost anything after a morning skiing or hiking - it could be a stale sandwich, a greasy plate of chips or a bar of cheap chocolate, but it still tastes delicious.

Kate said...

Anything that someone else, particularly my husband, has bothered to make for me!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

No tea & toast that's cos u gave birth in Oxford. me too! NO TEA OR TOAST. Hurrumph, I was sorely disappponted.
We did a similar 360 in a huge 4x4 (borrowed) in Montenegro. V scary. Journey sin winter in the Balkans ARE scary.
I find that horrible dried pellet packet food for hiking even tastes good after walking all day on any mtn hike, but in particular in the Chilean lake district & in Patgaonia in driving wind, rain,fog etc it was hot, v welcome & suddenly became delicious.

A Modern Mother said...

A diet coke while stuck in the snow!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Owen - I have a feeling you probably know the Tuzla Zvornik road and can invisage the very spot we were chomping on our zeljanica on!

Chic Mama - I'm still gutted I didn't get any tea and toast after my two arrived - nor did Paradise in Translation, we obviously need to move hospitals. But kebabs on a big night out, so good.

NVG - exactly. Greasy chips and cheap chocolate. So not right, but so good when you are outside, exercised and hungry!

Kate - why is it that food you haven't cooked always tastes so much better than food you have?

Paradise - Me too. Boo to the JR. Balkan winters are scary, I've got another drive coming up this week and we've got loads of snow. Not looking forward to it at all!

MM - Oh, I do fancy a diet coke!

Muddling Along Mummy said...

I totally agree - I have memories of cold egg fried rice with a dash of soy sauce eaten in the jungle in Thailand after a day treking - shouldn't be memorable but was utterly delicious

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

MAM - Thai food. Any form of Thai food now would taste so amazing. THey don't really have that range of flavours here. I can't wait to get back to the UK to get stuck into some Pad Thai.

Anonymous said...

Wish I did/could - armchair traveller. Live in London, let the world come to your door.