Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: A year in (tasteful, tasteless) review

Everyone else seems to be doing end-of-year lists, and I'm nothing if not a bandwagon-jumper, so here's my run-down of most memorable Things Consumed in 2011.

It's hard to do a rated list, because this year was a challenging one: Some things were painful to eat, some things had no flavor, and anything consumed in the last few months has been the Best (insert ingredient here) Ever, purely because I could taste it.

So instead of a Top Ten countdown, we'll go (mostly) chronologically.

Hospital food
In January, I spent a week on the cancer ward, and became a little too familiar with hospital food. I'll be honest: I find it hard to even look at the images in this post. Especially the last one. It took a while before I could enjoy a golden sunrise without thinking about processed cheese squares.

I have awesome friends
Why? Because they recognized that the best way to respond to my illness was by bringing me food. Precious few of their gifts were healthy (ha!) but they were suitably high-calorie and, of course, delicious.

Losing it
I can't talk about this year in food without mentioning the three-month period where I was unable to taste anything. Yes, it gave me a new appreciation for the subtleties of the palate and the distinctions between flavors, but mostly I learned that having no tastebuds is the opposite of fun. And it's very nice when they come back again.

Home cooking
Not a single incident, this one, but a variety of memorable dishes made at home. Or at the house we rented in Gloucester, where the vintage kitchen was a perfect place to make blueberry cobbler, lemon meringue pie, and beef Wellington (The Boy's birthday-meal request).

And also a great location for inviting friends to share steak with chimichurri, grilled chourico, and various salads.

Back at our apartment, I got into a baking Thing, and managed to fill the freezer with chocolate-zucchini cake:

Chocolate-zucchini cake

and peach cake:

Peach cake

My intention with the latter is to save it for the crummiest winter day possible. Nothing better than eating summery peaches during a snowstorm.

British food
Between finishing treatment and going back to work, I had a small window of time to zip back to England so my parents could see all my limbs were still attached. Even though my tastebuds weren't completely recovered, I still managed to eat ev-er-y-thing.

Which includes the obscene Sunday lunch, including baby's-head-sized Yorkshire pudding, at the Toby Carvery:

Sunday lunch

My dad at the gravy station. STATION. Because one type of gravy is not enough.

Gravy station!

Dessert was Eton Mess, a bucket of meringue, cream and fruit:

Eaton mess

There were lots of reasons for good times (come on!), including The Boy's grandmother's hundredth birthday; the wedding of our good friends Eric and Nicki, with a fabulous reception at Oleanna; and my almost-completely recovered sense of taste, with an incredible dinner at Journeyman.

Honorable mentions
I don't write about everything I stuff in my face, obviously. But I do record a large quantity thereof. Delicious things I had to capture for posterity this year included:

This treat, almost (almost!) too gorgeous to eat, buttery with a hint of lemon, from The Cookie Countess:

Cookie Countess cookie

Rich, sweet figs stuffed with peach brandy ganache and covered in dark chocolate from Capone's in Cambridge:

Chocolate figs from Capone's

And a stunningly complex housemade fig vermouth at Island Creek Oyster Bar (very small-batch; there was only one bottle left when we tried this):

Fig vermouth, Island Creek Oyster Bar

You know, despite evidence to the contrary, I feel as though I've been very lucky this year. Yes, there were long-drawn-out moments of suckiness, but there were also a lot of extremely fun times and reasons to be thankful, especially for The Boy, and for friends and family.

I'm also very grateful to everyone who posted supportive comments on this here blog; I'll probably never meet most of you, but your kindness meant a huge amount during a tough time.

So happy New Year — wishing good health, happiness and delicious food to all!

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