collecting taste as memorabilia

(I never actually succeed in collecting anything other than book, photographs, and only recently-- a taste of memory. I tried collecting stamps, fancy papers, fridge magnet, and trinkets. At the end of the day, I say goodbye to most of them. Unlike what it might seem, I don't do hoarding and not easily seduced into buying small stuff that I don't need. But, travelling makes me weak. Like other first-time traveler, when I finally went on a trip as an adult ten years ago, I tried to start a collection of travel souvenirs for my house. Several countries and few years later, most of them do not spark joy or memory as I wish it would be. I learned about it the hard way, including that one time when I blew basically my whole budget at the first day of the trip to buy a mini toycam, disabling me to cafe-hop as much as I wanted to. Thank God it (at least) makes a funny self-depreciating travel story every now and then, especially after the fact that I only use the camera twice before it got buried in the deep end of my closet and eventually got broken. 

Two years ago, after knowing better than blowing my budget for things I don't need for a collection I could never build, I start saving up my travel budget for things I enjoy doing and bring home only books, photographs, and only one or two things that actually makes me happy. After few trips that allow me to indulge not only my sight but also my tastebud, I accidentally find a new favorite souvenir: taste as memorabilia. Despite my belief that involuntary memory is triggered and not constructed; with the taste of a recent trip to a certain place-- there is an exception. The memory is combined with the memory of our body to respond to the trigger, which in this case is the food recreated from the journey. 

First, it acts as a memorabilia from a particular moment. For example, there is a delicious ginger crème brulee I had from Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney. That particular treat reminds me of my first winter day spent outside; challenging myself to one of the thing I fear the most. I failed to recreate the ginger crème brulee at home but it always becomes my token of bravery against that stupid fear of eating out alone. Then the list is getting longer: there was that asparagus and haloumi cheese served during a picnic by the seaside that get me completely obsessed, the best-polvoron-ever from a recipe passed in the family of a friend in Manila, that African style sweet potato fries Dito and I had when we are very hungry but wanted to save some money to see Jean Paul Gaultier's show, that first time I finally learn to cook rendang with my uncle (in Madrid!!) and learn how to make dumpling perfectly (in Darwin) from a girl who learned the trick in China, that time when my uncle took me on a dinner date to have an extra delicious Spain-style cold-served prawn that I am still fully obsessing until this day, that super strange mix of Belgian potato with satay sauce and mayo I had in Amsterdam that is strangely delicious.. the list can go on and on. 

But, not until I found a delicate rose-petal jam served with sesame toast in Darwin have I start recreating foods from my trip and collecting the recipe. My host said that the rose petal jam was from a Greek shop in Melbourne. After that short trip in Darwin in 2014, we went to Melbourne and obsessively tried to find the jam (and failed just as miserably). It leaves a strange disturbing mixture of curiosity and disappointment; so, I tried making the rose-petal jam as soon as I got back to Jogja. It was a successful experiment and just a bite of it always brings me back to an endless summer morning in Darwin with all the strange birds’ sounds outside. At this point, it becomes a time capsule. 

There are also the comfort foods that I still keep on recreating until this day: an Asian-style rice bowl with the perfect sunnyside up I had in Madrid after few days of eating only pastry, nuts, and potato. The burritos I had in two different cities served by two different ladies, each one after a long exhausting flight. And on the way back, after a morning flight from Spain to Amsterdam and a brisk walk in cold weather with extra heavy suitcase and a new extra travel bag; there was that comforting ginger risotto with veggie stir fry and tempe that does as much to my soul as it does to my body. The ginger risotto with veggie stir-fry also made me promise myself to one day make it for my vegetarian best friend-- which I did when we were both in town. I still make them regularly because it's just so good. All of which also reveals my bad habit of flying on empty stomach and got very very hungry each time I landed-- which makes a bonus point for every warm food that is served after.

Most of them are recreated at home only by its taste and memory instead of written recipe, yet, all of those reminds me of a good time, good friend, and makes the perfect souvenir back home as a reason for an intimate gathering with friends and family.  I guess this time; this collection will last for a little bit longer.)