How does one elect his favorite flavour? Are we to zoom into a specific explosive element that captures the essence of our lives, should we just ask ourselves what is it that I find most delicious at the moment?
I strongly believe that humans are constantly changing their preferences during their life span – be it love, climate, the way we eat breakfast… There isn’t a real sense of permanence in our lives, at least not until we created a bond so strong that it overwhelms any signs of displacement and uneasiness we had demonstrated previously.
Our palate is perhaps the strongest case of all, I remember absolutely detesting coriander as a child and in spite of being told by every adult that I would eventually like it one day, I remained puzzled as to how could they know my tongue better than me. Coriander is my favorite herb now. This would have been my favorite flavour not so long ago, in fact I can eat sandwiches of nothing else than a tonne of coriander, sea salt and olive oil. Yeah, that’s right.
Not so long ago I took a very important step that I believe is still working its magic in defining me as a person and a cook. Venturing back to Portugal after spending 10 years abroad was not necessarily something I had planned all along, it was an instinctive move and one that would sever many many ties to my previous lifestyle, way of thinking about food and cooking. Of all places I found myself landing in a tiny village by the sea. The bright sun and the smell of iodine in the air slowly bequeathed me into their promise of unknown pleasures and all I could do was give in.
The sea became my muse and my counselor, I was captive to its strength, delicateness, and sheer life. It is the most resilient ecosystem I know of and yet so fragile. But it wasn’t only the seaweeds and little animals living under water or on the moistened rocks that enticed me, there was a saline breeze too, traveling across the air, into sand dunes and coastal woodlands, it formed a symbiosis with elements that I had so strongly experienced before, never in this context though, never as a cook.
I guess I became submissive to this phenomenon, my favorite flavour became this oceanic breeze, the salty lips, the harshness of plants that grow against all odds, the sweet brininess of just caught limpets and goose barnacles, the surprising acidity of seaweeds, the scent during the midday sun, the heat enhancing the aromas of resins and flowers.
I am no longer a beach dude, but my heart still beckons for it, perhaps someday this union will take place again. For now I am merely Portuguese and paying homage to my people – I am as nostalgic as I could be. The ocean became not only my favorite flavour, it mesmerized me with the violence of its tides, filled my imagination with all the broken wood and bits of metal covered in some sort of foreign language, alluring me like a sudden death trap disguised as a bundle of bright, juicy, sweet grapes.