One year ago today, I was sitting on my bed in the Hotel Panorama in Hong Kong with my laptop and a large fortifying cup of coffee, writing about congee. That was my very first post here on Cognitive Leeks. I remember feeling my heart beat quicken as I was hitting that “Publish” button for the first time, taking the plunge, putting my story out there, wondering what was next.
And so the earth has spun round the sun once more, and I’m back here at January 18 again. This year, I’m at a friend’s house near Atlanta, sitting on a bed with my laptop and coffee (naturally) on a rainy morning. It seems like more than just the earth has spun round this year. Scott is back in Hong Kong right now, and I’m in Georgia living the life of a gypsy and vagabond while he’s gone, living out of suitcases and trying to avoid New Jersey in January, although it seems like I may have brought it here with me. It’s been a restless, unsettled year with trips and relocations. The shape and texture of my daily life has been radically altered in this year, upended like a box of Lego’s onto the floor; I’m still trying to figure out how to sort all of the jumbled pieces out. I’m in a season in which my relationship to food and cooking, once a balm and anodyne, have become strained and challenging. I’ve washed a lot of tears down my kitchen sink during this last trip around the sun.
Something interesting about this full circle theme though: I’m back in Atlanta right now, where I grew up. I’ve been visiting my familiar spots, favorite markets, driving past the first places where I had Indian and sushi and Thai, the restaurant where I had my first beer (a Moretti at Camille’s in Va. Highland). Pano’s and Paul’s has moved from W. Paces Ferry, but I had my first really fancy restaurant dinner there when I was 20. I wore a new black dress, loved the escargot. I happened to go by Sevenanda in Little Five Points, the hippie market where we got our bulk lentils and brown rice out of pails on the floor, and alfalfa seeds and fresh peanut butter and carob chips when I was little. I know if I walked inside today, the smell would take me back to being five, thinking I was the only child in Atlanta eating plain yogurt and mung bean sprouts. I went to the Sweet Auburn Market downtown, the first place I remember seeing tripe and pigs feet and chitterlings.
I’ve also been to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market a couple of times. We would make a weekly trip up there for most of our groceries. It’s one of my favorite places. It has always been a very international store, even when it was basically a grungy warehouse full of tow motors carrying pallets of bananas and sacks of rice. The store was always full of Indian ladies in brilliant saris and gold bangles and nose rings, all of the beautiful voices of Africa there on a given Sunday. It’s a bit like heaven in that “every tribe and tongue and nation” could probably find something familiar to eat there. There are still the tubs of spices I remember that smell like faraway places, fruits with skins that looks like dinosaurs, live blue crabs and tanks of fish. As many places as I’ve been now, I still find mysterious green leafy things there, intriguing and begging to be investigated. I know that this place is where the seeds were planted that became my interest in food and travel, that quickening of the mind that started me on the chase. I never really lose that fascination I first realized there for the fellowship that all of humanity finds in the breaking of bread, all of us different and all of us the same.
That unfinished story beguiles me back to the table again and again. And that’s the thing about this little rock full of people hurtling around the sun- it doesn’t stop, the stories don’t stop, we don’t get a chance to catch our breath. We keep sleeping and eating and drinking and loving and crying and working and playing, round and round. Where will I be this time next year? Where will I have visited, what will I have smelled, tasted, cooked? I can’t even imagine, but I hope to still be writing about it all when next year rolls around. Thank you all for riding along with me this year.