Sunday, January 31, 2010

Perfection in a French Fry

What’s better than lying on a beach in Hawaii? Nothing. But what comes in at a close second? Sitting in the shade after enjoying hours of surf, sand, and sun and enjoying hot, crispy French fries. Travel back with me two-and-a-half weeks ago to Wednesday, January 13, where I find myself sitting at a little snack bar on Waikiki Beach. My boyfriend will be arriving on the island within the next couple of hours, so I don’t want to get much to eat since he’ll probably be hungry getting off the plane. A snack of French fries seems perfect.

And they are perfect for this moment. They are deliciously crunchy outside and soft and warm inside—bare except for oil and salt that mixes with the taste of sea salt on my lips from swimming in the glorious Pacific Ocean. I’ve just finished reading Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour on the beach, and the words of this book fit right in with my experience. Bourdain travels around the world seeking out the “perfect meal,” but in the final chapter he comes to see that the perfect meal does not exist—that “the whole concept of the ‘perfect meal’ is ludicrous. ‘Perfect,’ like ‘happy,’ tends to sneak up on you. Once you find it…it’s gone. It’s a fleeting thing, ‘perfect,’ and…it’s often better in retrospect.”

The perfect meal can depend so much on context and memory, but right now, these fries seem perfect. It's not so much that the taste of the fries is extraordinary, but that every crisp bite and burst of salt is a reminder that I’m in Hawaii, that I’m more relaxed than perhaps ever before in my life. There’s just the beach, happy people all around, and French fries—perfect. And I’ve got a feeling that the rest of the day is about to be perfect, and the day after that, and the day after that…

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