He was climbing the stairs to the luxurious glass door that gleamed in front of him.
He was ushered into the dining room. It smelt differently.
He loved everything different. He was different himself.
The restaurant smelled of toasted Oakwood and peppered caramel. It was full and yet a soft wave of murmur was on as the diners concentrated on savoring the food. He was seated at a prominent seat he had reserved. With a flourish he opened the wine list and the menu card….
The Sommelier hopped forward, a taste vin dangling around his neck and took an order for Clos de Vougeot, an ’89 Burgundy vintage and it was decided that the wine would be ordered according to the courses. The captain loomed in front and an order for the Chef’s tasting menu was gladly taken. And so began the dinner. The Chef’s amuse bouche` was amusing. On a small salad plate was a shisho leaf wrapped in mozzarella, a seafood cake as small as a pearl with a yolk custard and a leaf of watercress balanced on it, a crystal shot glass carried a delicate soup of chicken herbs and potatoes and a small silver teaspoon, balanced right at the edge had a pickled beef bite with some rhubarb foam. The flavors exploded in a wave of contrast making his tongue squirm in delight. It was a perfect start. He hoped the whole meal would be perfect. Next came, a small egg, hollowed out and stuffed with some beluga caviar. It was topped with smooth sturgeon foam infused with asian spices. A blend of classic and contemporary, he closed his eyes as he let the foam do its magic on his palate. The caviar popped and dissolved in his mouth speaking of nothing else but the sea. A coconut and pear soup with a hint of kokum had already made its way from the kitchen to the table and was soon being cleared away by the busboy. A glass of a ’93 Vermentino was being placed by the sommelier while a plate of wild sea bass steamed in banana leaf with orchid flowers and tamarind relish replaced the soup bowl. It was a burst of unexpected flavors. Well blended and perfect. The wine glass was refilled with a Barolo Conterno of 1985 while the smell of mojito roasted veal, floral infused cherries, potato fondant and Yuzu wafting from the new plate of entrée that the captain had put forth, tingled his senses. An intricate artwork of flavors and aromas was being displayed on his palate and he closed his eyes in deep satisfaction. Like an actor bowing to a final performance, the sommelier grandly placed a glass of ’92 Massandra before him. It simply said one thing. It was time for the dessert tasting. He could see a plate of warm caramel tart with olive-hazelnut cream and caramelized bacon making its way towards him. He took a deep breath and could smell the flavors before the plate reached him. The plate was hovering nearer…….nearer….
He could smell something different….odd….
“What are you day dreaming Nick? Come on, finish your food fast and get ready.”
“Mom, come on mom, not today. Atleast not today!” Nick sighed, and looked forlornly at his mother,“How many more days would I have to eat this food? I am tired.”
His mother looked at her ten year old son, lovingly. Her eyes sparkled with a gentle smile or perhaps a hint of tear. On the other end of the dining table his father was reading the newspaper.
“Nick,” She said, “I know it is your birthday. See, I have cooked your favorite chicken and the wonton soup you like”
“I love you mom. You take so many efforts to make my diet so tasty for me. But I want to eat some nice juicy chicken. Not this overdone one I have been having for a year now. And the wontons are made from wheat…how the doctors can do this to me!”
His mother gave him a hug. She knew how he must be feeling. Their whole family was a true lover of food and he was her son after all. He was not meant to eat such diet food. Those long days and restless nights in the hospitals haunted her still. She shuddered and pushed those thoughts far away in a corner. The doctors were trying their best; they had allowed him a normal diet now, compared to the heavy liquid regime that was on for the previous year. Even the antibiotics had stopped their attacks, leaving much lesser damage than feared.
“This is only for a few months. You want to get strong, right dear? Get well soon and race ahead like other boys in your class, won’t you? You know you will feel better soon with this food right. We don’t want to take any risks now do we?”
“Hmm….” He took a bite. It was good. But not as good. He felt as if his tongue was trapped, tortured and imprisoned. He looked at his ever smiling mother and managed a faint smile.
“I will tell you something son. I know how much you crave for wonderful food. You are not meant to eat this. Trust me you will come out of this soon. Listen to this, when you eat this food think how you would truly love to eat the same food. Imagine the smell of the spices and their mixture as I make them. Learn to know the differences in aromas and tastes simply by smelling them; by imagining them. This way when you will eat the food you crave you would know them well.”
“Yes mom, I will. I do that. I imagine all possible flavors that can be mixed. When I eat my food I dream how it really should be. I can smell the flavors even when I imagine them. It feels like magic……,” his voice faltered.
He suddenly looked up at his mother. He had a weird look in his eyes. It was a mixture of passion and determination mixed along with those tiny drops of salty water that now lined his eyes. And when he spoke his voice trembled but was strong…stronger than that for a boy of his age.
“Mom, It will be magic…I promise….because I love food. Truly and honestly…I love it…and am being kept away from it now. And I will not let this happen again. When I grow up I will whirl the world of flavors. I will mix them and play with them so much that it will make people wonder what is in their food. I will make every meal worth to remember. I will mix such ingredients that people would never think of mixing and create wonders for their mouth. I will make food perfect. I will make magic on food. Food will be my religion…and it will know no days of fasting or dieting.”
His father got up from his chair. It seemed he had been reading some random sentence on the same page for the last half an hour.
His mother gave him a tight hug; His father came over and ruffled his hair, and both said, “You will my son…..You will.”