In the last few years fermented food has been promoted as being good for the digestive system. It came as a surprise. Nothing novel here. Why the focus now when numerous cultures have regarded pickled food, part of their every day diet. Take pickled herrings in Scandinavian countries, pickled cucumbers (Poland), sauerkraut (Germany), pickled ginger (Japan), kimchi (Korea), to name a few.
People from India love their pickles! Lime, brinjal (auberine/eggplant), mango, tomato, chillis, are the common home made pickles, found in a jar on any dinner table. What is less known is pickled fish, usually mackerel, in a spiced brine. Delicious! West Coast fare. Then there is Bombay Duck. It’s not a duck, but a lizardfish, to be exact, the origins of the name you can find on the internet. When eaten fresh it is usually coated in spiced breadcrumbs and then fried. The result is delicious, crisp on the outside and gelatinous on the inside. A curious thing is that it does not taste fishy at all, except when dried in the sun on the beach for consumption later. The smell, then, is overpowering but worth the prize. Pickled in Goa Vinegar and spices, the very thought makes me salivate.
If fermented food is good for digestion, can memories be too? Like pickles, in moderation, perhaps they are. Some can last forever. No use by date, or best before date. They remain there suspended and contained. Some ferment, the longer, the better (or not). Best tasted, a little at a time. One can have the same recipe, the taste is never identical. We add spices, we embellish, we detract and edit. (Some call this perception). We hold them to light and check the sediment. (Some call this insight). We open the lid from time to time and sniff. And when we scrape the bottom on the barrel, we sterilize the container and make a mental promise to make another batch again. (Some call this resilience).
Memories are important, good or bad. They shape our experience of the world. Rather than minimize them for someone in distress, there is leverage in celebrating what once was, accepting the present for what it is and mourning what can never be. These are the steady steps in any recovery that cannot be rushed. Each individual takes the journey at their own pace.
After enjoying an evening with friends, I observed myself and others going back in time offering and exchanging with each other the gift of “remember when”. It made me realise. Friendship, like life, is fragile. We are privileged to enjoy its brevity or longevity. We can nurture it and be nurtured by it. We are warmed by the memory, or chilled to the bone by the loss. Despite one’s efforts, it can crumble without warning, leaving one standing in the debris with more questions than answers. Whatever the outcome, I do know for sure, if there is one shared moment in time that makes one smile because the friend and friendship was valued, then it was worth it. Because, there will always be a joyous sentence that starts with “remember when …”.
Until next time
a dawn bird