I jumped out of a plane from 12,000 ft yesterday. I cannot begin to explain the exhilaration of the skydive, and if this is an adrenalin rush then I need a little more alone time with this fantastic feeling before I can share more than this:
I’m a bit cloudy on what was going through my head during the dive but the first thought that hit me when I landed was “pasta!”! I had sunbathed for six hours, waiting my turn to jump out of an airplane, and hadn’t eaten much for the fear of throwing up all over Kent. On the train back to London I plotted my evening ahead. A delicious glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne (£7) at Pimlico’s Thomas Cubitt (thank you Charlie for the introduction); and then on to Olivo (thank you AA Gill, food critic Sunday Times, for the introduction).
I first ate at Olivo with my sister Priyankaa and our friends Ami and Jai in 2007. The food was not special, but the meal was magical. The four of us, who used to spend every waking childhood moment together, had not been in one city for over a decade and no amount of average food could ruin our evening. Ever since then, the pasta at Olivo has been my golden standard for joyous-pasta. So I ordered Linguine al Granchio (pasta, with crab, garlic, chilli, parsley, £14.50), the same dish I ordered three years ago. And as I enjoyed the memories this dish brought back to me, I realised that all this time I had involuntarily benchmarked every pasta dish I had ever ordered in a restaurant, to this one here. Not because the food at Olivo is any better, it is not, but because the memories this food brings far outweigh any inferior flavours I may remember. This makes me think of two things I read recently, in a book and on a blog.
In her book Spoon Fed, NY Times reporter Kim Severson talks about taste memories and the importance of extensive tasting to a food critic of any merit. “You have to build a catalogue of food memories. To understand good chocolate, you have to know bad chocolate…” She then goes on to explain these very same taste memories, but in a context. Just like my Linguine al Granchio and the context in which I first tasted it.
It is all very well for me to build this collection of benchmarks for my tastebuds, but is that where it ends? Or do I also benchmark the people in my life? Let’s see… if I had to pick someone for:
- Faffing around Bombay on a Saturday: Mamma
- Chilling out at home with wine, cheese and bread: Thomas
- Chat about new restaurants and old chefs: Chris
- Have a drink: Foram
What did I just do here? One day, after watching many movies with many people I decided that I enjoy doing this with Priyankaa more than with anyone else. Not for a minute does this mean that I won’t go to the cinema with anyone else, but that I will probably benchmark my experience with A, B and C against the joy I get from watching a film with Priyankaa. So if I do this, consciously or unconsciously, with something as frivolous as having a drink what is the likelihood that I do it with romantic relationships? What is the likelihood that you do it too?
Let me share something I used to do on a fifth or sixth date. I would ask the guy to order for me; a “test” to gauge how well he “knew” me. Eight times out of ten the guy got it wrong. It didn’t matter that he got so many other things right, but the fact that he did not know what I liked to eat somehow meant he did not know me at all. Now I didn’t conjure up this benchmark out of thin air. I used to date someone who “got my tastebuds” every single time, sometimes event better than I did myself. And the context? This guy and I talked food to each other all day long as that’s what our jobs needed us to do. So to say he had an advantage would be a colossal understatement.
When this requirement to “know me” changed into the necessity that he become my benchmark for everything is anyone’s guess.
This is a true example from an online dating site to prove how unfair (and unrealistic) we become when it comes to romance :
Male, 35 successful, creative, loyal, a home lover, terribly witty, eco-conscious, laid back, enthusiastic about life, an outdoors type and intelligent is looking for Female 23-38 bright eyed, sparkly, feisty, soulful, cheeky, happy, charming, open, honest, independent, intelligent, witty, sensitive, liberal, socially conscious, fun loving, naughty, sometimes more than naughty, kind, tender, drop dead gorgeous and fond of lists.
Novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s words, borrowed from Gouri’s blog say it beautifully:
“….I am going to write a play about the breakup of a marriage. And at the end of the play I am going to have a character say what people should say to each other in real life at the end of a marriage: I’m sorry, you being human, need a hundred affectionate and like-minded companions. I’m only one person. I tried, but I could never be a hundred people to you. You’ve tried but you could never be a hundred people to me. Too bad. Good bye.”
When I enjoy five different activities with five different people, how am I allowed to expect the a single man to be “the one” answer to everything I have ever wanted, and will ever want?