“I ate the whole world to find you.” [1]

I went to Paris and sat on the grass in a park outside the Tuileries. I ate cold salty ham and creamy brie on a baguette that tasted like bread is supposed to taste. It was cliché and it was delicious. That French bread was so chewy I had to spend twice my usual time on each bite, so I slowed down and admired the view. Hot chocolate that you’d convinced us to buy despite the hot sun was thick like Hershey’s syrup and so, so sweet. The bread cut the roof of my mouth and left a raw place there for the rest of the day. A sandwich echo.

I went to grandma and grandpa’s house and ate hagelslag on a slice of buttered bread. Real butter, not margarine like we used at home. The bread was so bakery-case-infused that it tasted like doughnuts. You next to me kneeling on the padded chair because there was no booster seat. Chocolate sprinkles for breakfast felt like the ultimate cheat.

I went to the dining hall and loaded up plate after plate at the salad bar. That lettuce, always too wet from washing, left behind puddles that diluted the peppery ranch dressing. Cranberries and sunflower seeds piled on boiled eggs and bacon until it hardly counted as a salad anymore. You followed suit, choosing chickpeas and carrots and cucumbers with a spoonful of peanut butter on the side for dipping. It always left me a little hungry and filling in the gaps with bowls of Cheerios.

I went to the brick house and your mom made bowls and bowls of kimchi and piles of rice. I sat on the stool in the kitchen and made awkward conversation while she dashed around tasting and stirring. There were mushrooms, which I didn’t think I liked, cooked in something delicious that made them taste less like dirt. Everything was sour and spicy and so different than my childhood grilled chicken and potatoes. We ate it clumsily with chopsticks in the crowded living room. A feast among new friends.

I went to the amphitheater and sat in the hot sun with a cold beer. The picnic basket held chicken sandwiches and Marie’s salads and the jewels of Michigan summer. Cherries so sweet they seemed fake, like some candy-maker had developed a convincingly-real recipe. Raspberries that stained my fingers and blueberries a revelation. For dessert, a midnight chocolate bar. Simplicity.

I went to the mountain and was cold. Clumsy fingers unzipped tent flaps and fumbled unfamiliar boot laces. The tip of my nose like an ice cube. The little gas stove hissed as it worked to boil enough water for tea and oatmeal. You tore open those little brown waxed packets and poured the steaming water right in. Thick, hot, apple-y goodness sat like a glowing coal in my stomach. I never knew something so humble could be so soul filling.

I went to Concord and sat on the landing of a three-story bed and breakfast. We laughed and ate cinnamon and clove windmill cookies packed in my suitcase by my mother. On the tiny stove in my room I boiled water for tea and sipped the vanilla caramel goodness that didn’t even need sugar while we made terrible puns and talked about God and daydreamed about the future. Now, years later, I pour a cup and breathe in. My face is suddenly hot, but not from the steam—salty drops in my mug.

I ate the whole world to find you.

It turns out you were there the whole time.

 

[1] Έφαγα όλο τον κόσμο για να σε βρω. Greek saying, heard on NPR during a discussion of Annie Liontas’ book Let Me Explain You.

Abby Zwart

Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.

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