Manna Which I Ate In The Desert

For Christmas, my mother gave me an anthology called American Food Writing, which I’ve been happily devouring.  Some passages are excerpts from larger books, such as My Antonia or Kitchen Confidential.  Some are reproduced magazine articles from the 1940s or 1960s.  Still others are portions of autobiographies or historical records, such as The Journals of Lewis & Clark.  And, of course, my favorite food writers are well-represented: MFK Fisher and Ruth Reichel.

I’ve been reading the book in fits and starts, haphazardly reading one piece from the front, then the back, then the middle — wherever the book opens to, really.  And this morning I wanted to share with you all my favorite passage so far.  This comes from a chapter in Mary Antin’s memoirs, The Promised Land, and showcases everything I love about food writing:

All this came to me in that instant of tasting, all from the flavor of ripe strawberries on my tongue.  Why, then, should I not treasure my memories of childhood feasts?  This experience gives me a great respect for my bread and meat.  I want to taste of as many viands as possible; for when I sit down to a dish of porridge I am certain of rising again a better animal, and I may rise a wiser man.  I want to eat and drink and be instructed.  Some day I expect to extract from my pudding the flavor of manna which I ate in the desert, and then I shall write you a contemporaenous commentary on the Exodus.  Nor do I despair of remembering yet, over a dish of corn, the time when I fed on worms; and then I may be able to recall how it felt to be made at last into a man.  Give me to eat and drink, for I crave wisdom.

Happy weekend, everyone.