New Food Vignette: A First Account of Pesto

If only I could forget the first bite, so that I might live it again.

(Written for a history of food class assignment.)

Had I not known her better, I might have suspected she was about to trick me into eating a tupperware full of soggy clippings: the glossy green paste was bearing on compost, and I had not explicitly excluded grass when I requested a surprise from her garden the day before. “A food you have never eaten before… a food you have never eaten before…” she had mused, running her fingers through her hair as if combing through her mind for ideas, before responding with sudden allure. “A food you have never eaten before? I know just the thing.” She handed me the container and I cracked open a corner of the lid, preparing to lean in for a sniff. But before I could even move my head, a strong yet aromatic scent of basil, garlic, and parmesan rushed out to greet me, and the lid snapped shut as I recoiled in surprise.

I was originally planning garlic bread to accompany my spaghetti, but given the opportunity to sneak up on a food which normally anoints itself with pine nuts to evade my consumption, I decided to transform the loaf into vessels to carry the pesto. I spread the dense paste over the bread, waited for an inkblot of olive oil to seep into the crumbly white surface, and bit through the moist yellow. Inside my mouth, the basil and garlic initially sewn together by mortar and pestle immediately unraveled their stitches and whirled around like leaves on a windy day. Their flavors were unwilling to die with the parmesan and spinach during swallows, which caused each successive bite to become even more potent than the previous, until the dynasties united to commandeer every receptor in my mouth.

Only left to be desired was a hint of cool creaminess. Thus, the pesto occupying the second vessel waded through a blanket of butter atop the deck. But alas, though there was a third vessel, no occupants remained to board it. I made this known to her, and she refilled my supply the next day, but it was not the same pesto. It had been made with the same ingredients, on the same day, by the same person, but the flavor bomb that had exploded the day before now failed to detonate. If only I could forget the first bite, so that I might live it again.