Did the food really taste better when we were five?

I don’t really know if this is an essay or a poem.

Did the food really taste better when we were five?

Perhaps my earliest memory:
Rough ground at the end of our garden.
There was a hedge or a fence with a hole.
I can’t remember the significance of that gap,
Did we use it for escape –
Or for communion with neighbours now forgotten?

I was there with other children.
Muddy sand and unkempt grass.
A shared brown paper bag of cooked shrimps.
We peeled them from their shells.
The exact flavour has been with me ever since.

Near Lisbon on the estuary.
A small port where they seemed to serve nothing but seafood
Pavement cafe
The golden hour
Glistening, buttered, rich and tender
Delicious! but – not – quite – just – so delicious

From the bustling wet fish markets of Hong Kong
To the dried trout on the shore of Issyk Kul;
Each sad pink frozen supermarket prawn –
Every candle-lit expense-account hype-named cordon-bleu crustacean luxury;
All beaten,
As they fail in competition against the memory of quintessence!

But the memory of the brown paper bag and the flavour of its content:
Age does not wither it.
And as each small disappointment opens a portal to perfection remembered – 
Perhaps continuing experience doesn’t fail me so badly after all.

Nick James      Posted in:



January 2014, Muscat, Oman.

Header Image:

John Cameron on Unsplash