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

 . . . and one more thing – Since Jan 2024 I have started putting my essays on Substack and with audio too! Please follow me there and give it likes and shares. Pretty please all that good stuff.

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