Happy tummy, happy memories

What is it about food and the memories they evoke? I don’t know about you, but my elephant of a memory tends to connect occasions I celebrate with food or the places where I went to remember them by.

I remember “firsts” and count their “anniversaries” with the restaurants I went to and the food I ordered. Happy tummy, happy memories, indeed.

I happily remember the last meal I enjoyed with my family when I left Manila last July. A hearty meal at Corazon over at the East Wing of Shangrila Plaza mall. It was a family luncheon of gourmet Filipino food before I hopped on the plane taking me back home to New York.

Family meal last year at Corazon Restaurant in Shangrila Plaza
CIUDED REAL: Lechon Kawali with Laing by Corazon

I can cook but can’t really indulge in Filipino food here in the big apple, primarily because most Filipino dishes are best enjoyed with rice, a staple I gave up more than 2 decades ago. Then there’s the fact that it’s just myself and my not so little guy anymore — so that’s two people eating viands for a family of 4, and that’s if my super picky dining partner here will even dig into the likes of “Laing” (pictured above) or “sisig” (below). But when I’m in Manila, there’s no dieting for me!

Family meal last year at Corazon Restaurant in Shangrila Plaza
PACO: Pork Sisig, sautéed with onions, chili’s and secret spices

I look back to first meetings or being reunited with friends over brunch.. and while I remember the place we had originally wanted to visit then turned out to have closed already, we landed somewhere else where I had one of the best ever French toasts I’ve had.

My memories of that place and the food and that occasion so many years ago, bring me back to happy thoughts and feelings. The type that having a French toast breakfast brings me back to.

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So to celebrate one of those happy memories this week, I did one of my favorite versions of a crispy French toast I picked up many years ago at one of the hotels I had visited with family. Not exactly the same version I was remembering, but it brought me back to the happy place I am grateful for.

Simple enough.. dip the bread in beaten egg slightly thinned with milk, then coat the slice in Frosted Flakes that have been crushed to smaller pieces. (I like crushing the cereal by hand while in their original plastic container, when the cereal bag has probably a cup or so left.). Toast on a nonstick skillet in butter. No healthy detours — butter or it won’t be French toast!

I like my French toast with some sliced strawberry or banana, slathered with syrup, then bathed with heavy cream. Even just writing that makes me smile — more so when I go back to the memories they bring me.

I am grateful. Those memories come with wave after wave of happy thoughts. And I find myself comforted knowing that I have made some good choices that have brought me to this happy place I am in today. I haven’t always agreed with the choices the universe made for me, but this one steadied me and made me a wiser and better person. French toast at this time of the year will always be a reminder to me of how I have been lucky in many respects. There were a lot of things that worked out and which proved me right, time and again. I am a stronger, better and happier person now, thanks to a bit of French toast one chilly morning years ago.

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