I had the great pleasure of having one of my pieces featured on the Smithsonian’s fantastic food blog Food & Think on Monday. It’s funny how a prompt– in this case “the most memorable meal of your life”– can bring back memories in a flush of sights, sounds, and smells. And just thinking about my meal made the whole month I spent in England come back in more vivid detail that it might have had someone just asked me to tell them about the time I spent in London 11 years ago.

Something I didn’t include in this piece was my memory of one weekend dinner in the Zebra Club. The thuggish Eastern European chef must have had the night off so dinner that night was both made and served by the regular waiter, whose name I wish I could remember. I do remember that he was from Serbia and that he bore a slight resemblance to Mr. Bean. He took our order–pasta or meat, as usual–and then headed back into the kitchen.

From my place at the table, I could see through the round window to the stove.  Through that portal I saw the Mr. Bean-waiter ignite something that resulted in tremendous flames–they were literally 18 inches high and looked like they could easily singe his eyebrows off. Did I mention I ordered pasta?

Twenty minutes later, he emerged from the kitchen with our bowls of rubbery pasta. Everything looked normal: or as bad as what had become “usual” by this point in the trip.

I never discovered what the flames were about. We tried asking but he seemed confused by the question. Perhaps he had hoped no one had seen. He wanted to keep those flames to himself.

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