Bento at Honey Danji

Food nostalgia is a new column on food and longing: food relished “when we are most remote from them.”

The chapchae at Honey Danji Korean Food

How can you write an authentic travel piece when you are forced to stay at home? The travel writer Robert Macfarlane writes in The Old Ways that landscapes affect us both when we are and are not in them: “[t]here are also the landscapes we bear with us in absentia, those places that live on in memory long after they have withdrawn in actuality, and such places — retreated to most often when we are most remote from them — are among the most important landscapes we possess.” Back in 2009, when my Japanese friend and I fiddled with our chopsticks while waiting for our meal, he appeased us with a comforting proverb: hunger is the best spice. (He also casually told me the literal albeit morbid meaning of oyako in oyakodon, his favorite meal: “parent and child”, as in chicken and egg.)

Hunger fuels anticipation (or vice versa? a chicken-and-egg situation) and both play a huge role in making food taste twice as better, especially if you were on queue for an hour and a half. Multiply that long wait for a hundred days and more and we’re in Covid-19 times, where we can only do so much as to enjoy food that we love in isolation, in absentia, when we are most remote from the restaurants – and the people we love.

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