1999 was a fascinating, often exhausting year. It was my last full year at the Hermiston (OR) Herald, before I realized that, as a writer-reporter, I was a better writer than reporter. It ended on an exhausting note with a Dec. 30th, 1999 scare in the Hermiston area, because an emergency warning system went off by accident that made people think chemical weapons had leaked from the Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot next door, but on Dec. 29th, 1999 that hadn't happened yet and I was still in the Portland area with family, celebrating the last vestiges of Christmas.
December 27th is the birthday of my late paternal grandmother Jean, who I've more than once called "The Bones McCoy of the family." (She also had a pain threshold that probably would have impressed Mick Foley, but that's another story.) With that classically so-close-to-Christmas birthday, so many of which get drowned out in the noise of Christmas, it was nice to try and give her a separate celebration, and a lot of us Walshes were in Portland that season, so...
We took over several tables in the middle of the Tigard location of Wu's Open Kitchen, where half of one sitting-room wall is a window into where cooks worked around sometimes flaming woks. We ordered much. A snake of plates and bowls ran down the middle of our table chain, hemmed in by all of us seating. No food was going to escape. Unless it was meant to escape into our bellies.
There were no big revelations at that restaurant. No big dramatics. You'd likely not see a scene like it in a film, because Nothing Really Happened. But it was long in the most satisfying way. And here was a big reason why it went so well for me: I paced myself. Ate some, waited, ate some, waited, ate some more. And kept talking and visiting with my neat family. Good stories, often hilarious -- we have a lot of good storytellers among us, including my dad -- and we had the luxury of time among people we wanted to spend time with.
So the dinner went on -- for hours, it seemed like (maybe it was) -- and I built up layer upon layer of Szechuan in my digestive system. It's the old cliché that you're hungry again too quickly after Chinese food; not this time. There must've been a Jenga stack of the tasty stuff waiting within me, for the rest of that night, as we finished visiting then went to our cars and returned to the homes and hotels where we all were staying. My body was quite happy to take its time turning all that food into energy (and waste, but no need to go into those details).
We eat with our eyes and ears as well as our mouths. With our noses, too, as scent's such a big part of satisfying eating, but my foodie friends already understand it. That's no big revelation. But that night was a wonderful, eye-opening collision of several facets of Good Meals. That was when I finally truly digested the term "Good Food And Good People."