Each morning when I wake up, one of the first things I do after shutting off my alarm is open Timehop. I spend up to five minutes scrolling through the photos just from one year ago, which detail my trip abroad to Europe. The app whisks me through thousands of memories of places, monuments, friends, and food. I always hover a little too long over the pictures I took of my food in various countries, causing my morning stomach to growl with every perusal. It’s almost time for my favorite dish that I ate outside of Italy to pop up on my app. I can’t remember for the life of me what this dish is called because I can’t speak German, but the picture I took of it stands as the most vibrant arrangement of food I have ever photographed. Not only does the dish look incredibly beautiful, but it also has a story behind it.
I set out for the day with my relatives who live in Shöckingen, a tiny village outside of Stuttgart where everyone knows each other and the church’s bell can be heard in every corner. My cousins planned out my entire week of spring break with fun activities and tourist sights for us to visit. Since they knew of my interest in nature, they thoughtfully took me to a forest with several parks. I remember how awed I was when they said, “Wait til you see the restaurant.” Restaurant?? What restaurant? “There’s a restaurant in the forest?” I asked quizzically. “Yeah, you have to walk through the trails to find it. It’s hidden.” The mystery of this place grabbed me and I found myself unceasingly thinking about it as we walked along fallen tree trunks and watched my cousin ride her scooter over the bumpy dirt path. (That’s my cousin with the giant stick, she’s an adventurous bilingual German four-year-old)
After about 45 minutes of walking, I could see the trees thinning out ahead. The path widened to a lodge-like building overlooking a stream. We circled the building and entered into a door that led us down into a basement – the kitchen. I couldn’t understand the menu so I told my cousin I would order the same thing that he chose.
We squeezed up a spiral staircase where even I almost managed to bump my head. The room above us opened up into a dining hall with sturdy, thick wooden tables and mismatched chairs. Light poured in from the wide windows, dappling the floor and tables through the leaves of trees outside. My cousin brought up the food and this beautiful arrangement of colors and tastes sat before me.
I was amazed at how all of these flavors worked together; the potato and cucumber subdued the brightness of the red peppers and cole slaw. The egg yolks drenched the potatoes and served as a dressing for the salad hidden beneath the rainbow of vegetables. The illumination of forest light brought out the colors even more. Though it was filled with ordinary ingredients like vegetables and potatoes, this plate was special. It was served in the middle of nature, which made it taste even more fresh. It was something we walked for, something we worked for to reach the secret restaurant hidden in the forest. Even though I haven’t reached the anniversary of my meeting with this dish (April 2) I can still remember it as though it is right in front of me, causing my mouth to water, without the help of Timehop.