ColumnWhen we’re breaking bread, we’re creating memories, memories that weave our life story together.
A year ago I was on a trip in France with a man named Frank Moore.
Frank Moore is a 91-year old World War II veteran that stormed the beaches of Normandy. A native Oregonian, he’s a world renowned fly fisherman. He had returned to France to fulfill a lifelong dream of fishing on rivers that he once crossed as a soldier, and we were there to make a film about it.
I know, I know, this is a column about food, and here I am talking about a fly fishing veteran. How do the two go together? Bear with me.
Frank is the kind of man that you’ve always wanted to meet. He’s wise and full of stories. His wife Jeanne is the same, and together they make a loving couple who have been through thick and thin for more than 70 years.
While traveling with Frank, I thought a lot about food. After landing on Utah Beach, Frank and his fellow allied troops made their way through France, and eventually ended up in Luxembourg in need of some serious R&R. He spent several weeks in Luxembourg, and he has a story of a meal that a woman in the village made for him and a few other soldiers. In the midst of war, this was not a time of opulence, and yet this woman knew that these men needed a real meal, they needed the act of breaking bread with fellow humans in a peaceful setting. Something to provide them sustenance, both physically and emotionally.
Frank recounts this meal as a feast, better than anything he had eaten since he had landed in Europe. In the midst of war, he had a moment to sit, eat and share a moment with others, and that memory is forever etched into his mind.
Throughout our time in France working on the film “Mending the Line,” we ate a lot of special meals. People invited us into their homes, honored to cook for Frank and Jeanne. In Normandy meals were fueled by cidre fermier and followed by smelly Pont-l’Évêque cheese. If we were lucky there was a round of Calvados to finish the evening.
After an emotional morning walking Utah Beach, we gathered around a table, diving into cast iron pots of mussels fresh from the salty waters.
A morning before fishing on a quiet river in the countryside of Normandy, a breakfast spread of local eggs and yogurt, all of us seated around the huge farm table in a tiny river cottage.
There was a picnic on the banks of the Sélune River, a river Frank had crossed 69 years earlier, looking down to see a fish hanging from a riverside cafe, wishing that he had his fishing rod instead of a gun. Frank, Jeanne and their son Frankie sat in the sunshine, sharing a baguette, some charcuterie and a hunk of cheese. Simple, yet symbolic.
A year later, as I meet up with Frank and Jeanne again – this time to screen the film at Mountainfilm – I think back to these meals that I shared with them. The moments of laughter around tables. The moments of wisdom from Frank as he told a story while we waited for food to be served. The mornings where Jeanne would get a glint in her eye when she realized that, yes, once again she would get to eat a buttery croissant for breakfast.
Certain meals become the thread that tie our life stories together. We remember certain dishes, and time spent around a table with other people. Food brings us together, no matter where we are, no matter where we are from.
Frank and Jeanne went on to have a lot of experiences through food. For years they ran the Steamboat Inn in Southern Oregon, cooking meals for upwards of 60 people at a time. Frank and Jeanne treated their guests like they were family, breaking bread with visitors from around the world.
Food is a way to share love, and if Frank and Jeanne have taught me anything, it’s that you have to give love to the world. And what better way than through food?
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Anna Brones