With the Click of My Camera

My memory is not what it used to be. Ok, that’s a lie. It’s always been on the hazy side, so I can relate to writer Nick Fauchald’s admittance that he has “food amnesia” in an article called “A Digerati’s Food Diary.” Like Fauchald, my life revolves around food, yet I can’t recall last night’s dinner without digging into the depths of my cluttered brain. I share his sentiment that memorable meals should be, well, memorable, but the repetitious nature of eating complicates the matter and often buries those gems of an experience in the back of my mind. And that is just what I hope to capture in the many food photos I take – an experience, linked to a memory, linked to a feeling.

On a recent trip to New York, I wanted to ensure that each click of the camera represented my experience in the city and presence in each moment. I created the right lighting, posed plates creatively, and sheepishly admitted being a food blogger as curious passersby glanced in my direction. I came away from four food-filled, exhausting days in Manhattan with over one hundred shots of breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, and many more beautiful photos of friends’ restaurant dishes, market produce, and food trucks. I couldn’t help myself in the dining capital of the world. I noticed every kind of cuisine represented, allowing me to be transported to nearly any continent I so desired.

One location that I was yearning to visit via New York’s transformative food scene was Ukraine. In an effort to connect to my heritage and nourish my beet-loving soul, I visited the East Village classic Veselka, a traditional Ukrainian restaurant with a modern twist. They are known for their borscht, even offering up a restaurant cookbook with the standout purple dish on its starkly white cover. It’s the meal starter I sought out since stepping off the Megabus in Midtown just days before. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the cool and refreshing liquid after walking miles around the city in the mid-summer heat.


As I currently review multiple pictures of the best Ukrainian meal of my life (that also happened to be vegetarian – no small feat), it’s that pinkish-purple cold borscht that sticks out in my mind. Even though the experience was just days ago, I know I will continue to remember the enjoyment in sharing that meal with two of my classmates, of comparing their equally delicious hot, meaty borscht to my choice, and of that gorgeous lazy summer evening sitting out on the restaurant’s patio sipping our soups.

More than that, this one dish that I captured in June 2012 in New York City with two friends transformed me to my grandmother’s kitchen table in western Ukraine during the 1960s. I am exuding the same anticipation and excitement over Veselka’s beet, cucumber and egg-filled cold borscht that my father expressed every wintry Wednesday of his childhood over my grandmother’s hot beet, cabbage and potato recipe. My father wasn’t physically with me on that Saturday evening in the city, but I felt closer to him than ever. And I will always connect that memory and feeling to this one photograph of a simple cup of soup.


Back in the present, I finally remembered that last night’s dinner was leftover spinach lasagna. I just couldn’t bring myself to capture on film this quickly and individually eaten meal because it didn’t compare to my beloved borscht; not in the past, present, or future.

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