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Till We Eat Again: "Cruising and Camels: A (Day After) Valentine Anniversary Story"

By Jay Reed

There are some folks who think Valentine’s Day is the penultimate day to wed, given that Cupid and his cronies are particularly active in that season, floating around in diapers shooting arrows of amore and such. The other extreme would be declaring that a wedding held on February 14 is a bit cheesy, for the very same reasons, even though neither party would ever forget the day and the added bonus (or curse) of combining Valentine’s and anniversary gifts, like the poor children born on Christmas. We met in the middle and got married the day after Valentine’s Day. Best of both worlds.

Our First Anniversary

Our first anniversary really kicked off the romantic dinner memories. We were in Helen, Georgia at a bed and breakfast, and asked the host where we might have a special dinner. He knew a fine dining place, called and made a reservation for us, but warned us it was a bit unorthodox. Once seated, we were given menus without prices: new to us, but no big deal. It was our anniversary. Then a big dog walked up to visit, and even sat at our feet for a while during dinner. It was a true mom and pop (and pup) place. Thankfully we’d come in knowing all these things were headed our way, and the food was incredible. We embraced the crazy and made a memory.

Our Tenth Anniversary

We celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary while living in Yemen. I have zero memory of what we had for dinner on the exact day, but we definitely had lots of food adventures while living there. Camel was available at the market: all we needed were a crockpot and some barbecue sauce. Sheep and goat meat were very popular, too, especially at weddings. Of course you can get those here in the U.S., too, (I have goat in my freezer as I write this) but you have to know where to look.

The Big 2-5

This past year we celebrated our 25th anniversary, and we went big. My wife has always wanted to do an Alaskan cruise. I’m a southern gospel music geek, and a few years ago I discovered that Bill Gaither and his crew of Homecoming singers did an Alaskan cruise. Win-win! So we hopped on a boat to Alaska with Bill and 3,000 friends. The music was great, but this isn’t a music story, so let’s get to the eating.

There’s a lot of talk out there about cruise food, mostly about volume. And that’s true. You can eat as much as you want and nobody blinks an eye, until you take the whale watching excursion and discover all the binoculars are pointed at you. Breakfast and lunch on this boat were essentially a dozen different buffet-like lines that would send anyone into a culinary tailspin. We survived, though, and live to eat another day. My favorite part, however, was the dinner. There was a menu with several choices, and if you chose only one thing from each section (appetizer, entree, dessert) this would not be a meal where you’d overeat. But if you got something you didn’t like? Order something else. Want the duck breast and the vegetarian option? Request both. I’ll have an appetizer and a salad, thank you very much. What kind of ice cream do you have tonight? Lovely, I’ll have that right next to my slice of opera cake (whatever that is).

And even more eating...

All the eating on this trip wasn’t on the boat, though. Alaska had some fun eats of its own. In Sitka we had a food tour scheduled which ended up being cancelled. But me being me, I had studied the itinerary beforehand and was able to recreate it almost in its entirety. So that day we enjoyed pelmeni (Russian dumplings), reindeer sausage, and fish tacos, and had a very interesting visit to the Alaska Pure Sea Salt Company. In Juneau, we had king crab legs, spruce tip ice cream, and more fish tacos. Today I have a six-flavor box of sea salt that I use regularly, and a little jar of spruce tip jelly in the fridge. (Who decided a spruce tree might taste good? Thanks to whoever you are!)

Yes, over the years we’ve had some food adventures…Not everyone would agree that eating crockpot camel, with your bare hands no less, is romantic. Or sharing a priceless meal in a fine dining restaurant with a big Labrador. Even munching on a reindeer dog, washed down with a spruce tip soda. But those are our memories, my wife’s and mine, and we’ll take them every time.

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