Last February I went to San Francisco and ate a pizza at Pizzeria Delfina that could not be described as anything short of life-changing. With a piping hot thin crust, sweet tomato sauce with a splash of cream, fresh chopped basil, and shavings of parmigiano reggiano, this pizza was the epitome of simple and spectacular. It was so amazing, I completely forgot to take a photo of it. Or the cold and delicious beer that accompanied this meal. Or the small and lovely restaurant we ate it in. I completely forgot that we were sweltering in the pizza oven heat during a random, 20 minute increase in temperature that occasionally occurs in San Francisco.
Life-changing foods are not always related to travel, but that is often the case for myself. My trip to Italy produced a number of these occasions - the giant peach on top of Mount Vesuvius, the plate of spaghetti with mussels in a tiny, family-run bistro on the water with plastic chairs and checkered table cloths, (another) pizza, this time a margherita in Napoli, and, what was perhaps the most memorable, my last meal in Italy. At the end of my month-long journey I went back to the first restaurant I ate at when I arrived in Rome. My appetite had become quite voracious at that point. In one sitting I quickly disposed of a large bowl of minestrone, a plate of greens drenched in olive oil (it should be noted this was not "salad" by any means), a simple and wonderful plate of spaghetti all'arrabbiata, and a tiramisu. It. was. awesome.
This may lead you to believe that life-changing foods are everywhere, but there is something distinct and wonderful that separates them from just a great meal. They do not have to be fancy, nor do they have to be consumed in faraway places. They can be comforting and restorative, perhaps even familiar. But they are foods that force you to pause.