Recently, I met up with a couple childhood friends for dinner. One handed me a bag, a little something she had picked up for my birthday. "You may not even remember," she said, "but I still consider it one of the best meals of my life." I could have told you the contents before unsheathing the tissue paper: Le Petit Beurre cookies and Nutella. The only thing missing was the strawberries.
Almost a decade earlier, I had made this friend a simple "dinner" while traveling by night train. We were college students on summer vacation between our junior and senior years. She had just finished studying abroad in Paris. I had just hopped my first flight to meet her in London. What ensued was a whirlwind trip: 10 cities in 14 days, from London to Frankfurt - four girls (two we barely knew) traveling on the cheap. We stayed in youth hostels and often spent our nights on trains traveling from one city to the next. Occasionally, we ate at restaurants, but often we grabbed food at little bakeries or grocery stores to save money and time before the next train departure.
I want to say we had just finished spending the afternoon on a rocky beach in Nice before climbing an upward path to some shops built onto the hillside. We found a grocery store where we bought Nutella, butter cookies, and strawberries (we may have bought the strawberries elsewhere, I don't remember). Once aboard the train that was to be our home for the night (I can't remember what city we were heading toward next) I made my friend "dinner". I buttered two cookies with Nutella and sandwiched sliced strawberries between them. What can I say? We're talking butter cookies, hazelnut-flavored chocolate, and sweet strawberries. They weren't half bad. "You're going to make a great mom someday," my friend said after a few bites. I laughed and ate a cookie sandwich.
I'm not gonna lie, I tore open that package of cookies and Nutella and dunk and drove - I did the dunking at stop lights - on my way home from dinner the night I received them. But tonight, I pulled out the leftovers along with strawberries picked from the yard to share with Audrey (this time as our dessert following dinner). Just as I had almost a decade earlier, I chocolate-buttered the sides of the cookie (only this time with a real knife, not plastic) and filled the insides with strawberries. Then I put the cookie on a plate and watched as Audrey dug in while I made one for myself. My friend was right. One of the best meals of my life.