I’m a collector. No, I’m not the kind of collector you’re thinking of, with cabinets full of dolls, toy cars, or even thimbles representing the different states. What I collect cannot be displayed or housed neatly. I collect memories of special meals.

Whenever I travel, and wherever I travel, I collect unusual dishes and memorable meals, from the trashiest dive to the ritziest restaurant. And years later, I only have to think of that one dish to bring back a flood of memories from that particular vacation.

Like the time I tried fried prairie oysters at a Texas diner whose walls were covered with thousands of baseball hats, a rainbow of smoke stained bills all the way up to the ceiling. I just wanted to say that I had done it, that I had actually eaten fried testicles, but I ended up liking them and devouring the entire basket. I had just graduated from college and was driving cross country before beginning my new life as a corporate drone… just seeing baseball caps brings me back to the taste of that daredevil dish.

Or like the time I had moussaka, real Greek moussaka, watching the sun set into the dazzling blue waters of the Santorini caldera. Just thinking about that warm melting eggplant and potato against my tongue brings back the bright blues and brilliant whites of that gorgeous Greek island.

Or even the first warm crusty bite of the baguette I bit into last spring when I took my three kids to Paris. I looked up after biting into that perfect crunch of the baguette, and saw the same expressions of delight on each of my children’s faces. That moment was pure happiness for me; knowing that I was adding a memory to my collection, just as my kids were starting theirs.

This was an original Traveling Moms blog post. Vanessa blogs about cooking and parenting at her blog, Chefdruck Musings.