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[The following passage is from Paul Brand’s Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, 1988. The son of English missionaries working in India, Brand went on to become a surgeon who developed new, innovative techniques for hand surgery. He also revolutionized our understanding of leprosy: the disfigurement and the loss of limbs is caused by the lack of respect for the body that results from the condition of painlessness (which is caused by the disease) and not because the disease causes the flesh to become “non-healing” or to change in any way.]

I have eaten many meals at fine restaurants. If you asked me to name the best meal I have eaten, however, without hesitation I would mention a dinner of rainbow trout grilled over a wood fire beside a river in India. The Brand family was vacationing with our friends the Webbs, twelve of us in all. It was a hot day, and John Webb and I fished in vain all morning and half the afternoon, wading upstream and downstream a mile in each direction to test various pools. Although the river was full of trout—we could see them clearly—in the still, unruffled water they could see us too, no matter how well we hid or tried to disguise ourselves. By midafternoon my muscles ached with the effort of casting. I was bruised from falling on rocks as I scrambled between pools. My face burned from the sun. Our children were fast losing faith in us as providers of food; the younger ones were beginning to cry.

Then a cloud drifted over the sun and a breeze rippled the surface of the water. Fish after fish began to take our flies, and we reeled them in and flung them on the bank. When we had caught a dozen or so, we spread the fresh trout on chicken wire over the revived embers of a fire started long before. That meal was pure ecstasy. It consisted entirely of plain grilled trout laid on slices of bread, their natural oils serving as butter, yet I honestly cannot remember a taste to match it. I have ordered trout many times since, but no one has been able to duplicate the recipe. Apparently the hunger, the bruises and sunburn and mosquito bites, the near-failure and timely triumph were essential ingredients of my pleasure.

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