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Lisa Hilton tries her hand at cooking pizza with the Neapolitan chef Enzo

Forty degrees in Dubrovnik. The gentle lap of the steaming Adriatic 50 metres below the city wall drowned by the steady march of determined day-trippers funnelled in from the cruise liners and the splash of lithe brown boys diving effortlessly from the rocks in pursuit of crazy woven baskets of crab, scent of fried squid, drifts of incense from the Jesuit church, suntan oil, sweat. The hip, bearded waiter serves my octopus burger. A blackboard behind me informs me that this is street food, Croatia style, adding that I can post my "like" on     Facebook, or follow the bar on Twitter.

The octopus is pulped and deep-fried, perched in a nest of bright lettuce and a cunning chilli mayonnaise. It is cool, my burger. A bit dirty, a bit retro, sharply choreographed and ready for its Instagram close-up, but I have no desire to actually eat it. I wonder whether I should just cut out the middle man, snap and post my burger portrait and move on. I try a bite, and it's fine, crisp and salty, sweet tomato juice, comforting pad of bread. Octopuses are surprisingly intelligent animals, capable of expressing both happiness and rage, able to learn simple tasks, leading lives of existential bleakness, the most solitary and uncommunal of sea creatures, alone from birth to death. Maybe the burger represents a step-up for the octopus, a chance for the nerd of the cephalopod world to hang with the in crowd, but I'm just not feeling it. This is an extraordinary place; I want to invest it with some significance, but my octopus burger is too international, for all its originality, too generic. We're both trying too hard, we might as well be on an anxious first date in Hoxton.

Eating is an act of echophrasia, always communal, always, in some sense, commemorative. Whatever our culture, food connects us to an associative palate, a palimpsest of flavour reinscribed over and over with memory. Lawrence Durrell wrote of "the sour, pungent taste of black olives between the teeth", the entire Mediterranean captured in one bite, "a taste older than meat or wine, a taste as old as cold water". Scooping fresh almond granita from a plastic cup on Panarea this year, I tasted a flavour the Phoenicians had known, a transporting jolt of iced, creamy sweetness. When the Crusaders arrived on Sicily at the end of the 12th century, the island's inhabitants were appalled by the manners of these hairy, unwashed giants from the north; the knights in their turn were first suspicious and then enchanted by the sherbets of the south. Richard the Lionheart and Philip Augustus of France cemented their short-lived pious alliance over sherbet before sailing on to the Holy Land, an historic moment we can still, magically, experience today in a mouthful of ice and the milk of a nut. Now that the gap between sensation and memory is so narrow, when we are encouraged to document the pleasurable or the exotic almost before we have actually experienced it, the food we eat on holiday might invite recollection, a sense of mindful ease which endures long after the tan has faded and the beach towels have been packed away for another year.

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