May 15, 2005

Fifty Things...

An article in the Guardian suggests 50 things that every foodie should do. Presumably before one dies. Which I think is an important stipulation, because if I attempted to do all of their suggestions, my husband would certainly make sure that a homicide was in my immediate future, seeing the expense that I would incur in the attempt. I suppose if you had as much money as Gordon Ramsay (who's England's version of Wolfgang Puck, times two) that it might not be such a hazard. Alas, I am not yet burdened by unlimited funds. Pity.

Anyway, here's a sampling of the suggestions proposed by hoity-toity British food personalities, most are names I dont' recognize: Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, Tom Aikens, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Terence Conran, Terry Durack, Fay Maschler and Jay Rayner, and many, many more people with much more money and free time than you.

  • 8) Dive for sea urchins
  • 11) Make love in a vineyard
  • 17) Lick an ice cream in Sicily
  • 25) Sniff a white truffle
  • 36) Drink a bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc
  • 42) Take coffee at Caffé Florian
  • 47) Kill a pig
Click here for the full article.

I'd settle for 10 that are attainable...and justifiably more fun than killing a pig to feast on its entrails. (eww?!)

  • 1) Make truffles from scratch, then roll them by hand. There's something amazing about the combination of warm cream and good chocolate, how it feels in your fingers, and the taste of it when its at your precise body temperature.
  • 2) Grow something you can eat...from a seed that you planted. You can start small: tomatoes, radishes, beans, peppers... All hardy and all delicious. The time that you spend caring for that little plant is metatative, and there's something spiritual about consuming, literally, the fruit of your labor.
  • 3) Eat a crêpe in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. OK, I just got done whining about how those other things were rich people things, but you really should, truly, honestly, go to Paris once in your life before boorish Americans ruin it for everyone (no darling, the OTHER Americans, not you).
  • 4) Work at a restaurant. Whether a fine restaurant, a family-dining place, or a fast food place, the experience will alter your perceptions of how food is made. A good place will show you how things should be done. A bad place will show you how things ususally ARE done. Ultimately, you learn that commissary is a dirty word.
  • 5) Eat at a "destination" restaurant. The kind of place you go so that you can say you went. The kind of place that you can't afford to go to more than once a year. Save up for it... don't use a credit's about the anticipation.
  • 6) Participate in a wine tasting. Whether you're touring Napa, Spain, or the cheap section of Trader Joe's... Get a whole bunch of wine and a whole bunch of friends and open them all (the wines not the friends) and swirl and look for rim variations and bemoan/praise the herbaceousness/minerality accented in that varietal. Plus, it's fun to get a buzz off all that wine. P. S. Hangovers are to be enjoyed as Part Two of your experience. Spend the morning in bed, reading the paper/Internet while making a breakfast of just toast and tea.
  • 7) Point at the menu. Go to an ethnic restaurant and order something you can't pronounce. If it was terribly awful, they wouldn't put it on the menu, would they? And if it does look like something the cat dragged in, you don't have to lick the plate clean... But you DO have to try it.
  • 8) Eat dessert for dinner. Bananas are fruit and nuts are protein and ice cream is dairy and the cone is a starch. Go for it, it's not gonna kill ya.
  • 9) Take a teenager out for a fancy lunch. Show him what you do when you order a good bottle of wine. Explain to her how to graciously offer to pick up her share of the check (and why she should be prepared to pay for the whole thing -- oh god, remind me to tell you about my crab legs story!) Show him how to act like a gentleman. Show her how to ask like a lady. They'll be grateful, and so will their future dining partners!
  • 10) Experience food. This last entry isn't a catch all, or a cop-out, I swear, it's more like an admonition to myself. Buy something at the farmers' market, and eat it with the vendor. Go out for dim-sum and just say YES to whatever's on the next cart that goes by. Go to a new grocery store and buy something you've never heard of, then go home and figure out how to use it. Expand your experiences and see what happens!
Not necessarily in that order...but licking warm chocolate off your fingers is a rather nice place to start, I think.

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  1. Ok, I for one LOVE Nigella Lawson! She has a really simple apporach to cooking and is drop dead gorgeous to boot.

    I've done a few things on the list (making love in a vineyard and killing pigs are just not my forte) BUT, I have to agree with you. Working in a restaurant is a life-changing experience. I grew up in one (my dad's) so I view each establishment with a critical eye. I think the experience makes you appreciate the work that goes behind preparing meals - whether it be for for five or fifty....and it helps you know what is good and what is GREAT.

  2. I know of her, but I haven't seen any of her shows. At least Nigella's suggestion is something practical. That speaks to me.

  3. The kill a pig item could have been stated better - such as make your own prosciutto or jamon serrano. The statement as is reflects a deeper understanding of the food chain rather than just getting food in a grocery store. The first seminal meal that I remember occurred when I was ten and we went to my aunt's house one evening to help them butcher pigs and prepare the meat for the coming winter. I woke up the next morning and went to the kitchen. I can sense the aroma to this day. My aunt was cooking one of those country breakfasts working people need. She was cooking on an old wood burning cast iron stove, making cured ham, bacon, sausage, country fries and eggs. It was all new to me and opened the door to a whole new range of tastes that I relish to this day.
    It was a cold, frosty morning. While the men prepared the hogs, the women made apple butter in a large cast iron cauldron. In the afternoon, the men prepared the hams and bacons for curing and smoking. We also rendered the fat for lard and cleaned the intestines for making sausage.
    I then saw my first food artist at work. My aunt had a gift for making sausage. We prepared the meat for bratwurst, liverwurst, blutwurst,and headcheese. Watching my aunt preparing the mixtures was an amazing experience. I learned several important lessons that day, the greatest of which was that there was a great appreciation and reverence for the pigs they killed to provide sustenance and they made sure not to waste any of meat. When I look back, that was the day that I began to appreciate good food, where it comes from, and what it takes to bring it to the table.

  4. Aardvarknav, that was a great story. Thanks for sharing that!


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