Monday, June 19, 2006

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.

Procurement of sustenance. Eating. Food. More immediately vital to life than the universal drive to procreate. Never fuck? Your genes die. Never eat? You die. See? Elementary, my dear Watson. Lately, I've been obsessed with food, and not in the I-must-not-eat-this/I-must-only-eat-that sort of way. I've become fascinated with the culture, the ritual, the politics of food, and the fascination is threatening to become a full-blown obsession. Granted, the progression to obsession has been gradual, lumbering, and decades in the making. My childhood food issues, that led me, by my 13th birthday, to outweigh the average runningback; the almost sexual awakening I experienced when I went off to college and found myself surrounded by a cross-class, cross-cultural cadre of peers who led me to every flavor in our shitty city, and whose kind mamas sent care packages every semester; the weight I gained persuant to that; the vegetarian years, relearning how to nourish myself by denying myself what I most desired; living alone and being fully in charge of and responsible for what went into my mouth for the first time; New York. Bouley, where I stumbled by happenstance onto that wondrous intersection of art and nurturing, haute cuisine. I wasn't aware, then, that a single dinner could fork my path. But looking back, I realize it has. Course after course of transcendent mouthfuls that set my synapses firing. Amuse bouche. My lord, what understatement! Since that meal, I've had others, so delectable I've had mildly embarrasing...episodes at various restaurants. I'm a hedonist, a sensualist. I like the finest things. Getting them generally ends, in my little world, with a flush, and some vaguely inappropriate moaning and expressions. Trust me. Great food has an obvious effect on me. (A few weeks back, I sat alone at a favorite bar, eating their delightful grilled asparagus dish. After I polished the plate off, I looked up to find a man sitting at the opposite end of the bar, ginning dopily at me, clearly having enjoyed my meal more than I did. Yipes.) I used to happen upon great food. Now, I seek it out. I seek it out on the town, and I try to create it at home, as often as is feasible. That means I stick my nose in fresh herbs, inhaling deeply, at the market. I sniff and squeeze and fondle fruits and veg. I try to get a new cut of meat to learn to prepare at every trip. Margarine will never cross these lips again. I cry when inattention sends my broc or asparagus from the vibrant verdancy of a perfectly prepared morsel to the limp green-grey of overcooked waste. It might as well have been frozen. Worse, canned. I now have about $600 worth of high-end cookware, in the form of three lovely Calphalon pro pans and two darling Wusthof knives, that I have been patiently acquiring at various sales, steeply discounted, of course, over the last few years. My point is, it's getting serious. Serious enough that I'm pumping time, energy, and cash into mastery--or eventual mastery, at least. I've got a New Yorker from last September, because I loved the article on Vegas short order cooks. I've been churning out recipes from Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Saveur at a brisk clip. I was barking obscenities in my mailroom when I learned Chow had decided to go stricly virtual, and thus my subscription, of which I'v never gotten a single issue, is gone with the tarragon-scented wind. I've been like a woman possessed for the last week, trying to find just the right apron that will represent the inner me. (Apparently, she's kind of cute, snooty in name only, and otherwise, a little garish and cheap, as this discounted Anthropologie apron reveals.) I'm perpetually saddened by the dearth of black men or women working at the master level; worse, at the dearth of us even blogging about how we relate to it, or expanding our culinary pursuits. I'm arguing with anyone who will listen about the politics of meat production and the hypocrisy therein, reading up on the lives of chefs, foodies and critics for kicks, and actively seeking out a boy toy or two who knows his way around a kitchen. (Or at the very least a bloody menu, though really, I think people who like to critique food but can't prepare it shouldn't be trusted. It's like a virgin giving sex advice. Maybe you read the textbook, but you're missing the fieldwork that would provide you any context, honey. I'll get my expertise elsewhere, thanks.) All of this is to say, I'm in love with food. Not enough to want to enter a restaurant kitchen; I don't aspire to that. But enough to want to make it sing, and enough to want to keep writing about it--how we grow it, kill it, package it, sell it. About the rituals we build around it, the meaning we impart to it. About my struggle with it, which, god knows, will never, ever end. In the coming weeks, I think I'll be packing in most of my old blogs and starting one more. This one will remain. I need someplace for my ridiculous brain dumps, after all. But it's getting old, and maybe it's time for a more focused pursuit.


At 6/19/2006 08:34:00 PM, Blogger deborah said...

all i can say is : yipeee! nigella will commence shakin' in her boots as we speak.


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