I just wanted to share with everyone my latest culinary triumph. Thanks to Bill for taking such beautiful pictures!
I’m not known for my deep thoughts or witty observations, so I beg your patience for what follows.
As I lay in our new bath tub this evening (an incredibly comfortable porcelain number with a fantastic sloping back, the kind made for reading and relaxing) reading the latest issue of Bon Appetit, my mind began to wander. First to how my mind always seems to go elsewhere while I’m in contact with water, whether I’m washing my hands at work for the umpteenth time or trying to get food ink off my arms at home. Then to food. I realize that everyone is shocked by this statement, clapping a hand over the aghast expressions on their mouths, and exclaiming “Jes was thinking about food?!”. But I wasn’t just thinking about what I was going to make for supper next Monday night, taking a mental inventory list of what is in my fridge, or trying to think of a dessert to make with asparagus. I was thinking of my emotional experiences and social class within the culinary world. When did I become a gastronomer? How does one even get to that point in their lives?
Most everyone is introduced to cooking in their mother’s or grandmother’s kitchens. Favorable or not, you would sigh nostalgically at the smell of chicken noodle soup and the yellowish-brown counter tops (as they seemed to be popular a few decades ago). I remember the mantra of my grandparents and parents to eat whatever was put in front of me and while I often hid my peas under a glass, the notion has stuck. Simple meals, simply prepared with simple flavors and ingredients have now been replaced with everything just the opposite. I can no long look at my meals and say “that is chicken noodle soup”. Now it is open-range corn-fed chicken braised with garlic and shallots in an organic vegetable stock with fresh ground peppercorn and rosemary poolish chibatta. What? Grandma’s oh so wonderful yet entirely unreplicable chocolate cookies replaced with thyme infused parfait and fleur de sel caramel. Observing these changes in my palette lead me to pine for what I’ve lost and cheer at what I’ve gained. I have risen into the upper echelons of taste and conquered my will to eat raw ramen. Okay, that is not entirely true, I still like raw ramen. But I’m saddened for the people that can’t to that. The people that will never have the chance to be simple.
It’s something you never think about. Something you never expect until one day a precocious eight year old inquires to the cocoa percentage of his hot chocolate or a birthday party for a three year old that requires a fresh raspberry, creme bavarios, and lemon chiffon cake and that cake better say ‘Happy Birthday Wil’ with one ‘L’. God forbid if there are two. It’s a strange sensation to see those children in the future ordering valrhona fondue with amarene cherries and fresh fruit; complaining about a single ding or blemish on a strawberries and allowing hell to reign within the restaurant and the poor managers. I fail to understand this mentality. I can admire a flawless strawberry and Pavlovian drool at the thought of my teeth sinking into it; but I’d take a box full of imperfect ones with slightly brown tipped leaves over one perfect one any day of the week and be just as happy. While people have earned the right to eat as they please, someone needs to hand them grilled cheese and condensed tomato soup and tell them to eat what’s been put in front of them. There is a point when you’re far too old to act like a child, no matter how much wealth you have.