Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My love affair...with food

…and wine, but this is not dedicated to wine (although I am keenly aware of my current preference to the darker tannicky petite sirah over its more elegant cousin, the syrah). I will save my (very strong) opinion of wine for later.

There is no rhyme or reason for this…shall we say…aubade. My love affair with food is complicated---in the best and worst sense.

Granted those of you that know me, really know me, my precious and patient loved ones, also know that this is my source of constant struggle, my lifelong yin and yang. I am not addressing that rather somber side of my love affair, however. Not right now.

As for the emphatic and rather passionate side of my love affair, it’s far-reaching and all-encompassing. From the playfulness of an amuse bouche, served before the hors d'œuvre to awaken the palate, to the silky sincerity of my favorite cheese, the French bucheron, I am very earnest in my love. And I welcome both the aperitif and digestif alike, before and after my meal. I crave the fleshy raw, paper-thin savory slices of a peppery carpaccio with fresh lemon juice squeezed on top as much as I crave the cured, paper-thin sharper slices of a prosciutto di Parma wrapped around melon or figs. Pate is one of my weeknight indulgences spread over a hearty crostini enjoyed with, of course, a glass of wine. But recently I was most pleasantly surprised by a rich foie gras slider (basically, a panini cut into fours) that I enjoyed at a local wine bar. It was accompanied by a mix of olives that included deliciously mild and nutty lucques, another favorite of mine.

I could go on and on, mind you.

But I should also recognize the flipside of my gastronomical love affair. The dirty, gritty, deliciously sinful flipside. My fast food of choice? I’m torn between either the fresh and substantial In-N-Out burger (ordered animal-style and protein-style, and always after midnight) or the supermarket pre-cooked whole rotisserie chicken in the plastic bag priced under $10, in any flavor that is offered (from BBQ to herbed). I also tend to gravitate towards anything deep-fried, as in chicken (preferably on top of a waffle) or Twinkies---a la mode (thank you, Lulu’s Blue Plate off of Sawtelle; may you rest in peace). Of course, breakfast being a favorite weekend pastime of mine would be remiss without Spam over eggs and rice, with a few dashes of hot sauce, or Eggs Benedict, a dish I must order at any place that offers it, good or bad reputation notwithstanding.

I must speak to my obsession over protein. From a good quality juicy steak, cooked rare-plus (i.e., very bloody with a warm center), and sometimes au poivre, to anything in the ocean, from sushi to shellfish. I should mention, in particular, the crab…completely doused in Old Bay (those from the Eastern seaboard, preferably from Washington, DC down to the Carolinas should be plenty familiar with Old Bay).

That said, my Samoan heritage needs representing here, too, with its rich and tropical flavors. The bright taste of oka (raw, seasoned fish in lemon juice, coconut milk and onions) is almost in and of itself a perfect amuse bouche. And Samoan BBQ chicken (marinated in soy sauce, fresh minced garlic, vinegar, and sugar) is juicier and more complex than most any BBQ chicken I’ve tasted.

My love affair with food is highly judgmental, borderline snobbish. A food can be prepared appropriately and as expected; a dish can be served fresh and flavorful; a plate can be made simply but with the highest quality ingredients…and the alternative can also happen.

My love affair spans far and wide. I’d say that it’s resting very appropriately in France right now, and probably will be there for a while. I’m enjoying complimentary French foods, wines, and cheeses too much to sway in another direction just yet. But I will continue to appreciate the pleasant, little surprises along the way at the hole-in-the-walls, or the recommended dishes at the local spots, or the homemade holiday treats as they are brought into the office. I will not turn down my first experience with any food. In the same token, do not expect me to be at all forgiving the second time around.

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