I haven't had much to say about food lately. Well, actually I haven't had much to say about cooking. There's a lot on our plates at the moment. The GM is leaving at the end of the month and as far as we know he's not going to be replaced until the end of the year. We're short staffed, as always and housekeeping has become a major headache. The wait staff are dropping like flies as the summer comes to a close and the fall is busy (for us) and we need to staff it now. We're also transitioning our current administrative assistant into a new, still undefined position in order to bring in a brand new administrative assistant with a stronger background in accounting to take over some of the duties that our GM currently handles. So I'm quietly trying to remember how to do all of the administrative hotel duties that I haven't been doing for the last year and a half while we try to figure out how we're going to distribute the increased workload among those of us that remain while making sure that the quality of service that our guests receive does not suffer in the slightest. Change is never easy. On the outside of that time is flying by and we're trying to establish some sort of a plan for our departure. That's just a nagging thought at the back of my mind because there's not much I can actually do to move things along at the moment. Although I'm certainly trying. In my spare time I'm trying to finish reading The Omnivore's Dilemma because I think it's an important book although it's beginning to feel like homework. So somehow actually thinking about cooking has fallen by the wayside, not for the first time and certainly not for the last. I'm still in the kitchen, more or less, I'm just not feeling very creative at the moment. There are too many other things on my mind.
So as an exercise in procrastination, about two weeks ago Dan over at SaltShaker tagged us for this meme :
My thought in this meme is food items or events that changed your foodie life. Not some “oh, it’s the first time I didn’t put jelly on a peanut butter sandwich and used bananas instead” sort of change, unless you truly feel that affected you profoundly. That’s the key - it affected you profoundly, in some manner. A moment you can look back at and say “that was a defining moment”. The questions are simple, the answers might be harder - an item, person, event, or place that had that effect on you, and why. They don’t have to be big splashy things - sometimes it’s something very small and simple that changes the way we view the world - the famed “butterfly effect” (and I’m not talking about the Aston Kutcher movie). So, to those who want to participate, copy this and pass it on (and, if you’re so inclined, do a trackback to the originating post). Here are your categories:
1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food “personality” (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life
and I thought that I would take a few minutes to answer the call. Alex can add his answers separately. I'm going to go with the first answers that pop into my head so bear with me here.
1. An ingredient that changed my life would be lobsters. I've loved them since I was a child and in my youth they were always consumed naked. I adore taking apart their bodies to try and excavate every last nugget of sweet succulent flesh. I never understood the butter thing. Why gild the lily? As I grew older I branched out and began to enjoy different preparations and more elaborate lobster dishes. I still like them best straight from the shell with no adornment. I rarely order them in restaurants because of the expense. If I'm going to spend lots of money on a lobster I want the whole thing. Lobsters were also the first ingredient I ever attempted to kill and cook myself. I've been fishing for years but someone else usually took them off the line and finished the task for me. Trying to kill my first lobster with a chef's knife was nerve wracking and ultimately unsuccessful. I had a good friend screaming in the background as I desperately tried to stab the poor creature scuttling across the kitchen counter. My nerves and my squeamishness won out and I ended up steaming the beast alive and that's pretty much what I did with the majority of lobsters from that moment on. It's not a pretty story but it's the truth. My first restaurant lobster was at the Palm when I was a small child, completely indignant that I had to share a two pound lobster with my then arch-nemesis Louise. In my mind lobsters conjure up summers at the beach on Rhode Island, birthday dinners at the Palm, lobster rolls and rum punches at Shaws in Maine, huge stuffed lobsters cooked especially for me by my husband and so many other precious moments from the past thirty three years.
2. A dish would be fried eggplant made by my late Aunt Lucy. She was Aunt Marie's mother and when she and Uncle Alex would come to New York from Pittsburgh to visit she would always make the fried eggplant. It was a dish of love because it was one of Aunt Marie's favorites, something she didn't get from anyone else. Actually all of the meals with Aunt Lucy and Uncle Alex were like that, born of love for a child that they didn't get to see very often. I was just lucky to be at the table. It taught me that cooking is much more than simply preparing food.
3. A meal would be the first sushi dinner with Alex and my Mom. Their relationship was prickly in the beginning. The meal gave Mom a chance to share her heritage with him and educate him about things Japanese. It was a moment of bonding for the two of them, a chance to share a common ground that had nothing to do with me. It was a chance for him to try some things that he had never tasted before and for all of us to share a moment of pleasure and camaraderie. From where I was sitting it was a turning point in their relationship.
4. A cookbook that changed my life was actually a boxed set of the Sixty Minute Gourmet and More Sixty Minute Gourmet that I received for Christmas one year. They are not my favorite cookbooks or the most well read in my extensive collection. They were the very first cookbooks that I read from cover to cover, savoring the intermingling of personal stories with recipes. The first formal meal I cooked was from that book, Steak Diane followed by vanilla ice cream with melon and Chambord. In some ways you could say that it was the beginning of my career in fine dining.
5. A food personality would have to be Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet. I watched his show after school for years. I loved watching him visit different areas with his trusty sidekick Craig. He was so matter of fact about cooking and so obviously appreciative of food. I loved the different stories he told about the dishes and watching him create different cuisines from ingredients that I could find in my own kitchen.
6. A person who influenced my life in food would have to be Alex. Our relationship changed the way that I look at food. I learn something new from him each day and for that I am profoundly grateful.
That's all he wrote. Thanks Dan, that actually took me out of my head for a while and brightened my day. So to finish this, I'm sending it over to four people who I think can do it justice Tana, Sam, Haddock, and Brett. If you've got the time it's worth the exercise.