This morning, La Crunch posted a guide to a greener Valentine's Day- which included a suggestion that rather than go out to a fancy restaurant and CONSUME, you might stay home and celebrate there.
My response basically pointed out that restaurants have to make a living, too- and they're in some trouble at the moment, as lots of folks cut back. (And, full disclosure- I make part of my living selling fancy food to fancy restaurants...)
Then, cosmic synchronicity-wise, Frank Bruni, the NYT food writer, has an article entitled "In Defense of Decadence" - and opens, bless him, with Michael Pollan's brilliant distillation "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Then goes on to describe an eating experience on the other end of the spectrum.
I doubt that Pollan intended for us to abandon fine cuisine, and genius chefs and restaurateurs. Besides the value of occasionally cutting loose in celebration, there is another side to this problem, one we need to remember.
I did not discover that food could be ASTONISHING until I was 19, I think. My epiphany came in Munich, Germany- in the form of Ochsenschwanz Suppe. Ox-tail soup.
I ordered it because I'd heard of ox-tail soup for years, it sounded weird and exotic to me, and I was in the exploratory mode that summer- try whatever shows up, if it doesn't look dangerous.
One spoonful did it.
I was astonished. I'd never, in my life, realized or imagined that soup- or food- could be such an intense, gripping, focused, DELICIOUS, amazing- experience.
Soup, for crying out loud. It's soup- and I'm sitting here paralyzed.
My mother was a good cook; very good, and very conscientious. Every meal she cooked, she thought about, worked on; it was part of her work, her contribution.
Inevitably, though; cooking day in, day out, for the same audience, her efforts usually ended up reaching for - "good", and "ok". And those of us on the receiving end of her generosity surely did not pay enough attention to it.
The effort required to strive for astonishing excellence was usually just beyond her reach. One place she did spend the effort was on birthday cakes- she could have gone pro.
So. Why are so many of us willing to just constantly stuff our faces with MacDonald's burgers and fries? And put up with all the consequences?
I think a big part of the answer is WE JUST DON'T KNOW ANY BETTER.
I didn't- until that spoonful of ox-tail soup. I just plain didn't know what was possible.
Teaching children, at a young age, to pay attention to the quality of their food- just might be one of the most important things we could do to move the world in a sustainable direction.
And it takes excellence to break through the vast mountains of salty-crunchy-sweet-cheesy-chocolate-grease they are used to. Mom is either tired most days- or feeds them packaged stuff to save time. Sad, but very common.
I've had fantasies for several years of 4th Grade field trips. The school bus takes a load of kids to the Farmers Market- they get to taste a fresh apple; fantastic cheese- then they go to the nearby 4 Star restaurant, where the top chef does his absolute best for them, for lunch; and their lives are changed. Now- they KNOW- what food is; and can be.
And cooks and chefs capable of excellence need somewhere to live, and grow. Their habitat is fine restaurants. And WE are the only ones who can prevent their extinction.
Somewhere- we need places where we can learn, and be reminded, of what is possible.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. And splurge, occasionally.
My own opinion.