I have been suffering from a bit of writer’s block. It would be easy to place blame on life’s daily demands; getting the kids off to college, a sick dog, even an unfortunate addiction to Candy Crush. The truth of the matter is that I am going through an introspective, rebellious stage. A personal backlash of sorts. The extreme foodie-ism our country is going through is at the same time intriguing, fabulous and overwhelming. Chefs are rock stars. And the number of young people venturing out into cooking, eating, drinking, writing and documenting their every culinary experience will bring vast changes to our gastronomical future. With the focus now on local farms and sustainable food practices, our health will benefit in addition to our taste buds. I look forward to all of it.
So, why the self-doubt and reflection? First is the realization that I cannot dine at every new restaurant in Brooklyn. I cannot taste every new trend, and I do not like pork belly. I do not want to photograph every entrée that is put down in front of me, and make my dinner companions wait so I can photograph theirs. There are those unique dishes and special cocktails however, that do demand a little media coverage. I appreciate the many highly stylized and beautiful blogs out there, but as much as it interests me, I cannot keep up with all the social media. I envy and admire the creativity of the websites devoted to food, and the way our dining experiences are now so much more global.
For me though, what are most important are the fond memories food brings to my life. From getting dressed for school when I was a little girl and the French toast breakfasts my mother made me. Those days it was Wonder White bread, eggs, with lots of white sugar sprinkled on top. To memories of my father. My dad is no longer alive, but I remember when I would eagerly wait for Saturday nights when he would go get the big, thick Sunday edition of the New York Times which came out between 11:30 and midnight. A dozen hot bagels and cream cheese would always accompany him back. I couldn’t wait for the first bite of my warm salt bagel encrusted in a blanket of kosher salt and shmeared with gobs of Temp Tee. We would watch Saturday Night Live, flip through the newspaper, and stuff our faces with soft, chewy, fresh bagels. I recall being a teenager and loving any excuse to get dressed up. My father would take us to dinner at Maxwell’s Plum on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I would get the buttery rock shrimp pasta, the taste still so vivid in my mind, and be in awe of the fancy people and the mouth-watering offerings on the intriguing menu.
I think back to my first job in New York City, when I would grab a roll and butter and a coffee (lots of cream and sugar, of course) from the corner food truck each morning. I can still smell the aroma of the sweet coffee in that paper cup with the plastic lid on those cool, fall mornings. It was coffee. Period. No waiting on ridiculous long lines for specialty lattes in foreign sounding sizes. It was good, old-fashioned, New York coffee. Food trucks weren’t trendy then. It was the basics, pastries, bagels or rolls in the mornings, gyros or hot dogs in the afternoon. Salad bars were the rage for lunch. Like Pavlov’s dog, whenever I smell sesame oil, I am reminded of those long lines of people on their lunch breaks, holding plastic containers, standing over the many random selections of vegetables, asian noodles, cheeses, and toppings for their “healthy” salads. I think back to all the hands touching the same serving spoon and am thankful for the salad bar cafes today that do all the tossing for you behind the counter.
I went to college in one of the greatest food cities in the world, New Orleans, where I took my taste buds to the ultimate heights. From spicy BBQ shrimp (heads on, of course!) swimming in a sauce of pure butter in which to soak crusty French bread, to the fluffy, sugary, hot donuts from Cafe du Monde. Not to mention the colorful and sugary alcoholic drinks I learned about there; Hurricanes, Sazeracs, and frozen Daiquiris, my personal favorite. We would mix and match our daiquiri flavors, get it in a giant plastic go cup, and head to the levee to lie out (oops, I mean STUDY) in the sun. (Sorry, Mom…) I learned a lot about food in NOLA. I waitressed, I bartended, I cooked.
Food has been a constant in bringing up my children. The kitchen is the center of the universe in my house, and though they didn’t begin life as good eaters, they have certainly become them. Do I think it’s a good thing that my son requests gnocchi with truffle sauce for dinner? I didn’t know what gnocchi or truffles were when I was his age. Thanksgivings offer some of the most precious memories. The smell of rosemary filling my house as a 22 pound turkey spends the day basking in the heat of my oven. And though food is the focus, “what size is yours?!…the turkey, I mean!” we all know it is really just an excuse to get family together, watch football in front of the fire, have some hot apple cider or a glass of Beaujolais nouveau, and maybe have a catch outside on a snowy New England day.
I have a terrible memory, but I have a great sense of smell and taste. Maybe that is why food plays such an important role in my life. It helps me to remember.
People told me when I started this blog that I would ultimately find my voice. I understand now. And I appreciate the people who inquired about why I hadn’t written lately. I’m not done; I have more tasty tales to tell. We’ll be off to Italy soon, our favorite food country in the world. A little pasta, a little bistecca fiorentina, and a lot of vino, I am sure. Oh, and of course, a slice on the way. Ciao.