Thursday, August 31, 2006

Foods to Die For – A Meme in Five Parts (plus an Intro)

The Meme is called: ‘5 things you've eaten and think that everyone should eat at least once before they die’. It was started by Melissa, of The Traveler's Lunchbox. I also like ‘Foods to Try Before You Die’, the somewhat shorter, if less sensational, title. But I like ‘Foods to Die For’ the best. And here I am, already not following the rules.

I was happy (honored, even!) to be selected by Haalo, of ‘Cook (almost) Anything at least once’, to offer my thoughts on the subject. She writes a wonderful blog and has fantastic food ideas. And, as she notes, the Meme presents an interesting topic! (Hopefuly she is not already regreting her choice!)

I thought for a while about all the foods I’ve eaten over the decades (decades? yikes!). I’ve had the opportunity to be a fairly adventurous eater.

From trailside delicacies, maybe picked ripe and fresh from the field. Or the most local of local homemade treats served at ramshackle roadside huts. To 4 star 12 course affairs, with wines matching each course, and svelte and posh crowds of moneyed scene-sters to match each wine. From wildly exotic items (to me, anyways) to the most common things prepared perfectly.

And in thinking about all this, and reminiscing on all these culinary adventures, one thing is clear – the food that I would die for, and the food that I would wish others might have the chance to try before dying, is tied to the experience.

A simple list doesn’t seem like it could convey the ‘to die for’ nature. And I won’t go into the potential culinary experience enhancers such as eating a perfect raspberry macerated in vintage champagne from your lover’s navel while sailing off the coast of Tahiti. That’s for the other blog ; )

But that still leaves a lot of ‘to die for’ space to explore.

As a simple example, you can certainly buy a bottle of the premier beer of Bavaria, Erdinger Weiβbier, in many parts of the world. Even our local SoCal supermarket carries it. But it is not the same Erdinger Weiβbier – those shipped outside of Bavaria are different, they add something to it to help preserve it. Not to mention that you most likely won’t be drinking it from the correct glass. Already some of the potential pleasure of the experience is gone. And you won’t be drinking it on a warm summer evening, with the sun slowly setting and the sky turning from white and blue to deep indigo, your back and brow damp with a light sweat from the humidity, sitting outside under huge, towering chestnut trees along the Isar river in Munich, watching the Steckerlfisch (Mackerel roasted whole over open flames) cook, and keeping an eye on your kids in the play area, after having biked through the woods to get to the Biergarten that naturally serves only fresh beer perfectly poured in the correct glass.

It seems likely to me that just opening and drinking an Erdinger Weißbier, even if you know how to do it ‘correctly’ (i.e. like a native Bavarian - with the bottle completely inverted into the special Weiβbier glass, pulling the mouth of the bottle up slowly as the contents fill the glass with Bier and just the right amount of foam), will not convey the full range of enjoyment that is worth trying before you die.

Or take pizza. Simple enough. But pizza to die for in my mind is served only after midnight. At a small pizzeria in Fredonia, New York, called Lena’s. Where the crust is 18 inches across and chewy. And the pepperoni is abundant. And the cheese is bubbly hot. The thing to die for, however, is the ocean of grease floating in the middle of the slightly concave pizza, that has soaked up all the pizza essence, the cheese, the pepperoni, the hot chili pepper flakes, the garlic, the tomatoes. Which is smeared all over the faces of all the college friends huddled around the chipped Formica table hoisting huge and droopy slices of the pizza with two hands one after the other to their faces, pulling on yard long strands of mozzarella still attaching mouths to pizza, after a night of beer drinking downtown. Pizza is pizza, but that is pizza to die for.

These are the types of things you have to try before you die – to overwhelm all your senses with the full experience.

By the way, these two things didn’t even make the final top five cut. (See? I’m cheating already!)

So maybe this is not quite the point of the Meme, but it is my interpretation. And it is how food is connected in my sorry excuse for a brain.

So, with that hopelessly long Intro, I will bring out my list over the next few days, more or less in ascending order.


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Blogger Haalo said...

I'm so looking forward to the continuation of this post and find out what makes your list - I knew you would come up with something totally original!

9:16 PM  

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