One of my favorite non-barbecue food blogs has been Pinch My Salt. Nicole writes this blog, usually from her home in Sicily, but recently from a visit to California. She’s got a great entry about being yourself (not food related). I encourage you to go over and read Find Your Inner Bumblebee.
I’ve been thinking of the whole blogging thing. I’m mostly catching up now that I have a new computer, though I still need to get some stuff on WellFed.net! I’ve also been going through a lot of old photos that were on my ex-Dell, moving them to the new MacBook Pro laptop we have.
A couple of things came to mind as I’ve been scanning through the photos. The first was that I’ve taken some lousy photos, but I’m getting better! Another thing, though, was that I’m coming to realize that food isn’t great just on its own, at least not most of the time.
Sure, bacon tastes really good just by being bacon, and Carnegie Deli cheesecake would taste as good hiding in a closet as it would sharing it with my wife. But there’s more to food than just the taste. It’s the experiences associated with food, too. Not that experience changes the taste of food; coconut is bad no matter where or with whom I try it… I won’t even swallow it if I can help it! The experience around the food, though, can make the food even better, and it can certainly make it more memorable.
For instance, I spent a bunch of money on a meal in New York City. The sommelier recommended an inexpensive wine, actually, which kept the bill down, with tip, to the $400 range. You can read a bit about it on Well Fed On the Town. The food was fantastic on its own, but beyond that, it was even better because I shared it with my wife to celebrate the best move I ever made (marrying her) on our 4 year anniversary trip. So not only did we have great food, but it will be a meal we remember because of where we were, why we were there and with whom we enjoyed it.
Another example of the experience adding to the food is barbecue. Sure, I love brisket and pulled pork and ribs and chicken and fatties and all that stuff. It takes time to do all that, though, so why do I spend 12-15 hours cooking brisket on one my days away from the office? Because the process is part of it. I even wrote a blurb about smoking in the winter. it’s the whole process and experience around smoking that makes it. I’ll admit that it can be a pain to have to spend all that time to get a pulled pork sandwich, but it’s a time to slow down and get in touch with a simpler part of ourselves.
The first time I gave my dog, Woody, a bite of bark from a Boston butt I was pulling and saw his expression, pulled pork forever changed to me. It always carries that memory.
Bread baking is another area where experience plays such a big role. Bread is good stuff, but I can buy bread better than what I can make myself (one of the few areas of cooking where I really believe this). A local market has a bread baking department that I would put up against just about any bakery I’ve been to in the US. However, the process of getting sourdough starter going or making a poolish the night before, mixing the dough, kneading it (even though I use a Kitchenaid Pro mixer), letting the dough rise, forming the loaves and finally baking the bread is what means something to me. The house fills with the smells of bread; we anticipate the first slice, with melted butter; and I get a kick out of a well done loaf with good crust and crumb with good holes in it. Bread baking, to me, brings with it images of my grandma baking bread, which she did all the time. It also brings back memories of French bakeries, and my first bite of real French bread when I was on vacation in France when I was 11.
Food is good on its own, sure. But I wouldn’t be making the foods I make now if it were just about the food. I wouldn’t spend several weekends a year spending money and losing sleep to compete in competitions if it were just about the flavor of the food. If it were just me, without the blessings God has given me with my wife, my family and my friends to enjoy all this, I’d be fine with pizza and burgers most of the time. Experiencing the food with them, seeing them enjoy it, spending time with them making it… It all makes the food better than it can be by itself.