Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Hypocracy with Food

I was sitting with Nick tonight as he fell asleep. He didn't feel well today and missed a bunch of fun things. We had a quiet day at home. At bedtime, he said he still didn't feel well, so I sat quietly in the dark with him for a while as he tried to sleep. I found my mind wandering back to the food I ate in Europe. Raclette, fondue, blutwurst with potatoes and onion, quiche Lorraine, Rieslingkraut,  grinertknodel, and even foie gras.

That got me to thinking about foie gras. I don't think most people should order this dish when they go to France, even if they feel they are supposed to. It has an aura, like ordering escargot or boeuf bourguignon. You're supposed to eat foie gras in France just because you're in France.

But a lot of people don't even like liver.

The dish that was served to me had a plum jam that I was told I should spread onto the pate after I put it on toast. I tried it that way. I did. What happened was that the flavor of the liver washed away. Instead, I ate the liver on the toast by itself. Then I ate the plum jam by itself, reminding me of jam my grandma used to make. A lot of the food I ate that week made me think of food my grandma used to make, the Rieslingkraut especially. I miss my grandma's food and I was surprised at how comfortable I felt with the cuisine of the Alsatian area of France and also right across the river in Germany.

So, I sat there in the dark thinking about foie gras. Finally, I heard Nick breathing evenly and deeply. He was finally asleep. And just as I stood up to leave, I realized something.

The plum jam was put on the plate for people who wanted to say they had tried foie gras. It wasn't for me, a person who actually likes the taste of liver.

If I were critiquing the restaurant, I would have told them that they should never apologize for their best food. They should never try to disguise the taste of something as fine as foie gras. I would have told them to serve it proudly and not to hide it among other flavors for the sake of those who feel they are supposed to order it because they are in France and it's the cool thing to do. If I order foie gras, I should expect it to taste like liver.

Now, I've tried lutefisk and gefilte fish. In each situation, the people serving it to me showed me how to mix it with something else so that I could get it down. I knew that it was fish soaked in lye. I knew I wouldn't like it. They knew I wouldn't like it. In those instances, I was grateful for the added flavors.

Those people never said that fish soaked in lye was their best recipe. They said it was tradition to eat it, good luck. And mixing it with other stuff was like the spoonful of honey offered after taking cod-liver oil. No, lefse is the best of Norwegian food and kugel is one of the best of Jewish fare. So you can call me hypocritical if you like. I'll happily cover the taste of something I don't like. With escargot, the butter and garlic did the trick. But with foie gras, I'd be happy with a spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan after everyone else was done tasting.

I'm still glad that the frog legs didn't appear on the French menu after our Alsatian cousins recommended it. I vaguely remember my grandpa eating frog legs. I probably tasted them myself, just like chicken only thinner and wetter. But what I remember most vividly was that I couldn't get past that strange green skin that my grandpa happily crunched. I didn't want to know what that tasted like.

Thank you for listening, jb

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