By Narcissa Lyons
I was going to write my first article here about pigs. I almost don’t have enough good things to say about this fat, delicious animal (and I will forcibly forget that they have been known to eat us right back if given the chance). But then I came across a site I have come to love, even if I know my own patience limits me from recreating a few of the recipes I read, and this site reminds me about all that is pleasing and beautiful about food–the simplicity of food’s beginning and of its gathering to eventually end up on a hopefully discerning and appreciative palate, but I’ll point you there later.
Food, the buying of it, the listing of it, the discussing of it, the assembly and presentation of it, smelling, tasting and mixing of it, the sweet satisfaction of putting it on the table in front of people you love with the knowledge they will mostly swallow it down while doing more important things like talking, laughing and OK, arguing – is what is The Dine. And part of that is certainly the sharing of the task. Cooking, chopping, emulsifying whilst talking about the very mundane or the excruciatingly great gossip on a mutual friend or hated stranger, anything at all – this becomes part of the mixture. Even the occasional explosion of the chef (figurative) under pressure is part of the event’s make-up because while fixing the fixin’s has its pleasure aplenty, there is mayhem in the kitchen! And exponentially more so with the body count, er.. the quantity of guests. It is not easy to cook for a lot of people, and if a “helper” makes the slightest slip at the wrong time (during said explosion), get the hell out simple as that. My mother was famous for this. And I think two of my sisters inherited the quality but to a less frightening degree (sorry Panni, Paulette but tis true, maybe more Panni). Everything would be fine, someone setting the table, someone asking who wanted red or white, etc., but my mother, coming out of the kitchen, might notice that a place setting was incorrect in some way or another. A shriek fest like that you don’t want to see—but I am certain this is not a rare phenomenon to other families either. It’s just a boiling point (pun intended) when the fear that the meal will be an utter failure is foremost on the cook’s brain. My point here since it seems to have strayed is that we who love food want to please those we love with it, to honor the occasion marked so that it is memorable, enjoyable, and really as delightful as possible –and being the one who is responsible for that is not a light thing even if it is only unwritten.
Thanksgiving is not over-rated. Some will say so, they tend to be younger, but they are well aware what they say is just silly. For shit’s sake it’s a four-day weekend and that is money. And the three days prior are just a joy fest talking about it with others, strangers even, just to understand who is hosting, who is buying the organic or the to be triple deep fried bird. “I am not going to cook but I have to bring the deviled eggs”. No one really works. Actually, no one works at all, they just attend their place of business. That is not a secret so I cannot get fired. For that.
The house gets cleaned, items hiding in strange places get washed, guests clarified, wine, beer and all good liquids accumulated. This is the feast of the year. What was my point? That food is about taste, delection and being with people. About preparing to be with people and talking about preparing and talking about the guests we are expecting and what they are preparing, ad infinitum. About talking on the subject because it is a subject and not always can one find that kind of common ground.
And that is what it is. Food is common ground. It is common, sumptuous, aromatic and tactile ground. It invites, in all of its ways, from the simplicity of mac’ and cheese to the complexity and divinity of fois gras with figs and raspberries. Shake my hand and I will shake your hand and we will find what it is we have in common and I know it will taste good. Burger at the dark joint down the street with a respectable long pour on the wine. Common and delicious and down our throats.
As always, be well.
The site to which I earlier referred and is food beauty:
Even if you don’t think you have the talent to make this loveliness, just looking at the pictures nearly puts the soup in your mouth.