The week that was (10 December 2015)


- Reading Jacques Pépin talking “affective memory” in the NY Times this week reminded me why I want to be French. “There is something evanescent, temporary and fragile about food. You make it, it goes, and what remains are memories. But these memories of food are very powerful. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “There is no love more sincere than the love of food.” Lin Yutang, a Chinese philosopher, tells us that “Patriotism is the love of the dishes of our childhood.” Yes, the dishes of our childhood stay with us forever.” Swoon.

The food descriptions of his childhood will also make you want for his life: potatoes straight from the garden sautéed in butter with mustard and garlic scented oil, chicken in cream sauce with morels, chicken liver flan with tomato concasse, olives and mushrooms, and boudin noir with buttered sautéed apples and fresh mashed potato. Swoon.

He concludes: “The majority of people can live well with 20 or 30 recipes and, in fact, all of their family traditions and rituals are expressed through those recipes. For most people, the dishes that matter are the dishes that have been cooked with love, dishes that are part of a family’s structure, passed down from a grandmother, mother, spouse, aunt, uncle or cousin.” Swoon.  
- Lacking the desire to delve too far into the negative today, but enjoying a little controversy, I am jumping across the pond for two scathing British reviews:

Tanya Gold at The Spectator hammered Sexy Fish. “In the basement private room there is a fish tank, where the ‘sexy’ fish — brightly coloured, minute and somehow heartbreaking — swim like tiny fishy slaves. I have never seen a restaurant whose ethos is so clearly and comprehensively, so preeningly and unapologetically: ‘Fuck you, I’m rich and I want a golden cave and servants. I want a pony and all the hookers I can strangle. I want a pyramid of cocaine and an Audi -Quattro.’”

Meanwhile, Jay Rayner took aim at German Gymnasium. “… half a free-range duck makes me wish the poor animal had been allowed to stay free. It is completely overcooked, to a point where all trace of moisture has been driven from the flesh. It is dense and heavy, a total waste of animal.” And, a little later in the piece: “Spiced roast butternut squash turns out to be a completely overworked purée with the consistency of wallpaper paste but none of the utility.

- Prince Charles was in France last week for the climate change talks and made headlines warning the French that the survival of their cheeses “was threatened by the “bacteriological correctness” of European and national food safety regulation.” The article notes up to 50 French cheeses are reported to have disappeared over the past four decades and only about 10% said to be “genuine”, that is made with untreated milk. The article suggests it’s not so much the threat of the disappearance of cheeses, but rather “The real danger – and the reality in many cases – is their conversion into something bland and characterless, which betrays our traditions.”