Is it France or Celibacy that's spoiled me off food?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

It's a cliche that when someone spends a bit of time in France, food in North America will seem vulgar in comparison. I don't necessarily subscribe to this way of thinking, but there is most definitely a difference in what is perceived as good food.

Case in point: just down the street from me is a new fromagerie that just opened. The decor is rustic chic, all habitat. Everything in this place screams borrowed and blue. I can't stand it. I mean, if you want the real thing, you have to earn it, with time and tradition. Otherwise don't fake the old world charm.

Then, the cheeses themselves. I've just come from a place where we can fight over the appellation of cheese. It's not necessary to do things experimentally, or with "individuality," (everybody is so generic in their individuality) or mix with abandon, but to search for the best possible product in what is already there. For example, a really excellent Maroilles or Mimolette comes unadorned. It's not dressed up with cumin, maple syrup or blueberries. At a house party the other night, I tasted a very lovely Gruyère which was ornamented with maple syrup and blueberries. Sorry kids, but that's not how you win me over. If you make one amazing cheese, all you need is one amazing bread.

Second travesty happened last night while somebody was discussing wine. She went on and on about lichee liquor, which I have always thought was disgusting and irredeemable as a food product, and suddenly she blurted this out "oh, you have to try the blueberry merlot." What the hell! It's like vomit shot out of her nose and she just blinked at me. I don't care about merlots or zinfandels... I care about where it's from, what it tastes like... I don't want wacky flavours, I'm tired of fruity wine. I'm sick of these baroque inclinations in the North American palate.

There has to be an end to this fusion madness. There has to be some control.

I mean what I'm looking for is actually subtlety, refinement, delicateness. That the difference between good and great is perceptible only to those who really are paying attention. The slightest breeze of inklings, like the glance of one sunflower turned it's head shyly while the others sun themselves with abandon, the difference between bread densities, or even the succulence of a fruit so ripe and real it actually tastes like the fruit it supposed to. That's what I'm looking for. Not for everything to be hidden by sugar, salt, fruit, herbs and spice.

Anyways... I'm whining. I can't find good bread, pate, duck is brutally expensive, I get depressed going to buy cheese... the only thing I can get is good olives. Even the vegetables are more watery and tasteless. I've started eating a lot of tofu because I found this really great tofu place and the tofu there is so fresh and creamy. I buy tiny snap peas in Chinatown and stick tomatoes against my nose. It's ridiculous. I'm so bereft.

It's almost as if I've lost my taste. Do you remember that Taiwanese film, Eat Drink Man Woman, where the cook lost his sense of taste. Well, it's just that. Maybe my taste is related to sex. Since I'm not having any sex, my tastebuds are going flat. Maybe if my husband comes over, suddenly I will find myself in an oasis and orgy of tastes. The best oyster will suddenly cringe its crinkled head, begging for mercy. The sweet young onion will hurl obscenities and shriek as I slowly slice away it's body... The fanciful duck leg will moan in ecstasy as it bathes in a pool of its own fat... Hmmm, maybe it's not sex I'm missing... but some sadic pleasure... Well, that's less problematic than celibacy, but still irritating.