Thursday, November 20, 2008

What We Talk About When We Talk About Food

For years, I promised myself that I would never become a blogger. I worked (ok, work) in the food industry, where thousands of patrons regularly spent a meal's aftermath clicking away at their laptops only to undermine the hard work and fine intentions of chefs and their minions. It seemed ridiculous to give credence to the so-called foodie population who knew nothing of classical cuisine, who took laborious notes during meals, who snuck camera phone shots of foie gras and pheasant, who would never be able to discern the difference, say, between a Gevrey-Chambertin and a Vosne-Romanee.

What I regarded as a movement fueled by uneducated populists--a movement that would surely flicker and fade with time--turned out to be what Americans were seeking. Enough of the unpronouncable and unapproachable, they seemed to be saying. Enough with the complicated details of French cuisine. Enough with snifters and white tableclothes and downfacing silverware and crystal and quiet dining rooms and stuffy sommeliers and captains in tuxedo tails. Enough, enough, enough. Here was a concerted attempt to bring food back to the people.

And so I could ignore it no longer. Let it be known that I still believe in the tenets of fine dining. I believe in the formal education of a chef. I believe in the classics. I believe that every chef should know how to dice the proper mirepoix before he progresses to saucing, just as I believe that every writer should know Twain and Dickens and Woolf before embarking on his or her own. The kitchen requires a world of patience, dedication, drive, and good temprament. Such qualities should never be overlooked or dismissed when we talk about when we talk about food.

In this blog, I will speak freely and objectively about restaurants, markets, wines, service standards, and my own personal feelings about dining in America. I will discuss my favorite restaurants and my least favorite restaurants. I will describe dishes I love and dishes I hate. This isn't a space for the proverbial 'food porn'; I have no intention of marking my meals with grainy photographs of organ meat. But I promise to be true to food and experience, to offer my own insight regarding what I see as an infinitely advanced--and infinitely nascent--dining scene here in New York City.

It is my belief that we do service to our world and to ourselves to pay attention to what we eat. Sure, the pleasure of eating and drinking is corporeal, but our relationships with food will make more and more of an impact on the world and its resources in the year to come. As Michael Pollan wrote in a recent article for the New York Times Magazine, food and its provenance is, increasingly, a matter of homeland security.

Being conscious (and, more important, having a food conscience) does not mean giving up the luxuries of life. We can be omnivores, people who consider our choices, and still stay away from the "alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast" that Alvy Singer so famously ordered at that Sunset Boulevard restaurant in Annie Hall. And so I welcome you, dear readers, to the world of my stomach. Because food is my passion and it is my belief that, as the infinitely quotable Calvin Trillin once wrote, "health food makes me sick."

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