June 22, 2001
I'm afraid to go out for dinner anymore.
On the one hand, I have foodie friends. 'Foodies'
are a fairly new phenomenon. They're essentially gourmet groupies.
They feel the same way about osco bucco as other people feel about
the Back Street Boys.
They're the kind who not only know where all
the city's chefs work, they also know them by first name, signature
dish and astrological sign.
On the other hand, there are us simple folk
who don't fully appreciate the dizzying heights of gastronomy.
Personally, I prefer chicken to quail and a think a hamburger off my
own barbeque is a bit of heaven.
In fairness, I've never been someone who
gives food a lot of thought. My wife's family will discuss food
until the cows come home. Or until they're cut into strips, breaded,
deep fried and served on a bun. She buys food magazines showing you
how to prepare meals that look like lunch for Louis XIV. My wife
calls the pictures in these magazines 'food pornography.'
But some people spend more chasing culinary
experiences than the rest of us do on a new car.
A few years ago I lived down the street from
a group of gourmet shops. There was a bakery, butcher, fish shop,
spice store and vegetable stand. With good reason these stores were
collectively known in the neighbourhood as 'The Five Thieves'.
Once I was desperate for a green pepper. I
walked out of one of The Five Thieves with a beautiful one for five
bucks. It almost broke my heart to cut it up and eat it. It looked
like it had just come back from a week at a European spa.
While I was there filling out the loan
application I also noticed they had purple potatoes. "Do they
taste any different?" I asked. "No, they just have purple
skins. They're all the rage." I looked at the sign and did some
quick mental math - your purple-skinned French fries would cost over
fifty dollars a kilo. That's half a c-note down the drain if you
But this is what Foodies live for. They go
into raptures about wilted endive salads and raspberry coulis.
Unless they're eating some obscure animal organ or filet of exotic
marsupial, they feel the meal has been a bust.
The more outrageous the dish's name, the
happier they are. Elaborate names for food just leave me scratching
my head. Some menus use more adjectives than Don Cherry discussing
the shortcomings of foreign players in the NHL. Fruit has to be
'poached'. Gravy has to be 'carmelized'.
And just seeing the word 'infused' on a menu
means you'll automatically shell out an extra five bucks for
whatever it is.
The whole thing leaves me a little
embarrassed when it comes to telling the waiter what I want. It's
like reading a thesaurus out loud. I usually run out of breath
half-way through ordering the appetizer.
So I'll just have my usual - a cedar roasted
potrine de dindon with shaved wild honey ham, leafy greens and lemon
infused mayonnaise on rosemary toasted organic focaccia bread -
otherwise known to the rest of us as a club sandwich.