In one of the Soho Literary Festival Panels i attended the question was presented, “Have foodies taken the fun out of restaurants ?” …Suddenly i found myself cringing a bit at my current persona, and contemplating what my role as a foodie / a chef / a community “ring-leader” has been and the example i have shared with food.
In this panel, London’s finest in gastronomical journalism, publishing and trend setting manned the table and pleaded their case for and against “foodies”. Reminiscing about the early years when the Maitre d was the face of the joint, the food was the star and the social aspect of enjoyment around the table was the
reason for going “out”. Highlighting the glorified super star roles some chefs have stepped into, and how the experience of enjoyment within the restaurant has been replaced by contrived culinary rituals. So much of this epicurean fire has been fueled by the “foodies”, but there are many different levels of “foodies” from my perspective . Foodies are the product of food (and it’s many facets) becoming a special interest, an expertise and/or a passion in ones life. The father of the modern day food column Paul Levy first coined the term “foodies” in the early 80’s when the world was suddenly beginning to shrink do to technology and media and methods making the foods and flavors of the world more accessible. It was only a short time until food began its questionable descend/ascend in to being “fashionable”. We are all foodies to some extent. If you contemplate a preference of what goes on your plate for consumption whether it be natural slow-food or boxed mac & cheese; you are a “foodie”. And that self proclamation and smart choices can effect your well being, your environment and society as a whole.
But the real question is if “foodies” are ruining the moment….. I think not. My best moments over the past 15 years, more wonderfully this years journey, have happened with wonderful people sharing food and drink – “community” of all kinds gathering around a table and making a moment.
I set out on this journey to consume life and sample as much of it’s offerings as my means would allow. From humble dinners of cheese and bread on the banks of the River Boyne to seven courses of heaven in London to packed lunches and Alsatian wine amongst the rows in which it came; the memories are more about the moment than the meal.
Here are some of my most delicious moments from the past year:
A simple night in and foraging through a friends fridg to see what could accompany the fresh venison I had just acquired became an evening of feasting with friends, a copious introduction to homemade sloe gin, and us all being enchanted by Jack Fitzpatrick reciting epic poetry and singing irish republican songs by candle light.
Awaking to six inches of snow covering the English countryside, with the days objective being only to enjoy the company of others inside a garden yurt where a wood fired clay oven prepared the most elemental ingredients into the most magical meal.
An invite to help the local pub with their version of an American Thanksgiving dinner, became a month long weekly pop-up diner experience of me creating in the back kitchen for friends enjoying their Friday night pints.
Actively participating by volunteering for the Ludlow Food Festival rather than just attending it as a spectator sourced me so much more inspiration, tastes and friendships than I ever could have hoped for.
Spending the day browsing Parisian street stalls shopping for ingredients is a memory in it’s own, but the true moment was the pleasure of preparing it all for a table full of the best friends ever for them to indulge and enjoy.
Helping friends with their butcher stall at the weekend market always sparked my culinary creativity while proving delightful and entertaining, as well as learning local dietary delights such as a proper Chip-butty a.k.a. Dub-Bap of chips in a buttered roll with ketchup will not be forgotten (nor will my cholesterol level ever be the same!).
Finding myself in a backroom Indian restaurant in Southhall London with a table full of exotic dishes, dancing Punjabi waiters, and the owner sharing his private
stock of Desi Tharra (Indian Moonshine) with a great new friend and a best old friend is a night to remember and a moment to never be forgotten.
Being greeted with a take-away diner of curry, chips and Carlsberg would be unremarkable if it wasn’t for it accompanying an evening of extraordinary stories of survival and forced participation during “The Troubles” and how one man prevailed over so much wrong and ended up such a strong and wonderful soul in the end.
Long days of planting grapevine starts and trimming vines became more than just an interesting and educational experience when being treated on Sundays to sunny lunches of Flammekueche from the wood fired oven inside the vintner’s ancient courtyard with his lovely family.
A seven course dinner in a tiny Italian eatery somewhere in the western throws of London is a rich and delicious memory but sharing it with my most beloved sister-in-arms while reliving years of shared laughter and tears made the moment.
Although this leg of the journey might be over, the exploration of food and moments from food are still as rich and interesting in my home state of Missouri as they were in the small bit of the world i explored over the last year. And someday soon this Rucksack Foodie will be hitting the road again experiencing all the flavors to be discovered, meeting more wonderful strangers turned friends, and making more memorable moments around the table. Stay tuned…………