Thursday, July 8, 2010

chocolate and tony bourdain

^^ Really, two of my greatest loves.

Completely obsessed:


I’ve been working my way through two hefty bars of this stuff for like a month, trying to savor every single bite because it is so friggin’ good. It was intended to be a Christmas gift from my cousin Rachel, who presumably got it while in Suffolk with her Brit husband Richard. However, my aunt and uncle somehow forgot to get it to me til… June. NO PROBLEM!

The deets, should one ever be in Suffolk:


My God, this chocolate. Snape definitely whipped up a delicious potion with this one (nerd alert nerd alert nerd alert)!

I know proper chocolate snobs have no patience for milk chocolate but… screw the proper chocolate snobs. This stuff has all the intensity and grittiness of my beloved dark-only Taza chocolate (the tour of their factory was definitely the best date ever- see, people should date me, I think of fun activities) but with milky rich wonderful ness.

On the topic of my cousin Rachel: as she put it, she finally “took my advice” and started her own food blog!

She is a trained pastry chef. She lives in Austin, Texas, currently my favorite place in the United States. Her first post is an enjoyably potty-mouthed entry to Tony Bourdain’s Medium Raw Challenge. This blog is sure to be good.

Check it out!

And, on her suggestion, I wrote one as well! (This one’s just for me, just for fun. Don’t worry, Rach, I’m still voting for you in the official contest :D)

Bourdain’s prompt for your essay is a simple one: why cook well? Here’s what I wrote:

My sister has taken to buying premade sandwiches. For those of you fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with Oscar Mayer Deli Creations, a primer: in their infinite wisdom, the good people at Kraft recognized that it is far too taxing to ask the American consumer to put the ham and cheese ON the bread. Saving them the effort (and pocketing an unbelievable markup for the privilege) to me marks everything wrong with our country and food. My sister is not a bad person. She is just buying into the general feeling of helplessness that the “food” (quotation marks deliberate) industry tries to cultivate in the consumer.

When I cook, I think of several people who I am refusing to be. I think about the lobotomized woman in commercials for “shortcuts in the kitchen”, seemingly helpless at even the sight of a pot or a spoon. I think about the woman lauded in magazines—“Health” (quotation marks deliberate) and their ilk— nobly filling up on three pounds of raw celery before attending a dinner party to avoid any semblance of, oh dear God, hunger. And, at this point too deeply embedded in our culture, I think of the creepily idealized American woman, that fifties housewife, brittle but ecstatic, opening her Saran-wrapped boneless skinless chicken breast and celebrating the fact that she has no idea where it came from.

I cook well because in this era of materialism, of raping the planet, it means something to me to create something, something real and wonderful, instead of having something produced and unnatural and vastly, vastly inferior shoved at me. Cooking well means getting your food covered in dirt, because it grows in the ground. It means refusing to view food as a delivery system for whatever nutrient scientists have decided is good for you that particular day. In the same token, refusing to deny yourself butter because it’s “bad”: rather, using butter because it makes everything taste a million times better.

I will not be helpless. I will cook. And, I fancy, cook well. Well in the sense that over the years I’ve honed skills and well in the sense that the ingredients I put into my recipes are generally fresh, nutritious, and pronounceable. Cooking gives me pleasure. Tragically, that is a taboo admission in this nation of guilty-eating, guilty-independence, guilty-sex, guilty-but-still-rampant-hedonism. The pleasure I get from cooking comes from the fact that food made well simultaneously gives you nourishment and rocks your world (something no other material entity can do). Moreover, the pleasure comes from the fact that when I cook well, I am sticking it to the man, the powers that be in the weirdly hierarchical world of food. I reject the man and reject my role as a helpless, stupid, dutifully unsatisfied buyer.

Are other people entering the Medium Raw Challenge? Why do YOU cook well?


Rachel said...

Wow, You should totally enter. I don't think I'll win, and I'd certainly like to keep it in the family. C'mon, up our odds!

Tamara Marnell said...

That's one eloquent essay. I'll read your cousin's if I can tear myself away from workworkwork for a few seconds before the weekend.

Anonymous said...

Lele!! You have to enter! Is it too late? I hope not because that essay was seriously amazing. I would vote for that essay in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

That essay was BRILLIANT. I encourage you to enter. Wow, girl, you have a knack with words!

I cook well because I get sick if I eat processed "foods". And I cook well to reassure myself that I'm not missing out, that eating fruits, veggies, and whole grains isn't boring, dull, or repetitive. =P

Maya said...

Love your essay! I agree with many of your points. I love the idea of cooking as a way to stick it to the man and the many problems we have with understanding food and where it comes from/what it does for us. Kudos! You should enter the contest!