the collective cosmic culinary experience

We watch Top Chef. I can admit that in public. We also watch Tony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, Alton Brown, and must even cop to watching the last couple episodes of the Search for the next Food Network star. Food is our muse. It is our obsession. I can also claim a few other obsessions (knitting, gardening) as can Don (searching for and collecting books), but they must take a back seat to the food thing. This means that anything food related catches our eye. Always looking for new titles on food, movies about meals, news stories about farming, sources of tools, equipment, ingredients. We are endlessly curious.

We were watching Top Chef this past Wednesday. Having missed the previous week’s episode I was hoping we would get a re-run before the current week’s show. Instead they were showing re-runs from last season’s finale. Ok, whatever, I’ll still watch it, because it’s food on TV. But they showed two hours of last year, and then instead of a continuation of this season’s competition, they aired some fluff: a throw down between Season 1 and Season 2. The particulars were not that important (although I found it interesting that each season’s winner was pitted against each other, and their dishes were the weakest). Oh yeah, and Marcel is Still annoying. But what I found compelling was at the end, when all the cooking was done, the judgment was handed down and the chefs all came out to mingle. Many of them had a glass of wine in their hand. The meal was done, the service had been survived, all the heat of the line was done, and it was time to enjoy themselves. But no watered down American beer for them. No, it wasn’t Miller time, it was Gigondas time. And that thing they had done to get all bent out of shape and worked up was the sublime pleasure of a delicious meal. It was a tiny little moment that flashed by. Most probably missed it. But I saw so much in that instant. And it made me smile.

It made me think of the vibe at the Foie Gras Death Match that Don and I were honored to have been invited to. The numbers of courses and their actual make up are of less consequence to me. Not because I was unimpressed with the phenomenal food we ate, on the contrary, I felt special for being in that moment with those professionals and that nourishment. But the vibe at that event was something unique that doesn’t happen all that often. Talented chefs playing in their field. Given (or taking) ingredients that inspire them, the platform on which to present them and then an appreciative audience for whom to cook. Kismet. Loud rock and roll blaring from the living room speakers. The absolutely domestic electric range. Plastic lawn chairs in the back yard. Riccio greets with the Magnum of magical elixir. The kinetic frenetic energy in that house was contagious. People comparing notes about vintages. Empty bottles line up. Prepped food appears magically. Razor sharp knives of various sizes materialize, flash, and then vanish. Pans sizzle, the fryolator percolates, right next to the drying rack, which is repetitively filled and emptied. It was a collective high. I never experienced that group inebriation that was purported to happen at Grateful Dead concerts. But I feel like I may now know what they were talking about.

I feel at a loss for the right words. Superlatives are hollow. I was just so turned on by the whole scene.

Portland food ROCKS!

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