Gimme That Old Time Religion
Hey, what have we here? Nothing much, just your basic buckwheat galettes that I filled with egg, ham, and cheese. It’s plain, it’s simple, it’s buttery and comforting, it’s the kind of thing women have been making at home for hundreds of years. It’s why their families worship them. It’s just what it looks like, although not as lacy and delicate as it should be, and it tastes just like it looks. What it’s not is Michelin star material.
This week, to celebrate my birthday, we went to a restaurant with one Michelin star. This was our third meal at a starred restaurant, and might well be our last. Why? Because I think I’m finally tired of food that looks like this:
What the heck is that, anyway? Well, it’s ris de veau wrapped in a robe of spaghetti with fresh mushrooms, crisp bacon, summer truffle, and a “virtual lard” sauce. Summer truffle because then the server can tantalize you with the idea of truffle, even though this particular summer truffle tasted neither of summer nor of truffle, but more like a dried chip of packaging material. Virtual, according to our server, because there’s no lard in there, but it tastes like there’s lard in there. Lard being a way to say bacon here. And virtual being a way to say unreal, as in not what it seems, not what you hope for, and in the end, not what you want.
Or take this dish. It was announced as pigeon étouffé, and here’s where my French let me down. I imagined pigeon à l’étouffée, pigeon smothered in a little onion or other aromatics. So when the naked hunks of pigeon landed in front of me I asked the server about the name, since the meat didn’t appear to be smothered in anything. After a quick trip to the kitchen our flustered-looking young server returned to say “I’m sorry, Madame, but it’s the way the pigeon was killed.” Ok, probably a smothered pigeon, with its blood still in it, does taste better than a regularly slaughtered pigeon. I’m not going to get all squeamish here, since the pigeon was going to become dead one way or another. And it did taste good, but not that fabulous. Evidently what was supposed to be fabulous about it was the fact that it had been smothered. As for the cute little crunchy thingie, it looked nice on the plate, but it wasn’t really something you’d want in your mouth unless you were lost in the Andes, in great need of sustenance, and didn’t feel like smothering anything more obviously edible.
Last night when I asked Shel what he wanted for dinner he said, without a moment’s hesitation “cheeseburger.” But I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d asked for galettes, or even scrambled eggs. After a surfeit of precious food, food almost too picturesque to disturb with your fork, food that fills your eyes and your belly without nourishing your spirit, all I wanted myself was the least pretentious meal imagineable. I wanted food that was served with only one set of silverware, with forks and knives that were easily identifiable. I wanted food prepared by a cook who wasn’t bored with normal ingredients and had to resort to playing tricks on the plate. I wanted food prepared for someone hungry, somone without a jaded palate, someone who might like to add a little catsup.
And so, virtually humming the catchy tune to “gimme that old time religion, it’s good enough for me,” I went in my own zero-star kitchen and made cheeseburgers for dinner. And they were very good.At Home In France
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