Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are

Food is life. It gives us energy, it makes us who we are. I have friends that eat merely to provide proteins and nutrients. I have friends that eat because because they enjoy a good meal. I have friends that eat too much because they are gluttons. And I have friends that eat for the pure joy and exhilaration that it is to enjoy a good meal with good friends and family. Nothing brings friends and family together like dinner. The most amazing meal I ever had was in Umbria, Italy when I was 16 years old. I sat at a table with my father, his friend Marcelo Manfroni, a few of his family members, a few business associates, about 20 people in all. It was summer time. It was about 8 or 9pm, 70 degrees, amazing, life changing for a 16 year old boy. We ate in the garden with an epic view down at the valley and up at the rolling hills. Beautiful trees everywhere, a cool breeze, and the scent of poplar trees and the forest in general. I suppose it looked like the picture here. Everyone there was either Italian or could speak Italian except me, but it still remains in my mind as my best dinner experience ever. I sat by my dad at the middle of the table and some of the Italians tried there English with me from time to time, but it didn't matter. I was happy.

Anyway, remembering this dinner (I could go on for ages about the meal, spaghetti, rabbit, vegetables, etc), made me think of a place that would inspire good cooking and good eating. A condo in Orlando FL, while quite a nice place to live, doesn't really inspire mind altering meals. Umbria, Italy does. Great views do. Good people who also love to cook do. So I thought of 3 things that do inspire me to create a beautiful meal without the scenic vistas and perfect ingredients outside your back door in the garden.

First of all, remembering your past culinary failures is counterproductive. Don't worry about the meals you've messed up and focus on your previous achievments. Move forward. I seriously doubt that anyone who reads this has friends that would go hysterical if your short ribs were overcooked or overseasoned. Do you? Second, create a structure in your kitchen. Know where your materials are. Know where your spices are, your knives, your sauces, your vegetables...know your oven, how it cooks, you pots and pans, etc. Know when your guests tend to arrive, on time, late, early, and cook accordingly. Know your environment so you can focus on creating a good meal rather than focusing on where the heck the potatoe peeler is. Lastly, have a mentor. Mine has been, and continues to be my family, mother, father, brother, (my mother in particular). Someone you can bounce ideas off of and who can give you new ideas. Someone you have no fear asking questions of. These 3 things will hopefully provide consistency in your culinary adventures. Because remember, what you put in your body is who you are.

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