I participate in food porn: I photograph or describe my so-good dinner; I enviously “like” your similar postings on your blog or FB or Twitter. I promise to post my recipe for Sizzling Solanum Salsa because in the comments so many people asked for it (Now you’re wondering what Solanum I’m talking about, right? Stay tuned…)
And honestly, all that is really fun.
But tonight I had some tiny, baby new potatoes from the farmers market to do something with. What I found myself remembering was a meal I had over a decade ago in Holland.
I was finishing up 5 weeks of working in Rotterdam with two very close friends and colleagues I’d originally met in NYC. One of the people who’d been involved in the project we’d been working on was a sparrow-tiny woman named Ceclia. Or maybe it was Cecile (I remember her meal better than her name. Does that make me a bad person? Sigh).
The food was so simple and so good. It fulfilled every cliche about how if the ingredients are good enough they don’t need fancy sauces or cooking methods.
What I remember most are her potatoes. They were just boiled in their skins. She didn’t salt them but rather served the salt on the side. We ate them with our fingers, sprinkling the salt between bites. Not every potato is good enough to eat that way. Those potatoes were. No butter, no sour cream - and I remember them 12 years later.
Does that mean that C.’s simple way of cooking was better than the decadent layers of ingredients and cooking methods I’ve been ogling and creating? No.
It means that food is complicated, even when it is simple.
It engages all five of our physical senses (aw, c’mon, tell me cooking bacon isn’t auditory, never mind popcorn).
It is laden with personal and cultural history.
It impacts the environment and our personal and communal economies.
It requires skills, or friends with skills (If C. had undercooked those simple potatoes, if she had overcooked them, would I still remember them as the benchmark of potato perfection?).
This past week, for the first time in over a decade, I achieved something that tasted like my memory of C.’s potatoes. I just boiled the small potatoes whole, drained them, and sprinkled them with salt.
But okay, they were a special variety called Adirondack Red that is beautifully pink all the way through, and…pics soon, promise.
So is there a conflict between “food porn” and simple food? I don’t think so. Just look at those raspberries…