A cry of rebellion has permeated the emails flashing back and forth among the newer residents of the retirement center where I live. As might be expected, the complaints are about the food. It’s too salty, the meat’s too stringy, the variety too meager and worst of all, the presentation is without imagination.
I’m a vegetarian, so I can’t speak about the meat. Sometimes the soups are too salty so I chose a salad instead. One resident wants a bit of garnish on his plate and is willing to pay more for it. I, on the otherhand, don’t care about presentation. I’m not buying art. My concern is that the food be nourishing. Otherwise, I’m indifferent to the niceties of fine dining.
Given the number of books, television shows and blogs about food, I’d say my indifference puts me in the minority. In his article, “The Hunger Games,” Bob Morris catalogues the lengths to which foodies will go for a good meal. If a Michelin star is involved, climbing Mount Everest is a cakewalk for those who see food as a spiritual experience. I understand how suffering can be involved because some gourmet dishes contain ants, snails and bonsai trees. One disciple traveled thousands of miles to feast upon sourdough ice cream with a vinegar meringue.* (“The Hunger Games,” by Bob Morris, Town&Country Magazine, March, 2015 pgs. 188-190.)
Strange as it may seem, some restaurants with Michelin stars are in remote places, like L’ Arnsbourg (3 stars) which is high in the Vosges mountains of Lorraine. Several means of transportation are required to reach it — planes, trains, buses and a bicycle, depending on your point of departure. Of course, you won’t arrive on the spur of the moment. Your reservation will have been made 2 years in advance.
So much planning, so much expense, so much suffering for an hour or two of eating boggles my mind. But, dining at El Celler de Can Roca requires more. After the meal, the rest of the evening will be spent sleeping in the garden, waiting for the morning train for Barcelona to arrive. Still, think of the bragging rights once the experience is over. See the glitter of envy in your friend’s eyes as you show them the toothbrush you brought back as a keepsake from the restaurant’s bathroom.
Everyone has a right to his or her passion, of course. Mine doesn’t involve food, though you’d never think it from my hip measurement. I have only one standard when it comes to dining. I’ll eat anything if it’s covered in chocolate.
* Food extremists with a taste for the rare might care to follow Bonjwing Lee’s blog: Ulterior Epicure (http://ulteriorepicure.com/