“…it would be unfair of me to reject all new dishes and all innovators, since, for the past thirty years, eminent chefs have honored me by lending my name to a dozen original dishes.”
We’ve all been there before when a dish is presented and we turn our nose up at it and all before we even give it a chance. I can remember countless times as a kid—and let’s be honest, as an adult—when I suddenly become the biggest food snob when I am presented with a dish that I have never tried before.
Just recently, my little sister and I enjoyed a dinner together at a hibachi grill in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve had miso soup many times in my life, always excited to collect my family’s little slivers of portabella mushroom that floated in the top. At this particular restaurant, though, several cubes of tofu accompanied my delightful mushroom slice, much to my disapproval. I’d never actually had tofu, but it looked slimy and the texture reminded me of fat, which never has a chance of getting near my mouth. My little sister insisted that I try it, that its texture was like a mere noodle’s texture, as she joyfully slurped up the last few drops of her soup. By the end of the meal, I’d bucked up and popped one of the slippery, cream-colored cubes into my mouth full of already-displeased taste buds. Much to my surprise and to my pride’s demise, the tofu tasted like the soup in which it swam, and the texture was like a soft, pillowy noodle. My judgment had been unfair and wrong, much like we see with many people in the world of food. Stereotypes follow every food and the people who not only make it, but also those who eat it.
Curnonsky’s chapter entitled Gastronomy and Politics explains how the judgment that gourmets receive is one that describes a fat, greedy, gluttonous, old man who doesn’t take the time to bathe. While there are surely those that embody this stereotype, there are many others that are successful, self-proclaimed “foodies” which contradict it. Both male and female, and existing at all ages, gourmets are simply people with a discerning palate. They are lovers of food. And just like any group of people, they are vastly different from one individual to another, despite their one universally shared trait: an open mind.
According to Curnonsky, gourmets can be categorized in a similar manner with politicians. He explains that within their food-infatuated world exist the members of each of these groups: the extreme right, with a taste only for the finest of ingredients; the right, with a tolerance only for the traditional; the center, with an appreciation for both the fanciful and the down-home; the left, with little allowance for too many complications to contort what food pleases them; and the extreme left, with the inventers and the innovators, who are never satisfied with how things are done, but search tirelessly for how things could be done.
Of these five categories, I would place myself into the group referred to as the left. Perhaps this is because of my Southern roots, and perhaps it is due to my being a college student on a tight budget. Either way, I find myself perfectly content with a quickly prepared meal, which consists of minimal, cheap ingredients. I have to say, even in my new marriage that I still come home from a long day, equally content with grilling a steak as I am with cracking open a can of the good stuff: Chef Boyardee. I have never called myself a gourmet, as I don’t deserve such a title, but I do have a deep love for food. I like to keep an open mind, like gourmets and like Curnonsky himself.
One of my favorite meals is a simple tuna fish sandwich. I can remember when I was little, maybe five or six, when my mother plopped a paper plate with a sandwich on it right in front of my already twisted up face of disapproval. “What is this?” I scoffed. “It’s a tuna fish sandwich. Just eat it,” my mother said with a mouth already half full of her first bite. I sat there for a full ten minutes, stomach growling violently as I thought she should be punished by my starving for having put something so displeasing in front of me. Finally, when she’d showed a complete lack of tolerance for my hunger strike, I begrudgingly lifted the fishy-smelling sandwich to my lips. Planning on spitting it out dramatically before I ever took a bite, I chomped down on the middle of the tiny triangle of bread. Much to my surprise, and then to my delight, the chunky tuna fish salad filled my mouth. The flavors were so perfectly balanced, that I couldn’t help but shove another bite into my mouth before I finished chewing the first one. After devouring my sandwich, I slipped off to the kitchen quietly so that mom wouldn’t notice my getting a second helping.
Now at the age of twenty-one, I have eaten probably hundreds of these scrumptious tuna fish salad sandwiches, and I share them with any person willing to get past the initial, not-so-charming fishy smell. Who knew four seemingly random ingredients could come together to create such a beautiful harmony? It is because of experiences like these, because of this harmless tuna fish salad sandwich, that I am no longer as skittish towards trying new food. I am thankful for people like my little sister and Curnonsky, who shoot down untrue stereotypes to reveal the beautiful, and in this case delectable, truth that is good food and the people who appreciate it.
Tags: Curnonsky, Sailland, gourmets, foodies, tuna, fish, salad, sandwich, gastronomy, politics
Sweet Pickle Relish
- Boil the eggs in a saucepan. The ratio for this salad is two eggs for every one can of tuna.
- Once the eggs are boiled, allow them to cool.
- While eggs are cooling, drain tuna and add to a large mixing bowl.
- Mix in mayonnaise and sweet pickle relish to taste. Dice boiled eggs and add them into the mixing bowl.
- Stir all ingredients together until completely combined. Add to toasted bread for a sandwich or enjoy with crackers.