I was speaking with my friend Joe yesterday. During the conversation, I mentioned how much I miss his fish dip. I don’t mean to pigeonhole my friend; Joe is a Renaissance Man in the best senseof the phrase: he flies planes, sails boats, drives farm equipment, cooks, dives for lobster and fishes for most everything else, works hard as a deputy sargeant and even harder as a husband and father. But I love that fish dip: it’s a little salty, tastes nicely of the ocean, very rich and smooth, and my idea of “perfect” food: good as a spread on crackers, as a stuffing for fish, or just accompanied by a spoon.
Conversation with my friends always seems to have a food element to it, no matter how or where it starts. Joe and his wife Lisa know me well, and know the elements of My Next Life. If we aren’t talking food per se, we are talking chefs, and television food, the latest cookbooks, specialty kitchenware shops and on line sources.
My home office has bookshelves that are rapidly filling with the publications of the food trade. No cookbooks in here (those are in the kitchen), but plenty of technical and biographic tomes, along with magazines like Wine Spectator, Gourmet and Food and Wine. Nine books about chocolate (a few recipes in those, but mainly technical and historic books), a recent edition of The Food Lover’s Companion, The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher, Marco Pierre White’s The Devil in the Kitchen(a great read, in case you wonder just how bad a chef can behave), several of Michael Ruhlman’s books (the best non-chef food writer I’ve ever read), and a few classics: McGees’ On Food and Cooking, The 1896 Original Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer (I consider this a reference book due to the lack of oven temperatures!), History of Foodby Maguelone Toussaint-Samat, and a few others. I’m a bit of a purist and a snob; most of food television of the past decade leaves me cold, though my childhood televsion entertainment included The French Chef. I prefer the straightforward “here’s how it’s done” method to the sweaty competitions, the “BAM!” and “E-V-O-O” and all the rest of the slick “food-tainment” of recent years. I admire “real” cooks and chefs: the people who have come up through the system the hard way, sacrificed and slaved for their success. Recent culinary school graduates and reality show winners have nothing on the old school bunch. I’m doing My Next Life old-school style; still working for a living and trying to find a way into the food business in some small, low-level way. Just like the the folks in the business I’ve come to admire.