Thursday, June 18, 2009

Amuse-Bouche, Amuse-Mind

Stumbled across my friend's foodie blog--that wonderful invented term for us young hipsters who enjoy getting high class in the kitchen. The new Bohemian eats rather well, as it turns out.

After the (more or less) rejection of the fast-food craze by younger, well-educated people, I have been continually amazed by the creativity and explosive interest among my peers in cooking. Not just in making cookies, or omelets, or pancakes, or any normal fare; I should make the necessary distinction and say cuisine. I'm talking chickpea flour tortillitas with shrimp and herbs, or sopa de musclos ala catalana. Not exactly like mother used to make.

A great many of my transcontinental conversations have been culinary. How do you cook red potatoes best for a side dish? Where can I find arugula? What's for dinner tonight? Every time we get together these days--more and more rarely as we age--the general consensus is that we ought to cook for each other. Some fantastic, if poorly paired items have come out of these forays. Curried-carrot soup, the aforementioned tortillitas, anything involving steak.

My newest fascination is a 4-pound bison roast I look forward to slow cooking on a bed of herbs and aromatics until it melts.

I think part of this particular group's fascination with cooking is that--once we found mom wasn't there to cook for us anymore--we realized that we ate better than any college student had a right to at St. Olaf, and we weren't willing to give that up. More than that, cooking for oneself affords the opportunity to be extremely health conscious, and explore a certain diet for the specific beneficence it offers. Pat is perhaps my favorite example, and I hope I'll get to this point soon. He no longer eats meat that he hasn't hunted or fished for himself. I'm just not sure I could actually shoot something myself. I've never done it, who knows? I do know that I have been better able to control my own weight and feelings of well-being since I took control of cooking my own meals. Less oil, more flavor, smaller portions.

Another friend took his fascination and ran with it, completing a course at Le'Cordon Bleu School and now working as the head chef at blossoming restaurant in the area. His French-fusion style is creative, attractive, and delicious, and one of only a few places you could go in this area for high-level cuisine that focuses on presentation, portioning, and a varied menu. He has been toying with reinstating the prix-fixe tradition and serving multiple course meals for lunch and dinner most days. His cooking was my first experience with the concept of amuse-bouche; not quite an appetizer, not quite a course. That little extra something the chef puts all of himself into without really caring if everybody will enjoy it. My first was a savory custard, served in the eggshell with what remains, thanks to Christopher's recalcitrance, a mystery sauce I'll never be able to forget.

My own forays, while perhaps less intensive, will continue and be a continued source of amusement, comfort, and nourishment.

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