Amuse-bouche

By Alan Brouilette

Food

I don’t know what I’m doing. Well, I do. But I don’t want to. I could throw out a CV, with articles and citations. I could throw you a family heirloom guilty-pleasure reverse-snobbery recipe from the fifties. I could yammer about obscure restaurants or the importance of pure ingredients or “the joys of authentic sushi” or any of a zillion other things. I could fake it, y’know? Look up some African restaurant no one’s ever been to and Asian fruits no one’s heard of and a couple of microbrews no one’s invented yet and wax poetic on ’em. Talk about how green sapote tastes just like chocolate pudding and tut-tut that more Americans aren’t adventurous eaters. (With the “like me” implied.) Wave my bona fides atcha like a puffed-up pigeon, strutting and looking for a fight.

But that’s bullshit. Food purists and snobs and geniuses are boring. I’ll cheerfully admit delighted ignorance. I’m a passionate amateur with serious appetites and an impulse control problem. My primary pleasure from food and wine is derived not from lecturing other people about them, but from eating and drinking them myself. The zenith, the peak, the goddamn point of all food and drink is not the bleeding-edge skill set of Alinea or the tiresome purity of locavores or “one perfect peach” or any of the poetry and politics that have come to surround food. The point of all of it is as catalyst; it is in midwifing that last half hour of a five-hour dinner in good company, when everyone’s sated but no one wants to leave, and there’re empty coffee cups and bits of dessert and half a bottle of rum and a dozen empty bottles of wine on the table, and the talk is quiet and personal and free, and it occurs to somebody that there could be more coffee, and maybe some cheese, and there’s a lot of meat left – who wants a sandwich?

I love food. I’ve planned vacations around meals. I’ve driven six hours, one way, for a single restaurant. I’ve spent whole weekends on one recipe. The roast turkey episode of “Good Eats” holds a place in my holiday TV heart right alongside “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and betting against Detroit on Thanksgiving. And I love food writing. I read professional restaurant reviews for fun. (Online restaurant reviews are an open sewer.) I admire the writing of Jeffrey Steingarten and Gabrielle Hamilton and Michael Ruhlmann, but I love Calvin Trillin best of all.

But I hate an awful lot of food people. The ones who sniff that you “just can’t get decent wasabi in America.” The ones who are more concerned with a food’s authenticity or provenance than its flavor. The ones whose goal, when describing their Christmas menu, seems to be to get quizzical looks. The ones who box each other out like first-graders at the water fountain to be the very first to declare a restaurant “passe.” The kind of people whose dinner invitations you skip cause you like the food and wine but it isn’t worth the pontificating. The ones who didn’t get to this line because they jumped right into the comment-writing when I left them that sweet little red herring about sapote. If you dismissed me there, I didn’t want you getting this far anyway.

And if you did correct me in the comments, me and my new friends are gonna grin at you, ignore you, and get back to the table. There’s still some of the good stickysweet brown crust left on the pie plate. Maybe make some more coffee? Ooh, and there’s something that smells an angel’s feet in the cheese drawer. Get an apple, too. And bring the rum. We’re not done yet.

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ALAN BROUILETTE is a freelance writer of magazine articles, comedy, and scripts. His career peak thus far is his inclusion in the anthology "Best Food Writing 2011." He prefers to writing about food and sports to writing news - which he used to do - and prefers Gonzo journalism to the responsible kind. You can find him, and some of his writing, at brouilette.com.

17 responses to “Amuse-bouche”

  1. jonathan evison says:

    . . . welcome aboard, alan!

  2. Big says:

    What a pompous ass! I’m sorry, you *can’t* get good wasabi in America. However, I have to admit, I did read his contribution to Hughes 2011, and it is very good. It’s a classic “cooking for a crowd” story, but much funnier. I especially liked the way Brouilette doesn’t blow his entire comedy wad on the the “sweet potatoes arrived late” disaster, but is consistently witty throughout. I’ll look forward to more columns…

  3. Shel says:

    Gee. That he’s a pompous ass who loves real food is by FAR my favorite part.

  4. Jay Harrington says:

    God, this guy seems like a jerk! Where do they find these people? Seriously. He reminds me Simon Cowell with an eating disorder… you find your yourself continuing to watch/read for the train wreck.

  5. Bob says:

    Alan Brouilette is one of the funniest, clearest and most fearless people I know. Congratulations Alan. I look forward to this new opportunity to read what you think.

  6. Notorious says:

    I agree with much of the sentiment here. I look forward the writer addressing the problem of choosing to eat a large meal and then getting on aircraft.

  7. Amy Jo says:

    Nicely written. Pass me that pie plate.

  8. Dana says:

    Welcome Alan! I’ve been watching much too much FoodTv and CookingChannel lately. It became apparent when I realized that they were making oxtail something or other and I was watching it raptly, not wanting to miss anything important. At some point I realized that 1.) I’m a vegetarian and 2.) my husband is the least adventurous eater, ever so 3.) I’m NEVER going to prepare an oxtail.

    I look forward to reading your stuff! (And possibly interpreting Notorious’ comment.)

  9. LK says:

    Well. Pfffft. Unless this guy has obviously never had properly prepared candied moose balls, he obviously knows NOTHING about food. I’m off to Whole Paycheck to find that pefect peach now…

  10. Jellyman says:

    Nicely done! I agree, Alan. Oh, and pass the sweet potatoes, or are they South American yams?

  11. RunJMc says:

    Oh, goody. I love this guy’s writing. Can’t wait to read more!

  12. Joe Daly says:

    Welcome, Alan! Looking forward to some tasty vegetarian dishes, preferably without vegetables. You’re in front of a wacky crowd now…

  13. jpal5 says:

    I hope there will be a dissertation on barbecue!

  14. What a good idea, Jpal5…..

  15. (And thank you, everybody! Suggestions welcome.)

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