I have had an opportunity to read some food magazines lately.
According to them, really, truly delicious food is expensive. It also takes a great deal of special equipment to prepare. It is made by talented, highly trained individuals that have long winded, ethereal views on food. And they only use ingredients that require knowing a foreign language, a connection with a reclusive forager, and some medical training. In short, really truly delicious food is inaccessible to most people. At least, according to these magazines. And those tv shows and some of these restaurant reviews and any marketing of events featuring multiple chefs.
In the next paragraph, I am usually told that I can try to recreate these dishes at home, but it is going to be really time consuming, very complicated and technical, and any disappointment in the final product will be a reflection of my own failings in the kitchen. Instead, we all should consider taking our big bank accounts directly to the source and throw money at the passion! the love! the art! In each bite, we can taste the hours and hours and days meticulously refining each part to this awe inspiring whole that was carefully crafted to have us weeping by the last drop!
And then I remember, "We are all just cooks and bakers." I remember the food that makes me feel full and happy and truly satisfied has never felt uptight. I remember how surprisingly easy it was the first time I made a cheese. How perfectly average that uber complicated, multiple paged recipe ended up tasting. And I remember the reason why I started this series of blog posts.
If we stop buying this story that our food needs to be cerebral or a perfectly manipulated fine piece of art, we will find that there are transcendent meals, prepared on the cheap, in each of our neighborhoods. These talented cooks and bakers may downplay their kitchen experiments; they might even shun the titles "chef", "cook" or "baker". Fools, I say. Incredibly talented, fascinating, generous fools.
Finding these hidden gems can take a remarkable amount of dumb luck. Or this series of blog posts, because I am about to spill some secrets. It is up to you to woo them, befriend them, or just ask for a sample of their wares.
This actual series of posts (there is a long list of people and places to come) was inspired by my early morning drive to pick up some bread that didn't meet one man's standards of perfection.
It was a trip straight from either a mystery novel or a classic No Reservations setup. There was some prowling around an innocent, sleepy neighborhood in the dark of the early morning. A knock on a door before slipping inside. And the feeling of instant intoxication off of the heady smells of fresh baked bread that filled the house.
I don't want to sound hysterical when I write this, but I really want you to believe me when I say:
Dave bakes the crackliest crust, perfectly crumbed extraordinary breads in his own home. He brews beer. He is ridiculously kind, generous and humble. And an invite to a Firedome pizza party on his back deck is one of the single most coveted tickets in my world.
I met Dave when he was asking people for any Weber grill lids that they were not using. I had one and he was doing interesting things with them. Isn't this how all people meet?
It took only one modified Weber grill lid (Firedome) pizza party to realize the range of Dave's experiments.
Dave: It doesn't exist. I'm not a perfectionist. Life is too short; I'd rather do more things at 80% than fewer at 100%, unless it's a
Me: Do you have bakery or pizza shop dreams (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease)?
Me: Your blog is a notebook full of ratios, enviable scientific tools and creative problem solving. I don't really know what the question is - do you see yourself as a food scientist or baker? Is it the methodology or the results that drive you? Are you a scientist in all of your kitchen experiments?
Dave: I interviewed with Proctor and Gamble as I was leaving grad school. The recruiter was describing the hydrolytic instability of aspartame at high temps explaining why it couldn't be used in cake mixes. I was mesmerized. He tried to convince me the molecular complexity of food science problems wouldn't be as engaging as that of drug synthesis. I begged him to let me make that choice, but I didn't get the job. I ended up at big pharma as a scientist for 10 or so years. Gotta pay the bills.I get the most satisfaction when I make a good idea into something great; I'm fundamentally a development person applying my interests to anything in the kitchen. In that context, I'm passionate about process measurement. Accurate and inexpensive measurement tools have proliferated in the past 15 years, it's a great time to be a geek.
Me: You bake breads for your daughter's teachers.
Dave: Being served fried capicola with eggs and toast by my mother and growing up in Boston. In my earlier years, there was never any extra attention given to food. It just was special and everyone held identical core beliefs in this niche. The defining moments of life coincided with feasts, snacks, drinks and rum cookies from Brandano's. Immediately following the shock of the death of a close loved one was the quick decision one made to hire a caterer for after the wake. Produce at stores in my gritty hometown made Giant Eagle's look sick and farmer's markets look like boutiques. Mindfulness of food can't be wrong, but I still find some food movements unnatural.
Me: What is your favorite "secret" (non-mainstream) food or drink source in Columbus?
- Asian Pears, Crestview market
- French fries, Dairy Queen (Hudson and Indianola)
- Brisket, Rayray's (Pacemont and N High)
- Primo Pizza (mush / sausage) ONLY when served while at Studio35 watching a flick
- Bells 2 Hearted pint ONLY while at Crest Tavern
- Egyptian style feta and merguez, Mediterranean Food Imports (Dodridge and N High)
- Anything from Curds and Whey
Me: Favorite ice cream: brand and flavor.
Dave: I don't like ice cream and I think molecular gastronomists are obtuse.
Dave: I was in a place called Noodles Panini Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale last year and ordered the meatball sub. Each and every morsel of meatball, sauce and bread was perfect. Perfect. I almost cried.