The Observer Newspaper here in England publishes a monthly food magazine, and in the most recent edition, they have included a list of the Top 50 things every foodie should do.
a) I am not a real foodie
b) I have lived a very VERY closeted culinary life
c) I am going to have to live a lot longer than I thought to squeeze all that in
d) all of the above
Why? Well, because here in my fourth decade on this planet I have managed five of them. Five. Oh Lordly lord, that’s depressing! And even some of those are kind of variations of what the list actually mentions. Some I do not feel are my fault. I mean, I’ve never owned or even known anyone who’s owned an Aga, for heaven’s sake! And having lived my first 30 years at the southern tip of Africa, there wasn’t much chance of going to fancy schmancy restaurants in Europe & the US, now was there??! Some are due to my own squeamishness – like catching a fish and killing it to eat. And some are probably still doable, like dismembering a chicken.
There are a couple of things I’d add, like barbecuing and eating fresh fish under the stars on a beach; eating a warm, ripe fig straight off the tree; tasting wine while it is still fermenting in its tank, somewhere between grape juice, lemonade and wine; attending a spit roast; and eating a pint o’ prawns sitting on The Deck on the Lookout rocks in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. And I think generally the list is ridiculously Eurocentric, but being a European magazine, I imagine they’re entitled to a bit of Eurocentricity.
So without further ado, I present to you my selections from the list of things done, things planned and things completely unthinkable:
Done – tick it off the list
turbot Red Roman
We don’t bloody have turbot of the coast of South Africa! But I do recall waiting for the fishing boats to come in one day in Plettenberg Bay, rushing down to the beach and buying a couple of whole fish to braai (BBQ) that night…
Catch your own dinner
Now I know this is stretching the definition just a teensy bit… but I have collected a bucket of mussels off the rocks and had them immediately afterwards, boiled open in seawater and grilled on the half-shell in garlic butter, right there on the beach.
Grill a steak
Sorry Hugh – not aged Guernsey beef sirloin. But I have grilled turkey steaks and tuna steaks, and nobody specified the type of steak was crucial…
Get up early and go to market
Not strictly speaking in Provence, but Alpes Maritime is just next door… In November when we stayed in the South of France in Seillans, we got up early one morning to drive to the market in Lorgues and it was spectacular. Came home with a treasure trove, not least of which was filet fume – whole beef fillets smoked and cured, to be sliced thinly and eaten with freshly ground black pepper and… whisky!
Eat chocolate cake in Vienna
Going for the big finale here. Finally, something I have actually done as per the list!! In 1995 by mom and I went abroad together without the rest of the family for the first and only time. We spent a week in London and a week in Vienna, plus a side-trip to Bavaria to see Ludwig’s castles. We both fell totally in love with Vienna and its culture of fabulous pastries and good coffee, its pre-war feeling of a lost age of civility and its awe-inspiring art museums. One afternoon we took ourselves off to the Hotel Sacher and sat on the terrace eating Sachertorte and melange coffee, congratulating ourselves for having made it here. Six months later my mom went into renal failure, but for the rest of her life she dreamed of the coffee and pastries in Vienna.
Forthcoming attractions – still possible
Bake a loaf of bread
Embarrassing to admit that I haven’t, but there you go. Have now invested in a loaf tin or two and am trying to conquer my fear of using yeast. Will keep you posted.
Dismember a chicken
I’m afraid that so far, my dismembering experience is limited to carving a cooked chicken. But since I am now able to get recognisable cuts off a cooked chicken (breast, leg etc etc) as opposed to shredded unidentifiable bits, I am sure that dismembering a raw chicken would be in the realms of the possible.
Learn how to make a dry martini
Despite my best efforts, I simply don’t like dry martinis, hence my lack of interest so far in learning to make them. But I’m sure with a few friends round to soak up the practice attempts I could get it right. And then go back to sipping my whisky sour!
Cheese fondue at Watergate Bay’s Beach Hut, Cornwall
Cornwall’s not that far, I love fondue, what are we waiting for? Maybe a cheese fondue roadtrip this autumn??
Hotdogs on Coney Island
Nick hasn’t been to NYC and this would be the perfect excuse for us to go…!
Order fish at Doyle’s, Sydney
Hello Greg! Remember when you came to stay with us last year? Well, here’s what you can do for me in return – a table at Doyle’s when we finally pay you and Gail a visit!!
Nibble Jean-Paul Hevin’s cheese-flavoured chocolates in Paris
Hmmm, less than a month till I go to Paris again.
Make love in a vineyard at night
Well, you never know… The Cape Town area is full of vineyards!
Hahahahahaha surely you jest – not in this lifetime
Eat at La Ferme de Mon Pere in Megeve
Oh yes why not – it’s only £238 for the tasting menu. Hahahaha.
Drink a bottle of 1947 Cheval Blanc
Of course – bring a bottle with my tasting menu, or better still, bring two. It’s a steal at £1058. Hahahaha.
Stuff yourself with caviar
Apparently kitchen nightmare Gordon Ramsay recommends the caviar of the rare albino sturgeon for up to £22,000 per kg. Sure – let’s have some as an appetiser before that tasting menu! Hahahaha.
Sniff a white truffle
At £3,500 per kg, you’re damn right all I’m going to do is sniff it!!
Kill a pig
Yes, I know that pork chops and pork & Stilton sausages and sticky spare ribs all require the butchering of Babe. But I am equally sure that I would be quite incapable of doing the actual killing myself.
Dice with death – eat fugu
This is a Japanese blowfish, for those who don’t know. It has to be very carefully prepared by licensed chefs because if prepared incorrectly, eating it will kill you. Do not pass go, do not collect £200. Just get a funny numb feeling in your tongue and extremities and better hope you have done all 50 things on the Observer’s list ‘cos you’re about to meet The Man. So do people die from eating it? You betcha. I still have lots of things to do on the list so I don’t think I’ll be trying it yet, even if Gordon Ramsay does love the “thrill and unusual sensation” of eating it. The line between stupid and hardcore narrows daily.
Shuck an oyster
Erm, have you seen how badly an oyster does NOT want to be opened? And have you seen the metal mesh gloves they sell for oyster shuckers, and the blunt yet powerful blade that you have to point directly at the bit of muscle that joins your thumb to your hand?? Any cooking activity that needs me to be wearing chain-mail a la medieval knights is best left to the experts. I am inordinately fond of my hands as they are, with 5 complete and functional fingers on each. They can’t play the cello, but they type a mean blog.