27 May 2010

Social Dangers of Being a Foodie

Being a foodie can be dangerous.

We are by nature inquisitive and analytical, and we're always looking for an idea or recipe to take and make our own. We look at food in restaurants and think "How can I re-create this at home?" We consider what we would change, how we can make things better.

This can be hard to shut off when you are, say, invited to a friend's home for dinner. Dining at someone's home is very different from dining in a restaurant. In a restaurant, you are allowed to be critical, maybe not openly to the chef, but you can go online, and pick the dish apart on your next post, without any real fear of retribution. By putting out a dish, and making you pay for it, the chef thereby opens their dish up to criticism, and interpretation.

At a friend's house, you can't really get away with that. If the fish is dry, or the wine is a really lousy 2-buck-chuck, you can't really thrash them to your loyal readers (as badly as you might want to). When you are invited to dine at a friend's house, they are opening themselves up to you, sharing their time, their attention, and their love. Food is such an integral part of our existence that cooking for another person is truly exposing something very intimate about yourself. This is why being a foodie is dangerous. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to shut off the foodie within, and just allow the gracious guest out.

I am always pleased and humbled to be invited into someone's home for a meal. Unlike eating out, it's not about the food. It's about the company, and graciously accepting someone's invitation to share in a moment. This is what happened a few weeks ago.

The hubs and I were invited to a friend's home for dinner. She had a lot of raucherlachs (smoked salmon) to eat up, and we were more than happy to help her out. That's just the kind of nice people we are, assisting the downtrodden, and fish overladen. So one weeknight, I found myself in the delightful position of not having to cook that night. (Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, and do so in excess, but since I am the one-and-only resident cook at home, it's always appreciated when someone takes the time to cook for ME.)

We get to Evie's building to, and after making a quick stop in the building's basement for some extra chairs, we head up her one room flat. I am instantly jealous. You see, this is my kitchen:

Everyone, say hi to Phil, my hubby! I took this picture with the hubs in it for scale. Yes, that is where I have been cooking the past 4 months; no, there is no oven; yes, that is a mini fridge. (And yes, he is holding a bag of curry-ketchup potato chips - we couldn't pass up the opportunity to try them.)

So, when I walk into Evie's kitchen (which is about 4X the size of mine, with the pantry alone being larger than my kitchen), I definitely felt the green-eyed monster of jealousy rear her ugly head. Then I saw what we were having for dinner. I knew about the salmon; I was very excited about the salmon. Little did I know it would be paired up with some gorgeous local leeks, and cream...

ajsbfoan..jbfla.....  Sorry, has to wipe some drool off the keyboard. I don't really cook with leeks, so I always forget how delicate and lovely they are. Eventually I had to get out of the kitchen, since there really wasn't anything I could help with, and I didn't want to drool in the food.

So after about a bottle of wine apiece, and a gorgeous leek and salmon cream sauce over pasta, I'm feeling pretty good. But of course, there's always more: creamy vanilla ice cream (they only do the real stuff here, with all the little black specks that only a real vanilla bean can offer) and some warm, red-berry compote. This is a very German dessert (it's true, an innkeeper in Bavaria said so!). What an amazing contrast of textures and flavors. Cool and warm, sweet and tart, really satisfying and surprisingly light after such a rich meal.

Like I said, being a foodie can be dangerous when eating with friends. You have to watch yourself, and avoid saying something like, "Oh yeah, I make something like this, only I ...yadda yadda yadda. It's so good the way I do it."  This, fortunately, was not one of those times. I had never really had anything like this (smoked salmon is so expensive in the States the idea never crossed my mind), but I couldn't wait to try it for myself. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Well, below is my recreation of this recipe, inspired by a smart lady, a rockin' nuclear physicist, and a great cook. Thanks Evie for a great time, a great meal, and some welcome inspiration!

Recipe: Smoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Avocado Salad (coming soon)


  1. I know what you mean, now you look at everything differently. I guess we just have to be careful what we say out loud.....but we can talk about what impresses us!

  2. You are so right, so on the ball. I try to keep my mouth shut, firmly when I'm outwith friends or at meals....save for when I dine at Michelin star restaurants :-) or good Italian ones and my Tiramisu beats theirs hands down...then I really say it!

  3. Exactly! This is so hard! It also really has impacted my choice of what to order in a restaurant. A lot of people have some level of "oh, I don't want to order stuff I could make at home..." but I think the better I get at cooking and the broader my repertoire, the more troublesome that feeling becomes.

    Glad to hear I am not alone!


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