Sunday, February 21, 2010
Gastronomie, or "How a Hotplate Can Save a Nation"
"I know some of us don't have teeth, but I do, and I want pot roast. My wife's, complete with leathery bay leaves. I want carrots, I want potatoes boiled in their skins. And I want a deep, rich cabernet sauvignon to wash it all down, not apple juice from a tin. But above all, I want corn on the cob." I don't know if you've observed from my waistline over the years, but I love food. To cook it, to serve it, to eat it. Preparing food is a spiritual quest for the perfect balance of flavors, a delicate equilibrium. There's a definate feeling of vigor I get in slaving away over a steaming pot of water or a hot plate of oil. There's a certain zen-like state I find in slicing a mountain of vegetables, meat and herbs as the stainless steel knife becomes another part of my body. There's a particular sense of accomplishment I feel when the stew has reached the right consistency or the chicken is golden brown and I can sit down to eat. This was all fine and dandy when my home was down the road from a store boasting an unfathomable array of spices, a valley of assorted world cheeses and a land mass of non-wilted produce. I'm not going to say that Mozambicans are not a fan of the culinary arts. I'm not going to say that they're uninterested in dabbling in risky cooking endeavors. I'm not going to say that, because there are restaurants here with delicious food and there are women who keep asking me to show them how to make the eggplant parmesan and seaweed salad that they liked of mine so very much. But what I will say is that I can't help but think that a revolution in food experimentation is a sign of a nation developing, a nation rising from the blood of a civil war, the ashes of a collapsed infrastructure. A people that has the resources to invest in a culinary underbelly is a people that no longer simply cooks to survive, but cooks to live. Sure, we can pray for world peace along with the Miss Americas, but what we really need is to eat, drink and be merry.