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The Passion of the Cruton

March 5, 2008

I was asked this past week to consider my passion.  Passion being the driving force for all actions and the meaning behind the menial.  Like most people, I probably can’t narrow the answer down to one overriding passion, but when I stepped up to the mic, only one word erupted from my lips:  feast. 

For as long as I can remember, I have loved a raucous family supper.  I have loved “doing lunch.”  I have relished the brunch portion of a daytime party.  My idea of hell is a pb and j with an apple in a brown bag eaten alone at my desk. 

I can recall being as young as eight years old, scanning a menu with my family staring down at me, always the last one to decide as the waiter tapped his foot.  Without fail, I would go for the most expensive menu item.  This was before I understood money, yet the inetivability of my choice was uncanny.   I knew where the fanciest foods were located on a menu.  I knew just where to go for maximum excitement factor.  Did I want the cheeseburger and fries or the filet mignon with sherry sauce and wilted broccoli rabe?  Even back then, the right choice was obvious.   It’s not that my tastes were overly refined, it’s more like I never wanted to taste the same thing twice.  I wanted something new, different, and out of my league.  This has not changed.  Tasting Thai red curry for the first time was on par with my first glimpse of the Sistine Chapel.  It just wasn’t my eyes that were confounded, but my tongue.  Some people pay hundreds to see Radiohead, or the New York Philharmonic play Bach, but I save and save for a chance to taste foi gras in a fancy French restaurant.  

 For this reason, I hold tapas restaurants, buffets, and dim sum to high esteem.  I prefer to taste as much food as possible all at once, better yet to see it all spread before me in all its glory.  I find pure delight in sharing plates, tasting alongside others’ tongues, comparing and contrasting like we’re political analysts in the midst of a heated election.  Like everything else, I enjoy food more with others. 

I remember “Knits and Grits,” in college.  We would all gather at one of the group houses, and someone would cook up an industrial amount of cheese grits, enough to feed a large peace protest.   Folks would bring instruments, some would bring their knitting, and we’d while away the Sunday morning slurping up grits, playing acoustic favorites, knitting hats, and drinking tea.  A wholesome and lovely contrast to Saturday night’s debauchery. 

Family meals at my house growing up were filled with passionate arguments, tension over spilled lemonade, and lots of laughter.  I loved setting the table, and I still do.  A beautifully set table is the perfect catalyst to induce proper excitement and anticipation for the night’s activities.    

My life is a series of memories rolled up into meals.   Remind me what we ate on that family trip to Wisconsin ten years ago and I’ll remember all the rest along with it.    Some things will never fade:  the omlette maker my friend bought from an infomercial for my ladies brunch the day before my wedding, the salmon and asparagus we ate the night before as the Christmas lights and stars twinkled over our heads.  That first night in Rome when we stumbled down into that brick walled cafe and I discovered Pasta Carbonara.  Eggplant parmesan Monday, Tuesday, and spaghetti on Wednesday at home every week.  Skinny burgers with cucumbers, milkshakes and skinny cheese fries from Tasty Dog after school.   Cold canned sodas from giant barrels every year at hte block party.  Angel food cake every year at that same block party.  Thin Mints every year of my life reminding me that spring is not far off if I can just hold on and spend the winter’s dying days shoving cookies down my throat. 

That I said “feast” makes perfect sense to me now. 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    March 6, 2008 9:55 am

    Great article. Although I didn’t grow up feeling this way, I have transitioned into this mindset over the past 3 – 4 years. Nothing is more exciting than discovering a new great dish.

  2. the dj permalink
    March 6, 2008 10:49 am

    Goodness GourmetGRRL. Right on.
    Feasting and exploring new food was a staple of my family outings, whether Mom tortured my sister and me with tabouli and dry falafels or Dad whisking us off to the Masionette in Cincinatti, RIP, for our first 3 fork, 3 spoon, 3 glass, French banquet. I agree that food triggers powerful memories – the brutally dark raspberry cake at my wedding, hell, the first time I ever had dark chocolate and raspberries back in high school at my favorite local book store, the first and only horseshoe I ever ate outside Springfield, Illinois with Dad and Uncle Toomey on my 13th birthday just before getting behind the wheel of Dad’s Mark VII for 20 miles on Route 66. As an adult I look for exotic and unfamiliar dishes, spending more of my paycheck than I should.

  3. Stacey permalink
    March 6, 2008 11:56 am

    Loved the post! Food is what got me back to blogging this week. Check it out for my Ode to the Be-All-End-All of chocolate cakes. Really it was supposed to be an ode to Doug, but I know you understand. 😉

  4. March 6, 2008 10:12 pm

    Thank you for reminding me about passion-driven decisions and pursuits. Most of us are never asked that question, particularly in a public setting. Oh yeah, and how could you forget to mention Hamburger Surprise?!

  5. mar-mar permalink
    March 7, 2008 4:46 pm

    …and let us not forget the block party crown jewels: Nadine Thompson’s Oreo Cheesecake and Diane McDermott’s Key Lime Pie (for which she finally and dramatically revealed the “key” ingredient was lard; for years I thought that was why it was called “Key Lime”)!

  6. mar-mar permalink
    March 7, 2008 4:48 pm

    ..and could you please ask the DJ to tell us what a horseshoe is?

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