Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The best sauce

I'm a high-taste eater. I can't bear food with weak flavor. When cooking, I automatically double the amount of spices called for in recipes, and triple the garlic. I've got to amp up the flavor.

But the most delicious things I've ever eaten, the meals I will remember all my life, are foods I ate when I was very, very hungry.

In 1971, I ordered a plate of radis avec beurre, radishes with butter, at a sidewalk cafe in Paris. If you've seen "French breakfast radishes" in a seed catalog and thought it just one more proof that the French are meshuggenah, think again. The long, red-and-white radishes were exquisite; the butter was as superior to American butter as Camembert is to Cheez-Whiz. When I had finished, leaving only the radish tops, the waiter dumped the greens into the street. A few minutes later, the gutters welled up with water and were flushed clean. The meal continued with an omelet filled with potato slices -- omelette a la russe is what I'd swear they called it, although the more usual name for that is omelette Parmentier.

Anybody's first day in Paris is bound to be memorable, but what fixed the scene in my mind is that I was extremely hungry. I have since tried to duplicate both dishes, but could never duplicate the experience. I wasn't hungry enough.

Hunger is the best sauce, said the Greeks. What if that's more than a proverb? What if it's actual cooking advice? Even weight-loss advice? What if I could improve the flavor of everything I eat from now on and for the rest of my life, simply by arriving at the table hungry?

1 comment:

  1. Plato demonstrated the inferiority of physical to spiritual senses by pointing out that physical enjoyment can only take place after physical discomfort has occurred: the discomfort of hunger must precede the enjoyment of eating. Any physical pleasure pursued without an interval of suffering cannot remain pleasurable.

    For that very reason, hunger is dangerous to dieting. While it is true that simpler fare eaten while hungry is more delicious than haut cuisine consumed when full, it is easy for hunger to get completely out of control.

    Your calculations about calories were interesting. However, the idea of going hungry for any length of time turns out to be a bad strategy for losing weight. The metabolism slows way down as the body tries to conserve the very fat you are trying to lose. We are built to survive the constant threat and reality of famine. Not letting yourself get too hungry appears to be an important goal in losing weight.


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