In the analog era, before podcasts and youtube and top chef, the machinations of the great restaurants were much more mysterious. I have reams of photocopied pages from notebooks, stolen menu descriptions from disgruntled waiters, and pocketed menus from the days when Rocco DiSpirito was an up-and-coming, respected chef and Michelin had yet to set foot in NYC. A few fellow cooks that I traded these with pored over them like they were the lost papers from the Warren Commission.
There are a few portals, such as Marco Pierre White’s White Heat and Fernand Point’s Ma Gastronomie, that allow aspiring culinarians to glimpse inside those ivory towers and the minds they housed. But the flashy media of TV shows and hype-it-up websites is screwing up the psyches and expectations of young cooks.
My cooks are at present passing around my copy of Ma Gastronomie day-to-day, and telling each other what their takeaway was from the book. The fellow who spoke at lineup today turned out to be a true romantic–sad for the present and pining for the sunny slopes of long ago, when the music was better, the cuisine was pure, and it wasn’t 80 degrees in mid-November. I’ll let it go at that.
Here are two types of culinary contraband . . .
Colombian Alban white truffles
A lot of them, part of a dinner for Thomas Brown and his cellar crew. The whole dining room smelled like, erm, truffles.
And what could be better with white truffles that a 79 Barolo?
So here’s the old-fashioned sort of culinary contraband.
Cooking is mired in the analog world in a lot of ways, and there’s satisfaction to be had in not just making a batch of cookies, but also splattering some butter and flour on the cookbook. Cooking is sensory, and tactile, and somebody kick the soapbox out from under me before I sound too old . . .