When Less is More

Posted By | Posted On Apr 15, 2014

Pumpkin spice lattes, Ranch dressing flavored popcorn, Sriracha flavored mac and cheese. Where will it stop? I just saw a commercial for Dunkin Donuts cookie dough flavored iced coffee. Really? Cookie dough flavored coffee?

What is it with Americans inability to leave well enough alone?  Why does everything today have to be bigger (five dollar foot long), faster (X-Finity or Fios?), newer (those cabinets installed in 2001 are soooo dated, according to HGTV)?

Why can’t coffee taste like…coffee; olive oil like…olive oil? Why does balsamic vinegar have to taste like raspberries instead of …balsamic vinegar?

Why are we so easily bored, so unable to appreciate the simplicity in the foods around us?

Both Cantonese and Italian culinary traditions are so great, partly because they highlight the flavor of the main ingredient. If that main ingredient is fresh, top -quality, and preferably local whenever possible, then all it will need is a little ginger and scallion, or basil and extra virgin olive oil to make it shine.

By slathering our sushi with fake wasabi, or drenching that locally made burrata with cheap balsamic “glaze” we are disrespecting the innate goodness of what’s in front of us.

Italians have a word to describe a strand of perfectly cooked spaghetti. When you break into it, there should be an almost non -existent white dot in the center. That dot tells you that the spaghetti is perfectly “al dente”. If you don’t see the dot, it is overcooked. Italians call that white spot the “anima” which means the “soul”. When you overcook the spaghetti, you destroy the soul.  When you force coffee to taste like cookie dough, or mac and cheese to taste like Sriracha, I think you have also destroyed the soul.

The whole nose to tail movement has made us mindful of respecting the dignity and integrity of the animal whose life we have taken.  Its time we started respecting the dignity and integrity of the bounty of wonderful ingredients available to us today.

I have a challenge for you. When that first local asparagus appears in the market this month, buy a bunch, take it home, steam it until bright green and tender, season it with a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, close your eyes, and experience asparagus as it should be. Experience its soul. It may just be a revelation.

written by Jim Becker/Boston Food Tours Guide

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