Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Priest, some Diets, & a few Gems

The Supper of the Lamb, A Culinary Relection is both long winded and a profound treatise on dining with a few recipes. Robert Farrar Capon's book was copy writ in 1967, but it's commentary is spot on in 2013. He gets into the the work of cooking, real food, appetite, and the lost territory of dining.

He tells a story about Satan and his tempters's latest plot to destabilize humans and their relationship to things. "Man must be taught to see things as symbols-- must be trained to use them for effect, and never for themselves. Above all, the door of delight must remain firmly closed." Let me give you another version of this, "No noodles. I'm counting calories." The dieter sees the calories and not the noodles, forgetting that a calorie is a measure of energy and not a real thing like the noodle. Mr. Capon makes the argument that the soul is sure to wither with these kinds of idols and abstractions replacing tangible wonders like noodles.


Perhaps you see, therefore, why I think taste must come before nutrition? Our infatuation for the quasi-scientific has left us easy marks for con men and tin fiddle manufacturers.
― Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection


I guess I relate to this because I am horrified at the faux food dotting the culinary landscape in America-- frozen pasta, packaged bread, rubbery tasteless cheese. I am also annoyed at the continual parade of diets people are on which mostly involve telling others about what can and can't be consumed.

Dietary wonders with the latest incarnation of names like the Paleo diet, the Juice detox, the Lean Belly prescription, espouse food intake that will make you look fabulous by merely lifting a fork. Really? Ever notice that the recipes are usually terrible-- ever heard of a meatza? Raw food diet? My gag reflex quivers at the mere mention. Maybe these things do work, but  for me, it's got to taste good and make me feel good.

Here's a thought. Walk five miles everyday. Cook what you eat. Use real food-- no fake stuff that you can't make in your own kitchen. Eat only a mealtimes-- no snacks, no tasting, and no extra helpings or finishing off dishes. Limit alcohol and no soda, diet or otherwise. If you are going to drink ten teaspoons of sugar, make yourself stir them into a cup, same goes for the chemicals. If you feel good, great! Between the walking and the cooking, you should be sufficiently occupied. If not, add composting, swimming, or volunteer work just not junk food. Toss the processed food. Other than that, you might need professional help-- see your doctor.

Eat the damned noodles and go for a walk. Your soul will thank you later. I loved his rambling commentary and found these gems on dinner entertaining:

  • Table of 8 period the end. Always wondered how many guest should I have.
  • A dinner invite is an act of love so if you need to shmooze someone, go to a restaurant. The intimacy of dinner at home should be reserved for loved ones.
  • Wine as an aperitif is ok, but no food. So happy to see this one as it contributes insures everyone has an appetite for the main course.
  • Here is a plan for dinner courses: (1) one from the fridge, (2) one from the stove top, and (3) one from the oven. Spot on for practicality, planning, and simplicity!
  • Estimate 3/4 to a full bottle of wine per person. I'd love to have dinner at his house!
  • Say grace standing up. Keeps it short, eh?
  • Dress splendidly. This is a man who respects the work it takes to bring it to the table!
  • Only the host of the house says the blessing. I've always wondered if it was annoying to be the defacto grace sayer or if it was polite deference to clergy.

He also advocates eating real butter and making your own bread. He tells you how to make four meals out of one leg of lamb, how to make your own puff pastry, and has a "no cans" policy in the kitchen. What's not to love? Hey, we all have our diet gurus; he just might be mine.