Food is an important part of a balanced diet.
“ Fran Lebowitz”
A couple of weeks ago, we had some friends come over to see our new ducklings, goslings, and chickens. As they were coming at dinner time, we decided to combine forces and share a meal together, giving us that much more time to visit. It was nice. I made a potato soup and some black pepper scones and they brought a fabulous salad. They also brought their ten year old son, who, unbeknownst to me, is an up and coming gourmet chef.
I like to cook. I’m a good cook, too, for the most part. Hamburgers, chili, spaghetti, burritos… anything you can make out of a pound of ground beef, that’s my specialty. I never had any reason to doubt the quality of my kitchen skills. After all, my kids ate everything I made and even asked for more. From about age 12 on, they didn’t really care what they ate as long as there was a lot of it. Chris is also appreciative of my cooking, though he prefers to make chili himself and won’t let me touch the meatloaf.
As soon as Liam hit the kitchen, he was inspecting my soup, wanting to know exactly what I had put in it. He also carefully supervised as his father put together the salad, offering his advice from time to time. It was obvious that this was more than just a hungry boy.
I started to feel a wee bit nervous. It’s the same feeling I get when I make a meal for couple of friends of ours. Since I know that the husband is a gourmet cook, something will inevitably go wrong with whatever I am preparing so carefully. It’s also the feeling of panic I get when I think of making a meal for my cousin, Daniel, and his wife, Melissa. Daniel is married to Melissa Clark, who just happens to write food columns for the New York Times. She’s also written lots of cookbooks. She is truly a gourmet chef.
I’m a diner cook comparing myself to a five-star gourmet restaurant. I got to thinking about this after our dinner with Liam. What’s the difference between a gourmet restaurant and a diner, except that they have fabulous food cooked by chefs that have developed their talent into an art form? Besides the obvious, however, what else is different?
After careful research, I have found two basic differences. To explain, I will be a good teacher and use examples. We’ll start with coffee. At a diner, one can expect to pay no more than $1.50 for a cup of coffee. You want milk with that? No problem, milk is free. You just have to pour it in yourself. Sometimes you even get half and half in little plastic containers. At some diners, the coffee is just there, free with your meal, as much as you can drink. At a coffee shop (the five-star gourmet of coffee), you would never expect to pay under $3.00 for a small cup of coffee with milk. So, the first difference is price.
Using the coffee example again, one quickly notices the other difference. It is easy to order coffee in a diner. One need only nod when the waitress comes by with the coffee pot. If you must verbalize your order, one word is enough: coffee. At the gourmet coffee shop, you have a list of endless options. Do you want coffee with milk? You have to learn the language. Ask for a Cappuccino or a Café au Lait or a Macchiato. You might actually want to figure out what some of these names mean, if only to know how much milk they will be adding. You can instantly sound like a gourmet just by walking up to the counter and asking for a “Triple espresso macchiato”. This basically means a very strong cup of coffee with milk but it sounds much more impressive. So, the second difference is what the food is called. Any food sounds better with a foreign name.
Since the obvious and correct way of becoming a gourmet chef takes way too long, I kept these differences in mind as I prepared to give my cooking an attitude adjustment. I cannot start charging my family for their food, therefore the quickest way to becoming a gourmet cook will be to rename my dinners. Since we’re also on a new budget, I will be coming up with even more creative ways to use ground beef, potatoes, and, as a splurge, some chicken. We’ll probably be eating a lot of leftovers, too. “Leftovers” is not a proper name for a gourmet meal. I've got some work to do.
Where to start? I went to www.babelfish.yahoo.com. I decided that we’re going to have international gourmet meals from now on. With what I know to be excellent translations, I came up with the following menu items. They are particularly useful for those times when you are running low on your gourmet ingredients.
Geschmäcke mögen Huhn
Ceci et Celui
Le Fond du Baril
Sound good? Come over sometime and have some dinner with us. Afterwards we can sit down and have some Cioccolato Caldo with a generous helping of Crème d'Irlandais de Bailey.