When you give something up for dietary purposes, there is bound to be regret and sadness. You're going to miss it, you're going to reminisce about it, and you're going to do whatever you can to safely recall the taste, trying to get as close to the original experience as you can.
You'll even lie to yourself about what you're actually eating.
Chef David Tamarkin raised quite the kerfuffle earlier this week when he created something he called "Bread Steak," which is "a parmesan-crusted chunk of sourdough (bread)."
Tamarkin gave up eating beef for environmental reasons, which is commendable. The natural resources that go into producing beef, especially in Brazil and Argentina, are numerous. Giving up beef for that reason is very noble and self-sacrificing.
But as he wrote in a recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine, "Sometimes, I wanted a slab of something absolutely lavish in the center of my plate—and for whatever reason, a cauliflower steak just wasn't going to cut it."
No. Just no.
|That's not a steak. THIS is a steak!|
Cauliflower can be served any number of ways. But not as a lie.
Tamarkin continued his blasphemy by saying: "Instead, my carnivore's palate led me to the Bread Steak. A custard-soaked, Parmesan-crusted chunk of sourdough—essentially savory French toast—that really is decadent in the vein of a rib eye. It's fatty. It's salty. And if you do it right, it's downright meaty."
Congratulations, you invented the grilled cheese sandwich.
That paragraph is one of the worst lies ever foisted on an unsuspecting public, and that's saying something after the last four years.
Just because something is fatty and salty doesn't make it a steak. Potato chips are fatty and salty, but we don't call them "potato steaks."
Plus, if something is fatty, salty, and heavy with cheese, that's pizza. Which is still not a steak.
Tamarkin says he'll prepare cheese sandwiches for a snack, but if he's going to have it for dinner, he'll "pile it high with raw vegetables," including tomatoes, snap peas, pickled shallots, and raw zucchini.
Congratulations, you invented the salad.
I didn't think it could be done, but you took something that was definitely not a steak and somehow managed to make it even less of a steak.
It's like you told me a piece of watermelon was cake but then turned it into diet watermelon. And then sprinkled on green beans and called them frosting.
And another thing, stop calling food "decadent." Especially something that is decidedly un-decadent, like cheesy bread. It couldn't even be decadent is if it starred in "Eyes Wide Shut."
Don't project your puritanical value judgments on food. Calling food "decadent" smacks of emotional prudishness, like you're one low-fat salad dressing away from saying, "Nothing good ever happens after midnight."
Food isn't naughty or sinful. It may taste awesome. It may be bad for you. It may even cause cardiologists to clutch their pearls and search for their fainting couches.
Just because you still eat dessert with the lights off after your parents have gone to sleep doesn't mean the rest of us should be shamed for appreciating food. This isn't "Beefer Madness."
Enjoying food is one of the beautiful, most natural experiences humans can have. In fact, we're the only species that eats for pleasure.
But we're taught to hide our hunger and to be ashamed of it, even as we gaze longingly at a piece of apple pie, ogle juicy burgers on thick buns, or fantasize about a bowl of ice cream.
Instead, society shames people who love food, causing us to hide our enjoyment from family and friends, stealing away for a little chocolate or a hamburger, just to slake our lust for a taste of what so many people are afraid to enjoy.
By calling food "decadent" and "indulgent," we relegate it to something sinful and forbidden.
Look, I don't have a problem with vegetarians. Some of my best friends are vegans. And I can respect the lifestyle and the choices they made. They've given up chicken wings, pizza, hamburgers, and bacon. Do you know how much willpower it takes to give up bacon?
They can eat and not eat whatever they want, and they don't need me to tell them that they're missing out or to make fun of their choices.
But I will not tolerate lies and misrepresentations. If David Tamarkin wants to eat fried cheesy bread, that's fine. It actually sounds delicious, and I want to make it this weekend.
Because no amount of lying will change what it is. It's cheesy bread; it's not luscious, decadent, lavish, or sinful.
And it's certainly not a steak any more than my phone is a home theater system.
Photo credit: DanielHallPresentsDotCom (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)
Kindle version here or the paperback version here.