Tuesday, September 21, 2010


It's been a while since I've posted here because I've been so wonderfully busy with work, school, and my beautiful wife and daughter, but this past weekend, we took a break from life by visiting my aunt and uncle on Catalina Island.

We had a great time, but that's not what this post is about. This post is about eating... not so much the food that we ate, but the style of eating that my family partakes in. I think that modern Americans have lost something very significant in the hurried style of guilty eating that seems to be the norm. Spending time with my family, eating meals like my grandparents ate remided me that there is a whole lot more to a meal than flavor (not that there was any shortage of that).

A truly excellent meal is not only about eating good food, but it is about creating the right atmosphere and mood to enjoy that food properly. First and foremost, I believe that each person who is going to eat the meal should take some part in creating it, and should taste and sample liberally along the way. To me, the most important aspect of this is that it helps to build anticipation, and gets the proper mood started. The more work that goes in, and the longer the meal takes to prepare, the greater the excitement and anticipation will be.

Once the meal is well on its way in the kitchen, an apertif should be enjoyed. This gets the digestive system started, loosens tension, and sets the mood for a relaxed, liesurely meal. My favorite so far is Crema di Limoncello...

A little while after the cooking, sampling, and apertif have taken place, the meal can finally begin. There are four elements to the meal that I think are important. 1) The flavor needs to live up to the anticipation that has been building. Simplicity and freshness usually accomplish this 2) There should be at least three dishes 3)There needs to be an endless supply of french bread for dipping. 4) There needs to be at least one dish that can be eaten with the hands. A fork and knife do not allow the proper level of intimacy with your food, and you have to eat something with your hands to really get in the spirit of a good meal. The main portion of the meal should be liesurely and relaxed and there should be far too much food for anyone to finish.

Following the main meal, its always a good idea to serve fruit and/or nuts. Fruit and nuts are light and refreshing, and will eliminate the heaviness that comes with an extravagant meal. Again, liesure is key. Everyone should lounge around the table, picking at the fruit as they desire.

Following the fruit, coffee and dessert are essential. The dessert should be simple and not overly rich or heavy. The coffee should be strong. This would also be a good time for a digestif or after dinner liquer to further aid with digestion.

A meal like this, if done in the right spirit, should take at least an hour to eat. Be prepared - an after-meal nap is pretty much inevitable.

Now, I know that this whole thing sounds crazy and excessive, but in reality, it is not. Just because the meal is extensive does not mean it is unhealthy. Fresh, natural ingredients are key. Also, a meal like this is best served in the late afternoon so that only a very light dinner (if anything) is needed afterward.

I think everyone should give a meal like this a chance. It is probably something best done on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but I guarantee that eating a meal the way my grandparents ate will leave you feeling whole and happy through and through.