Thursday, November 12, 2009

"If You Have To Eat It Like A Bear, It's Trashy" (unless it's dungeness crab, that is)

OK, so apparently I'm a food snob. That and the title of this entry are what were derived from a recent conversation with Jason, in the depths of deep discussion about barbecue. I am not a fan. I just do not understand what all of the hype is about. Barbecue is sort of a phenomenon in our country; one that millions of restaurants, cookbooks, chefs, contests, events and entire lives are completely dedicated to. People have what I believe are abnormally strong feelings about barbecue. Even though I'm not a connoisseur, I fully understand that insulting someone's baby back ribs, or even simply not displaying an adequate amount of enthusiasm for them, is basically the same as punching out their grandmother. You just don't do it.

But to me, barbecue is this: nauseatingly sweet, smoky, sticky, tiny shreds of meat that are often very chewy, yet not really chewable, and are attached to a bone that is larger than all of the meat put together. Not only do I not like the taste, but there's a lot of labor involved! It's not that I'm afraid to get messy, but that the taste of the food to blame better be worthwhile. And with barbecue, it's just not.

In my opinion, the only time a functional adult should be wearing a bib is if you have the rare pleasure of dining on dungeness crab, which was pulled from the crab pot in Hood Canal four hours earlier, cracking the shells with specially made tools or pliers or a hammer or whatever else you've got on hand that can speed up the process of obtaining some of that precious meat, just so that you can dip it into melted butter with minced garlic.

Okay, so maybe I am a food snob. But if I am, it's not my fault. I have just been exposed to some really remarkable food!

As a child, we spent many Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends creating so many memories with the dearest of family friends at their cabin on Hood Canal. We would drive their Boston Whaler out a ways from the shore so that we could plunge the crab pot down into the saltwater, the center filled with "Stinky Chicken," the bait of choice in the area. After a few hours of waterskiing and intertubing in the sun or the rain, we would zip back to the buoy, our hopes high, to check if those underwater creatures had doomfully been allured by the trap. If we had captured our prize, we would pluck them out of the pot, careful not to get pinched, and later feast on the fruits of our lazy labors. As a child, I thought we were hunters.

During those luxurious holidays, the freshest of crabs was not the only delight I experienced. Fresh clams, mussels, oysters, salmon; these were all frequent menu items. And that's just the seafood. We would spend hours together in the kitchen, dancing and singing to Bruce Stringsteen, CCR and Stevie Ray Vaughan, preparing enormous breakfasts and dinners. Lunch was usually skipped, for we were all still full from the morning and had no time to interrupt water sports, chatting, reading, playing games, watching movies for the hundredth time, doing puzzles, painting, building furniture, assembling "candle boats" for that night's race in the pond, fishing and napping. We might put together a quick appetizer in the late afternoon and we might get to dinner around eight.

On those mini vacations that slipped by too quick, I learned infinite lessons; how to waterski, that I enjoy jigsaw puzzles, the entire script to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, how to respectfully discuss controversial topics with others whose views are different than my own, that I love dancing, how to form and develop lifelong friendships, and how to create irreplaceable, magical memories. And I also began learning how to cook.

And so, yes, perhaps it was the beginning of my food snobbery. But I will happily accept that flaw knowing that I also acquired many skills. As we enter the holiday season, I am grateful that I learned so much from four of the most amazing teachers that a child could ever try to emulate, so that I can now organize and create special times for my family and friends, including some really great food.