Essays

The Omnivore’s Hundred

The Omnivore’s Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten (I’ve used icons instead, and added an asterisk for the items I’m particularly fond of).
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

[Update: In response to the numerous questions his list raised, Andrew published an FAQ explaining the how, the why, and the wherefore.]

My list is below; I am missing 37 items, most of which I’d be happy to try if given the opportunity. There are a few that I wouldn’t rush to eat, but none that I couldn’t swallow if someone’s life, honor, and/or feelings were at stake.

And of course, if you don’t have a blog, you can still play along, with a good old pencil and some paper — care to share your results? And/or items you think should be added to, or removed from that list?

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On Hotel Breakfasts, and How Not to Have Them

Much has been written about plane food and its associated plights, but I don’t think enough ink has been devoted to the matter of hotel breakfasts. And as I get ready to embark on my book tour, the subject is very much on my mind.

Breakfast is, to me, the most intimate meal of the day, the one that you eat barefoot and in your pajamas, the one that eases the transition from your helpless, sleeping self to the person you are in the daytime and to the outside world. What you eat then says a lot about you: I have it on authority that Brillat-Savarin meant to write “You are what you eat for breakfast” (“Dis-moi ce que tu manges au petit déjeuner, je te dirai ce que tu es”) but the maxim had to be edited for space.

The challenges of hotel breakfasts

If you feel the same way, I’m sure you’ll agree that breakfast poses a serious challenge when you travel for work. Hotel breakfasts, even in nice hotels, make me want to cry — remember, we’re all children at breakfast — as I stand by the buffet, trying to identify the least unappealing items and more importantly, the most nutritious, so I won’t feel faint an hour later.

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Seven Breakfasts

Click here to read today’s entry.

War Ration Stamps

Tickets de Rationnement

[War Ration Stamps]

As if those two books my grandmother gave me weren’t fascinating enough, leafing through them unearthed other treasures, slipped between the pages over the years.

A yellowed advertisement for a bottled remedy called Le Contre-Coups de l’Abbé Perdrigeon (Abbot Perdrigeon’s back-kick), which will help you recover from heavy falls and blows, brain congestion, apoplexy, and will ease the pain from arthritis, rhumatisms, hypertension, and miscellaneous maladies de la cinquantaine, those ailments that hit you in your fifties.

An ugly promotional bookmark for the Larousse dictionary (“Le Larousse est toujours à la page”, the Larousse is always up-to-date). A torn little card from a rest home near Paris, Le Château de Grignon. A thin book with instructions on how to use a mysterious powdered binding agent called Zite, which purportedly replaced eggs, butter and oil in recipes. A scrap of paper on which my grandmother copied one of her (and my) favorite poems, Le Dormeur du Val.

And in an old envelope, faded strips of ration stamps from March and April 1946, allowing you to buy meat (90 grams per stamp) and fat (50 grams per stamp); the food rationing in France went on for four years after the end of World War II, until 1949.

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Childhood Food Memories

Nounours à la Guimauve

Yup, yet another food-related meme, for which I was tagged by both Pascale and Jacqueline. This one has you indulge in the reminiscence of five childhood food memories. Here are mine!

Les Nounours à la Guimauve
When we had a little pocket money my sister and I would drop by the boulangerie around the corner from school to buy candy. The display case was visible through the window so we would stand there for a little while trying to decide what to get, for once inside, the boulangère, paper bag in hand and an eye on the growing line of more worthy customers, had little patience for hesitant children. Malabars bi-goût (huge pink chewing-gums that made the coolest bubbles, the bi-goût variety having two flavors), chewy ribbons coated with acidulated sugar (red was my color of choice), edible necklaces, and my all-time favorite: the chocolate-covered marshmallow teddy bear, from which I would bite the head off first — quick painless death for the teddy bear. Maxence and I still buy them occasionally, whipping them out in the late hours of a party and watching everyone’s eyes open wide with childish gourmandise.

Le Poulet Rôti du Dimanche
For lunch on Sundays, my mother would often make her perfect roasted chicken, with sauteed potatoes and green beans. The chicken made plenty of juice, and the much-anticipated treat at the end of the meal was to soak it all up with pieces of fresh baguette. At some point though, my parents decided this wasn’t the healthiest thing you could feed your kids or yourself and we stopped doing it, but I still remember how we all gathered around the baking dish in the sun-drenched dining-room (it’s always sunny in my memory), expertly maneuvering our forks to get the wonderful caramelized bits and salty juices on the thin crunchy baguette.

Les Sandwiches au Nutella
My favorite breakfast for years on end was a Nutella sandwich. Two square slices of white bread would be toasted, one would be spread with the world’s most popular chocolate-hazelnut paste, the crusts would be sliced off and the whole thing cut in two rectangular halves. I loved it and can still feel the thick sensation of velvety chocolate sticking to the roof of your mouth while you chewed on the warm crunchy bread. It wasn’t very big really, but I had a small appetite and often couldn’t finish it. And instead of throwing it out, I had a habit of taking it back to my (very messy) room “for later”. The leftovers were promptly forgotten in the back of a shelf or inside my little desk, quietly getting stale until my mother discovered them days later.

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