Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day.
Three holidays that are meant for outdoor barbecuing, right?
Whenever a situation arises for me to barbecue, I jump at the chance. I’m the dorky kid in class, raising their hand, desperately wanting the teacher to call on:
Me! Me! Me! Me!
So this past Labor Day, I found myself with the opportunity to barbecue for some of my favorite people in good ole Kalamazoo, MI. Which is a fine town, by the way. Any town that has Bell’s Brewery, is a fine town in my book. All weekend long, I kept getting asked what I was going to make for everyone:
Sassy Pants Girl: Have you thought about what you are going to make on Labor Day?
The Epicurean: No.
Sassy Pants Girl: Why not? Labor Day is tomorrow.
The Epicurean: I haven’t really thought about it yet.
Sassy Pants Girl: But everyone is wondering what you are going to cook. You don’t have a menu in mind?
The Epicurean: I’ll come up with something when we get to the grocery store.
That’s usually how it goes for me when it comes to cooking: I go to the grocery store and throw things together. So when it came time to eat all of the deliciousness, Emily piped up and asked me a pretty profound question:
Emily: Do you consider this fancy food?
The Epicurean: No.
And that was a pretty quick NO, as I knew that the food I prepared for everyone wasn’t fancy in my opinion. Grilled chicken, skirt steak, corn on the cob and knob onions? Fancy? No way! How could this be fancy to people?
After deliberating in my head for a few hours, the juxtaposition of what was normal to me and fancy to others, I came to the realization that “fancy food” is different for everyone. Growing up, “fancy” to me was The Rusty Pelican in Newport Beach, CA, which is the equivalent of Tavern on Rush here in Chicago. These days, a place like Maude’s Liquor Bar or Avec is a normal weekly meal in my life. For a lot of people, like Sue, it’s the best meal she has ever had. Life ceased to exist for her as she was eating that delicious dry-aged rib eye, bone marrow and truffle gnocchi. I’m right there with you Sue.
Everyone has different ideas and thoughts when it comes to food and eating. Some people view eating as merely a necessity to survive, or an act to provide nourishment to the body. Others view eating as a visceral experience – to become one with the food and wine that they are consuming. Isn’t that the definition of a foodie?
I like the fact that when I cook for people like Sue and Emily, they get a rush of exhilaration from food that I experience on a daily basis. They both love food so much, but I gather that their exposure to the nuances of great food is limited. Why? Probably because of where they live and the fact that food is a necessity, and not an experience. However, I think just as important, the reason they don’t see food as being an epiphanous experience is because they haven’t been exposed to people who see it as more than just nourishment.
So when I go to work, and I am talking to a people who are clearly nervous about being in our restaurant, I immediately think of Sue and Emily. It very well may be their first time in a fine dining restaurant. They could be the couple that is visiting from somewhere in middle America, and a place like ours don’t exist in their world. It’s not an environment they are used to, but they are willing to explore and experiment – they just don’t know what to do next. And they are EXCITED! For those of us in this great business of ours, it’s an opportunity to bring them into our world: what we love so much, and WHY we love it so much. More importantly, it’s a chance to show them how simple and easy it is to enjoy good food. It doesn’t matter how many Michelin stars you have in your pocket; what matters is that we remember that those guests are new to our lifestyle. They are just like us and want to eat good food.