Margaret and Dick   


August 2012: Gourmandise
  I didn’t know gourmand and gourmandise were English words until I looked them up just now.  Their meanings in French and English have interesting differences that are relevant to this rant about picky eating.  

In French, gourmand (or in feminine form gourmande) refers to a person who takes immoderate pleasure in food.  It doesn’t necessarily involve a great quantity of food, only great pleasure in the eating.   It has mostly positive connotations, although the word can be used with a slight tsk-tsk.  I am a gourmande of the first order and proud of it.  I’ve got plenty of company in France.  In America, not so much.

In English we more commonly use the word gourmet, which the English dictionary lists as a synonym of gourmand.  But in French these are two very different people:  gourmet implies a food snob who may require only the very finest, most expensive foods.  It would not necessarily be a compliment.  A gourmet, at heart, is a picky eater.
  Gourmandise originally referred to gluttony, but its meaning has evolved to the state of being a gourmand.  Some confusion remains, since the Catholic Church in France still lists gourmandise as one of the seven capital sins.  There is reportedly a movement to have the word replaced by gloutonnerie, which would no doubt be a comfort to the gourmands among the faithful.

Dining is like sex to me, and I’m resolved to get more discriminating in my choice of restaurant partners.  Dining with picky eaters is like having sex with somebody who doesn’t like sex:  you might be having fun – even a lot of fun – but in the back of your mind you’re aware of how much sweeter the experience could be.

  Having spent ten years in Eugene, Oregon, I can speak with authority about picky eaters.  We reached a tipping point somewhere between “only farm-fresh fertilized eggs from free-running hens” and “only bread made from freshly home-milled flour”.  We devised a self-scoring Food Trip Test, with grades ranging from “Welcome to our home.  We’re cooking up a feast!” to “Welcome to our home.  Please bring your own food.”  Eventually, happily, we moved to Atlanta.
  How many items are on your personal list of things you don’t eat?  For me there is only one, and unfortunately I forget the name of it.  It was a Korean restaurant in San Francisco, and the waiter begged me not to order it.  “It’s too strange.  You won’t like it.  Please don’t order it.”  I defiantly took the challenge.  We never did figure out what it was – from the sea, possibly a type of ray, composed mostly of cartilage – but I didn’t eat it.  In the case of Peruvian cuy (guinea pig), I admit I didn’t eat much – it looked so pathetic lying on its back with four paws sticking up into the air! – but I’m willing to give it another try, with more sauce next time.  In Nicaragua, Dick took a picture that he describes as “Margaret with a *%#$-eating grin” tucking into huevos de toro.  My glee was increased by watching my two male dining companions squirm as I provided narrative.  I suspect that picture will turn up at my funeral.
  I’m willing to cut a great deal of slack for some picky eaters, provided they don’t make me listen to the reasons.  I’m okay with religious or ethical limitations (pork, meat, …) or medically diagnosed allergies or intolerances (ubiquitous in America, rare in France).  I certainly respect the avoidance of alcohol for whatever reason.  I have no problem with your avoiding raw or undercooked foods for health reasons, but truly the disclaimers on the menu tell me all I need to know about it, thanks.  Indeed, I don’t care how picky you are so long as you lead me to believe you’re having as much fun at table as I am.

If your restriction involves any type of weight-loss diet, however, I’ve got two bits of bad news for you:  (1) it’s a boring topic, and (2) your hips are going to be a lot wider in a year.  Instead, consider taking a tip from the French:  pay more attention to the pleasure your food is giving you, and your body won’t crave satisfaction through volume.  

Which philosopher divided people into those who said “
oui” ou “non” to life?  No matter.  My own philosophy is that food attitudes are a window into broader attitudes toward life.  I have yet to meet a person who lustily embraces life in all its mayhem and uncertainty yet passes up Brussels sprouts.  Can’t happen.

Oh, the pictures?  A couple are from my cheese archives.  The low-resolution iPod pix are from last week’s gastrofest at
Le Parc Franck Putelat.  Bliss!  I could start all over again tonight.  Care to join us?

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