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The Fifty Things to Eat Before You Die

I read many food blogs, but The Traveler's Lunchbox is one of my favorites. Melissa, the author, created a truly great joint project today, and I'm taking the meme and running with it.

To me, the world of food is so big and so grand that any food that makes the cut for the Top 5 or even a Top 50 list should be truly a singular sensation. While it doesn't necessarily have to be rare or hard to get, it should have a trait that makes it uncommon or special, in my opinion.

  1. (Tie) I know it's cheating a bit, but I honestly couldn't decide between butter and garlic.

    Butter. There are people in the world whose native cuisines don't make much use of dairy. These people simply lack one of the most essential culinary descriptors I can think of: butter. It is a foundation of baking, of cooking, of ... it's just that important. Buttered popcorn. A buttery Chardonnay. Sweet French butter on warm, fresh bread. It's even more important than cheese, and for me to say that is truly saying something. It's a basic component of so many preparations that you simply must know what it tastes like in its unadulterated form in order to understand its contribution.

    Garlic. I honestly cannot imagine my life without garlic. What on earth would I have eaten? I don't think I can immediately recall a savory dish that my mother commonly made that didn't include it. It is a key component in my favorite Italian sauce, pesto. In addition to the aforementioned Italian, almost every cuisine in the world incorporates it: Greek cuisine, Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine ... from rustic peasant flavors to subtle hints in curries and stews, garlic is a near-universal seasoning.

  2. Cheese. If I ever reach the point where everyone I love is dead and then my doctor tells me that I can't have cheese anymore ... life will look pretty damned grim. There are things on this list that I feel people ought to eat, and this is surely one of them, but out of the list, I'm not sure that there's an item on it that I love more than cheese. Sheep's milk, goat's milk, cow's milk, I don't care -- bring on the umami of the aged Stilton, the tangy tartness of a chevre, the creamy richness of a Brillat-Savarin, and the sheer unctuous seduction of a Vacherin Mont d'Or. I could see myself all-too-easily in the shoes of this guy, jonesing for a Brie de Meaux fix. The heck with the Mary Jane: hook me up with some real cheese. I'll stop this paragraph before I get distracted by my envy of the French on this.

  3. Sushi. Everyone should try sushi at least once, and I do mean nigiri, not some tarted-up roll that completely masks the purity of what you're eating. Several of my other selections are often fussed over with sauces and enhancements: top-quality sushi is generally fairly unadorned. I list it because of the sheer variety within the category: just as cooked salmon doesn't taste like cooked mackerel, raw salmon doesn't taste like raw mackerel, or raw tuna, or raw octopus, or any number of other popular fish used for sushi. Each kind has its own sweetness, its own texture, and its own flavor contribution. The only thing that each has in common with the other is the preparation. I recommend eating "in the raw" at least once, and trying not to let preconceptions color the experience too much.

  4. Truffles. I'll be candid: there is something about the aroma of truffles that makes me go quite weak in the knees with arousal. Their sensual scent is that potent, and this dish is almost all about the nose. I truly believe that if the smell of a truffle is not in your olfactory memory bank, then your collection of known smells is simply not complete.

  5. (Tie) Foie gras and escargot.

    Foie gras. Vegetarian or carnivore, everyone should experience the texture and richness of foie gras, preferably prepared as a chilled terrine, at least once. There is nothing else quite like it. Uni, for me, approaches the texture, but the flavor is different.

    Escargot. Even when they aren't overcooked (as people are wont to do), these little gems are earthy, even a little mushroomy, but not quite like that. My husband says they taste like moss to him, although since he has never eaten moss, it seems rather an unfair statement. Sizzling in garlic butter, they have both a flavor and a texture that stands out.

Those are my five (technically seven) for today (I can't find a way to decently wedge in artichokes). They're pretty much all savory (although butter and cheese straddle the line), and I'm okay with that. I hope that some of the culinarily-minded among you will feel inspired to post your five, and why you believe a person should experience them.

Beverages are a whole 'nother post for another time.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 22nd, 2006 04:10 am (UTC)
This is going to be difficult
I will give it some consideration, and we'll see if I can't come up with something.
Aug. 28th, 2006 05:21 am (UTC)
Re: This is going to be difficult
*poke* It's been a week. Less consideration, more posting. :) *winks*
Aug. 29th, 2006 02:40 am (UTC)
Re: This is going to be difficult
Ok, ok . . . I'll do my best to post something
Aug. 22nd, 2006 11:43 am (UTC)
Great list! I'm happy to say I've had them all, and with the exception of escargot (I just couldn't get what all the fuss was about...) heartily agree with everything you say. Thanks for contributing!

Aug. 29th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
Thank you so very much for coming by! I really appreciate you taking the time to visit. *smiles*
Aug. 22nd, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC)
food is amazing
as for your tie for number one... you truly could consider garlic a type of butter - you know, roast it till it is spreadable and mild and yummy.

the only things on your list I have not tried is the last two tied items. some day it'll get done though, just to try it at least.
Aug. 28th, 2006 02:37 am (UTC)
Top 5 - hmmm....that's difficult!! Artichokes are definately in it and I whole-heartedly agree on garlic!! Your whole list is great and now I'm craving sushi and truffles - not together, but 2 things I love and haven't eaten in a long time. Gonna have to think about my top 5 now....
Aug. 28th, 2006 09:06 pm (UTC)
I was catching up on LJ and blog posts from a couple of weeks in NYC1 and just re-read through the list of picks on Traveler's Lunchbox. I must say that the Guardian List she linked to is ok, but disappointingly European in its focus. Like, seriously, OK - OK - OK, there's a lot of heavenly French and Italian food that should be eaten before one dies, but Japan only rates a mention for noodles and freakin' blowfish? No mention of fresh sushi from Tsukiji? No mention of Kobe beef? No mention of the lavishness of a Chinese banquet and two day Peking duck? bah ... I say ...

my list:
  1. A porterhouse at Peter Luger -- the Luger family has historically had first dibs with many of the distributors who work in the New York meatpacking district, and this privilege shows in the quality of their beef. It's the richest, tastiest meat that I have ever eaten, and their plates are still the standard by which I judge other steaks.

  2. Grilled wild caught trout in British Columbia - must be done on a fire with cedar chips. Must be done in the open air, on a beach or near a riverbank surrounded by ancient fir trees and an evening sky dimming to reveal the Milky Way overhead

  3. A Filipino mango -- picked fresh off the tree, and so ripe that the juice dribbles down your chin.

  4. Dinner at Taillevent -- I've eaten at the French Laundry, done portions of what the Guardian calls the Grand Tour (Troisgros, Bocuse, Ducasse) and also done the whole duck l'orange at The Tour D'Argent thing, but Taillevent is still, to me, the best meal that I have ever had.

  5. a year of eating from a CSA farm share -- hook yourself into the cycle of the world and the seasons that are attached to the food we eat.

oh, and word to Nigella's recommendation that everyone should joint a chicken at least once in their lives. It's so satisfiyingly .... predatory.

1 (and, yeah, nothing helps 'recalibrate' one's expectations for good food than a week of dinners in Manhattan that can be ultimately be billed to someone else)
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


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