So what’s with all the food competitions these days? I look at the food network on TV and most of what I see is competition type shows. Iron Chef, Cupcake Wars, Cutthroat Kitchen and the list goes unfortunately on. Don’ get me wrong, I love competition in sports, business, or war but food? I think they are all missing the point; food isn’t about competition it’s about love.
This occurred to me a couple weeks ago while I was sitting in a barbeque competition destroying a Sunday I’ll never get back because I was asked to sit on a panel of judges critiquing barbecued meats. I’m no professional, but I love to cook and I love to eat, and I don’t get many complaints from my kitchen, but it felt funny listening to this panel of judges act like cooking brisket is purely a mechanical, scientific act, and that their singular opinion was really that important. Half of the judges were “certified” BBQ judges and the other half were “celebrity” judges. Neither of the titles completely fit. After quizzing most of the “certified” judges I found out that a number of them had no culinary background. They just liked to travel around eating free barbeque. No offense to them, they were nice people, and they certainly have the right to their hobby, but it was a little agitating listening to them berate perfectly good barbeque. There wasn’t a single entry that was less than wonderful.
Some dear friends of mine have a bumper sticker that says “Love Someone…Feed Them Good Food. It is stuck to the door of their refrigerator-not the main kitchen fridge, but the one in the garage next to the chest freezers full of wagyu ribeyes, deer, elk, and antelope loins, quail, pheasant, salmon, tuna, crawfish, and all sorts of other delectable treats. I’ve never left their table without feeling the love and I think of that bumper sticker when I’m feeding and entertaining family and friends. I also think of it when I watch Anthony Bourdain and his food shows.
Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.
Anthony Bourdain Anthony Bourdain
I should say here that Mr. Bourdain is truly one of my favorite public personalities, of which there are very few. And with the exception of The Taste, which is thankfully no longer running, and I have attributed to a momentary lapse forced on him by some executive or agent, his shows are as much about culture and love as they are food.
I’d love to have Bourdain spend a week with me procuring and cooking and eating good food. Or how about Andrew Zimmerman who would embrace my fried trout with the heads on, and eat “French fried” whole anchovies or smelt, urchins and limpets picked from the rocky seaside near my home, or drink the buttery broth out of the backs of Dungeness crab with my eleven year old daughter. How can you judge within the realm of good food anyway? No palate is exactly the same as the next, and besides, what’s to gain?
I’m quite sure that Bourdain and Zimmerman would love most of the creations from my kitchen that I put in front of them. Why not enjoy them rather than judge them. It may not be there personal favorite but they’d feel the love. And after all, isn’t that what food is all about?