I’ve noticed lately that some people talk about food the way others talk about sex. I find this fascinating. Often these food lovers aren’t portly, as one might expect, but skinny wisps of boys and girls a stronger gust of wind could knock right out of their socks. They have hungry eyes at every dinner party, and can’t concentrate on any conversation, no matter how interesting or relevant it may be. “Your car is being towed,” you might say to one of them right before dinner is served. “Sure, sure,” they’ll respond, waving you off while their nostrils flare at the smell of roasted chicken and baked potatoes coming out of the kitchen. They can eat more than anyone’s fat alcoholic uncle, and will finish every meal by saying, “This is the best (insert whatever) I’ve ever eaten!”If you allow such a person to become a close personal friend, one that comes over at will and at all times of day and/or night, you will soon notice that your fridge is constantly in need of replenishment and that your wallet is getting thinner by the day. This type of person will eat anything in sight. Anything that isn’t trying to run away, that is. Anything from those two dry cookies sitting on your coffee table since last July, to the blue mystery blob in the back of your fridge only a team of highly trained crime scene investigators could identify as a particular substance once known as cheese. They’ll eat it, they’ll like it, it’ll be the best thing they’ve ever tasted, and then they’ll ask if you’ve got anything else they could munch on while they’re waiting for dinner.
When not busy stuffing his/her face with anything edible you can provide, this type of person loves to talk about eating. Try talking to these food addicts about politics, sports, or this morning’s traffic jam. They’ll listen to you inattentively, all the time sniffing the air and screwing their eyes in the direction of your oven. And then they’ll tell you all about the risotto they ate last Thursday, which was (of course) the best they’d ever eaten. They’ll tell you about the chocolate cake served at a mutual friend’s wedding, the richest, most succulent piece of sweetness ever to have passed human lips. They’ll tell you about the creamy mushroom soup their grandmother made for them every day back in 1996; the creamiest, mushroomiest soup ever to be slurped on the planet Earth. They’ll tell you about everything they’ve ever eaten, where, how, and with whom. So prepare to take some notes.
This kind of person is obsessed with food. They think about it all the time. They dream about it at night. If you happen to be sitting next to one of them on the bus as you make your morning commute, you’ll notice they just can’t help making every kind of eating sound, from regular chewing to chomping, slurping, gurgling, and the always popular lip smacking. No, they’re not being purposely annoying. And, no, they’re not just enjoying the taste of fresh morning air. They’re actually daydreaming about all the food they’ll inhale before you get around to eating your ridiculous breakfast of two cups of coffee and one small energy bar.
And, oh, yes, I forgot to mention that this person is that exasperating office mate you work with, the same one who eats a bag of pretzels or potato chips like he’s grinding through an entire roasted pig. The same person known for tipping the bag over his head, just so those last few crumbs stuck on the bottom don’t go to waste. The same guy who loves to lick his finger when he thinks you aren’t looking, and then giving that empty bag one last and very thorough sweep. Salt! Best thing he ever ate.
This type of person has the ability to bore everyone with at least one functioning ear about thousands of recipes they wish they could one day work through. Oh, yes, and Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” is their favorite book ever! If only they could quit their job and go live in a remote part of southern France where they could spend the rest of their days trying out all 246 varieties of French fromage. Oh, if only they could…
Well, I am not that person. So here’s my favorite meal.
Boil two cups of regular tap water, add a generous blob of butter, a pinch of salt and a splash of milk. Stir. Take whatever portion of bread you have left over from two or three days ago (crusts welcome) and cut it up into bite-sized cubes. Add to the boiling liquid. Stir. Stir. Stir some more. You’ll know when it’s done. Trust me, you’ll know.
We call this popara. You can call it what you like. It’s my most satisfying meal.
Take that, fancy expensive French restaurants!