Saturday, July 9, 2011

On restaurants

On holiday in Montenegro there was more opportunity to ponder the purpose of restaurants.

They undoubtedly save you from cooking and can be located in beautiful locations where the view can compensate for their usual failure to cook as well as you can.  They may be able to cook in more complex ways but complexity may not be the route to the best food.

They can give you the opportunity to learn new recipes (or tricks from recipes) and try the unfamiliar. For example, Andrei got his first taste, and experience of eating, lobster (at a price) in Montenegro but rarely do they manage to justify their expense by actually providing a truly memorable meal. The closest I came on this holiday were the local variety of mussels (that preceded the lobster), they were delicious and subtly different from the 'normal' mussels that we consumed in great (and inexpensive) number.

A tally of memorable meals is a rather short tally given the actual number and more often than not does not focus on the food rather than the ambiance, company and location (singularly or in combination).

Food is prominent only occasionally - a tasting menu in Washington, the fish in a square in Copenhagen and a blueberry and lavender soup at a Shaker museum in New Hampshire come immediately to mind. 

What does make home cooking different?

Simplicity I think for one and that the ingredients are usually fresh, and freshly cooked. Also, the intangible qualities of a known cook and a place that is your own (either directly or through your host); and, you hope the company (of which known people have control): a 'quiet' lunch at one restaurant in Montenegro became broken by an Australian of Serbian extraction loudly imparting to his table and beyond parts of his wholly unexceptional life history!

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