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Flavour Guy: The inner, growling battle – to eat or not to eat

The theme of this issue is “fight the good fight and support the underdog.” Of course, underdog makes the Flavourguy think about what is under the dog – sauerkraut works, some ballpark mustard, relish on top. But what it really brings to mind is that there are always two of us at the table and the fight is about who wins: the knowledgeable eater who understands balanced diets or the gourmand, nudging that extra sparerib forward on the plate, putting a bit more gravy onto the mashed potatoes, enjoying the meal with yet another glass of wine while looking hungrily toward dessert. Hunger, if I am honest about this, has long been sated but there could still be something tasty that I should try.

In theory, there should not be a battle, but the “good fight” chez moi is personal.

As an adult I have supposedly mastered my impulses. I am in control of me. I pay my taxes. I am trustworthy as well as loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. My inner scout stands ready and, yet, when I need him most, he is usually somewhere else, far away from the table. Maybe he is sitting in an armchair in the living room learning Russian, mulling over an obscure chess gambit, or doing something equally inspiring, waiting for the rest of me to join him. Meanwhile, I am seriously considering in which order I should attack the cheese plate — cheddar of course, but then Brie before blue?

As an adult, I have also learned that indulgence has its own rewards. Things taste good. It would be sinful, perhaps reprehensible, to not enjoy what is before me. Someone has set a lovely table, the chef has gone to work, and the meal is brought out, thoughtfully, in courses. Then the other me steps forward and, before I lift a fork, urges me to consult Canada’s food guide. I know he will move along smartly, following another glass of wine.

Respected food writers have their own ways of dealing with this dilemma. Mark Bittman, who writes for the New York Times, claims that he is a vegan until 6 PM and then anything goes. Sounds virtuous, but then perhaps he doesn’t get up until late afternoon.

I am resolved that nothing is resolved. I am human. The fight will go on. My inner pendulum swings between restraint and resplendence, between ascetic and gourmand. I have learned that at 60 plus, I can no longer eat the way I did at 20 plus. There are no regrets. The days of steamies and fries at 4 AM are long gone and, while they were good days, yogurt for breakfast isn’t so bad. So I follow the pendulum and as the occasion presents itself, I indulge, look away, and happily dig in.

Quebec snow crab

Quebec snow crab is usually available through May. Here is a dish that works for both me and my inner scout. It is healthy, low in calories, locally produced and wonderfully delicious. Snow crab is a seasonal delicacy that would cost a fortune elsewhere. Here it is available pre-cooked and ready to bring home from the Atwater or Jean Talon Markets as well as supermarkets with good fresh fish counters. You can serve it either hot by putting it in boiling water for a few minutes, or, as we prefer, chilled right from the market. Crack the claws open at the table and draw out the meat with a thin metal fork.

Serve it, if you will, with a seafood sauce. Mix a couple tablespoons each of bottled white horseradish and ketchup with a quarter cup of mayonnaise. Add a squeeze of lemon and dashes of Tabasco and/or Worcestershire sauce to taste.

Serve this with a green salad, a fresh baguette and, of course, a glass (or three) of chilled white wine.

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