Aside from bicycling on the beach for the past three months, our next greatest enthusiasm has been eating. This is a dangerous admission as it may engage the frequently unflattering comparison of “gourmet” and “gourmand”:
“Gourmet, a French borrowing meaning ‘a connoisseur of food and drink, a person of discriminating palate,’ is much more in use in English today than its compatriot, gourmand, which sometimes means ‘a big eater and drinker,’ or even ‘a glutton,’ and sometimes simply ‘a heartier sort of gourmet.’ Gourmet has become a cliche for anyone with pretensions to good taste in food and drink, and the adjective today often describes any cook or any eatery thought to be better (perhaps) than indifferent. Gourmand is fading; gourmet is overused.”
(Kenneth G. Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. Columbia University Press, 1993)
I believe however we have erred on the side of gourmet rather than gluttony. In fact my inclination is that we have had superb meals during our winter stay here and that it is the excellence of those meals not the abundance of food which distinguishes them. I am almost astonished that I am saying so as it isn’t something I had even remotely anticipated. It is perhaps arguable that the observation is nothing more than an admission of the adage, “The best sauce for any meal is an appetite“. Because we’ve normally bicycled 2 to 3 hours a day on the beach en plein air, and because we customarily have only breakfast before taking our evening meal (with nothing in between), we unquestionably have an eagerness when it comes to putting on the nosebag. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had lunch (usually fresh fish at a local beanery called Sea Shack) and we have so sated our appetite that the evening meal (if any at all) is by comparison a mere scrap. I say this in defence of our sylph-like figures!
Until recently we preceded the evening meals with hors d’oeuvres. Initially the starters were standard things like cheese and crackers, smoked oysters, pickled herring and sour cream, that sort of thing. Occasionally we succumbed to exotic potato chips. Subsequently we switched to crudités, exclusively pieces of raw carrots, red and green pepper shards, sliced radishes and celery sticks (for a brief period festooned with cream cheese and anchovy), black olives (initially pitted but latterly with the pit still in because they were better) and occasionally some tasty multigrain rice crackers with sea salt. We’ve had oysters on the half shell but only when rarely dining out. The appetizer custom has dwindled with the contemporaneous decline of the cocktail preprandial. There is a reason those who cling to good clean living regularly dine before seven o’clock – there’s nothing else to do!
As for the main event, we’ve generally had crab cakes (most places here offer prepared crab cakes which are universally delicious), filet mignon (we have yet to have a disappointing cut of Angus beef), fresh Alaska salmon and of course pasta dishes, hot dogs and hamburgers. The accompanying vegetables have been asparagus and potatoes (white or sweet), sometimes mixed veggies of cauliflower, broccoli, onion and peas. Very recently we’ve opted for a mixed grill of beef, bacon and sausage accompanied by a very reliable cole slaw from Harris Teeter. On rare occasions we’ve had a pizza.
The desert menu is as ritual as breakfast, at least for my part. I cannot report what His Lordship prepares for breakfast as I am not awake at that hour – anything from 4:00 – 8:00 a.m. I have a set menu for breakfast: a bowl of fresh fruit (sliced banana, orange wedges and black berries), black coffee, two eggs “over easy”, ham or roast beef slices, cheese of some description (anything from Laughing Cow to Roquefort) and cherry tomatoes, followed by a bowl of upscale granola (with all the really tasty and fattening things in it). My dessert menu is a bowl of fresh fruit with Greek yoghurt (sometimes sprinkled with either raw almonds or walnuts or a bit of that granola, and perhaps drizzled with organic honey on a good day, assuming we have any honey left which we don’t at the moment). His Lordship prefers something more elegant for desert – like Whoopie Pie or fancy cookies. Very early in our tour we stocked magnum jars of Nutella which literally evaporated. Oh my but it was good!
Naturally no description of food is complete without an account of what is happening in the kitchen. Here I confess total ignorance. While some would hasten to call me spoiled (as I have escaped KP duty) I prefer to soften the reprisal by suggesting that I selflessly relinquish my entitlement to such participation by deferring to those who derive the greatest meaning and spiritual nourishment from the experience. Add to this the much revered proverb about too many cooks and the broth, and there you have it!