Philosophical Food Questions
July 17, 2011
A fellow foodie posed an interesting, and surprisingly difficult question during lunch several weeks ago. What would you choose for your last meal? (insert your theoretical reason for said last meal here) It could obviously be a decadent meal you normally don’t let yourself have, dishes that have always been your favorites, or something that is difficult to find or too expensive to have often. My other friend had an immediate answer – ceviche with a huge dessert to finish. The friend asking the question said that his was, without a doubt, Thanksgiving dinner. But I found that I couldn’t come up with an answer. I countered with one of my favorite theoretical food questions – if you could only eat the cuisine of a single country for the rest of your life (and it cannot be your native country), what would you pick? You can eat food from the whole country. One answer was India, one was France, but France wavered when I indicated that Italy was my choice. Wikipedia lists 19 different regional cuisines in Italy. There are French, Greek, Arabic, and German influences to name a few. Aside from the obvious pasta, there is a great variety of meats, fish, vegetables and fruits. Such a panoply of delectable items: risotto, gnocchi, ravioli, lasagna, fettucini, rice, polenta, pizza, a bevy of cheeses, artichokes, eggplant, mushrooms, capers, nuts, olive oil, truffles, garlic, saffron, basil, oregano, tiramisu, and cannoli. Both espresso and cappucino are Italian. The Slow Food movement started in Italy. And for wine lovers, Italy is the largest producer of wine in the world. But I digress…
Back to the last meal question. I still didn’t have an answer by the end of the day. My husband thought about it for a few minutes, and then decided that he might go with a pasta dish, perhaps even just freshly made spaghetti with marinara, as sometimes the most fulfilling meal can be something simple prepared with the best ingredients. While Italy would be my choice for perpetual one-country eating, I couldn’t think of anything in particular that satisfied the last meal scenario. Then it finally came to me, without a doubt – Middle Eastern food. I would have gyros, shawarma, marinated chicken, falafel, pitas, hummus, baba ghanoush, tzadziki, hot sauce (I find that all five of the first items are good when dipped in and/or covered in the last four), tabbouleh, couscous, and pitas. And to finish, of course, baklava. There is just something about eating this type of food that makes me feel energetic and happy. I’m not sure what it is – maybe the bold flavors? Garlic, the rich, warm spices, lemon juice, marinated meat. Or maybe it’s the variety of textures. The creaminess of the hummus and baba ghanoush, the coolness of the tzadziki, warm and tender chicken or shawarma, crispy falafels, and the slight chewiness of the bulgur in the tabbouleh. Whatever it is, the meal always feels more interactive, since I am always dipping bits into something else, and I always feel like I’ve had a feast, even if it has just been an unplanned stop at Falafel King on Pearl Street.
So – what would your last meal choice be?