I have recently come to realize that I am what I’ve recently come to call “A Rank Food Amateur”.
The work ‘rank’ is actually quite an interesting one. Almost as though one’s state of ineptitude can, in fact, be categorized.
“Oh him? He’s totally an 8th level amateur. Can’t you tell by his scraggly beard and strange look of quiet , unwashed desperation? Also, he’s wearing a wizard’s hat, and seriously…who does that these days?”
Right now, at this very second, sitting across from me in the fancy-ish chain restaurant I happen to be sitting in, there is a girl who can’t be more than 8 or 9 years old – heartily tucking into a massive plate of steak tartar. With a similar expression I reserve for spectacular feats of cricketing prowess or the winner of a prize I was kinda not-so-secretly hoping to get, I’m watching this girl crack the raw egg into her raw steak and go to town like a crocodile goes to town on anything with a beating heart and a stupidly underdeveloped sense of mortality.
This girl scares the shit out of me, because at her age I thought olives were specifically shat out from the anus of the devil, that feta was its unholy bride, and that anything that wasn’t made by the King Pie corporation was to be viewed with a good deal of suspicion and mistrust. And here she is happily wolfing down a meal that even to this day requires me to have a certain level of tequila-fueled plucky bravado to order. This girl probably shovels down oysters by the unholy bucket-load at casual family gatherings and loudly prefers her pizzas Bianco because that’s how they have them in Rome and what does Debonairs know anyway the fucking savages.
This girl is not an amateur. She will no doubt eat at at least 4 of the world’s top 5 restaurants before her 25th birthday, whereas the closest I’ve ever gotten is eating a barbecue pork roll on the side of the road in a 10 km radius of the French Laundry. I once ate a packet of tomato flavored chips bought from a petrol garage, shoved in-between two slices of white bread with a can of creme soda, for breakfast.
And yet, I love to cook. I also love the reward of beautiful food, prepared by people who seriously know what the fuck they’re doing, and the resultant sensation of living that those sorts of experiences impart.
Which is how I’ve recently come to seriously mistrust myself as any kind of food authority – because ultimately one has to ask oneself – what on earth do I actually know? Sure I can fry some onions without setting myself on fire, I can generally cut a piece of meat without stabbing myself to death – but ultimately I feel like a wide-eyed moron in a world increasingly populated by 8 year-olds who would eat me up and shit me out on any given episode of Australian Masterchef.
It’s a weird thing to realize that being an enthusiast does not necessarily entitle one to be an authority. And a recent trip to San Francisco, and a special dinner I had there put together by the people at what started as a pop-up restaurant called Lazy Bear, pretty much definitively proved that I am generally pretty massively out of my depth when it comes to real food.
I can’t possibly remember the intimate details of that dinner, even though I can still pick out rubbishy little details like the pork dish was served with a brine of wild mushrooms that made me want to go sing tribal songs in the deep forest, that the scallop was like the most delicate blob of vaguely briny, creamy butter. There was butternut ice-cream and sego pudding and duck delicately wrapped in translucent cabbage, all punctuated by sauces that seemed inhuman in their delicateness and yet somehow simultaneously full of a frothy richness that could only have been generated by black magic.
I do however totally suggest you go find that 8 year old’s blog – because I’m sure it’s brilliant.