As I’ve said before, I love food. LOVE. So, I am often asked the Stand By Me question: If you could only have one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Or some variation thereof… Last meal? Favorite food? Food you’d like to be able to eat as much of as you want without gaining weight or getting full? And my favorite – which was inspired by the movie Strange Brew (yeah, I said that) – if you had to eat your way out of a vat of food, what would you want it to be?
And while all of these questions are fun, I have no idea how to even begin to narrow it down. There are sooo many options. I mean, even to narrow by cuisine is almost impossible to imagine.
However, in the spirit of the questions… I can easily say that Italian food is not my favorite. I love parts of it, but on the whole, I’m never going to say to anyone, “Hey, I could really go for some Italian.” On the other hand, I am quite apt to suggest French or Thai or Vietnamese – which in some places includes some French food.
Aside from the raw fishes, Japanese food doesn’t do much for me. Tempura and teriyaki can go to hell. Indian food is delicious, but often a bit weighty, so that’s also low on the list. Dim sum – good dim sum - is definitely in my top 10, but all the regular Chinese food is disposable to me. Ethiopian food is excellent and has to be considered. Korean food is good, but aside from kim chi, which I love, it’s nothing special to me.
I’m going to lump Eastern European food together because a lot of it is quite similar. And cream-laden. Which is always a good thing. However, again, the weight of this food in my stomach makes it somewhat less than tantalizing. So while I find it delectable, it isn’t practical for everyday use. For me. Eastern Europeans do just fine with it. Well, except I’ll keep pierogis on the table.
This brings us to Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food. It’s kind of a generic term, but the food is all yummy. Falafel? Yes, please. Hummus? Of course. Stuffed grape leaf? Absolutely! And roasted, spiced meats of all varieties? Without question. You see how this is a problem for me… Persian cuisine is also delightful – the tadig especially.
Spanish food is a favorite of mine, but hard to come by unless you count tapas bars. But paella is one of the loveliest tasting foods around.
I’ve left the bulk of African cuisines untouched because I have limited experience with them. Jamaican food is overrated as far as I’m concerned. Mexican food is in my blood and is comfort and joy to me. Irish food is also in my blood, but I can’t say I have the same affinity for corned beef and cabbage that I do for tostadas and tamales. And then there are the South American nations, most of whose cuisine I have never sampled, so they’re out.
There. I can narrow if I think about it a little. As long as I’m not legally bound to anything I’ve just written.
So for the Stand By Me question: One food for the rest of my life – it could be phò. The broth is like crack to me. All the simmering clove-y awesomeness with the thirsty noodles soaking up flavor... I can eat a powerful lot of soup noodles. Nice thin slices of beef, bean sprouts and scallions to add crunch, lime to brighten it up, a meatball or two, the fragrant basil and/or mint, and bird’s eye chilies. Mmm. So yeah. I’ll go with that.
For the last meal, I have to go with the Fat Duck. I’ve never been there, but it’s supposed to be one of the best dining experiences on earth and Heston Blumenthal has the guts to put snail porridge on the menu. I’m in. Go out with a bang.
As to my favorite food, I’d have to say it’s foie gras. Followed closely by butter. Followed closely by crepes.
I’d like to be able to eat everything without gaining weight or getting full, but if I have to reserve this honor for one food (Hear me food Genie? I’m only asking for one thing!) it would be dim sum. Oh dear god, how I love the ritual and variety of dim sum. Garlicky spareribs! Pan fried bao! Soup dumplings! Chicken feet! Jellyfish! Leek noodle! Spicy pork noodle! Pea shoots! Morning glory! Crispy duck roll! I want to taste it all every time!
Okay, now for the last one. It’s the one that takes the most consideration, for a lot of reasons. Lets talk logistics first. A vat is huge. That’s why it’s called a vat instead of a jar or a barrel. If I’m going to eat my way out, I’d like to be able to at least stay afloat without too much trouble while I Melinda Mae* my way through it, so soups are out of the question. I’d drown from the exhaustion of treading soup before I got halfway through. I need something with a bit of density. Second, it needs to be comfortable on the skin. No chips or crunchy stuff. I guess that’s really it. Not so many considerations after all.
That being settled, I guess I could go with a vat of pork chops, but that seems boring. And uncomfortable – although not due to crunch so much as weird to be trapped in. I kind of see it as something macaroni and cheese-esque. But it could be a custard, I guess. There are mole enchiladas to consider – although you’d never get the sauce out of, well, the crannies. And barbecue pulled pork. Ooh. I kind of like that one. Although, it still has a sauce issue.
Risotto Milanese (Italian, I know, I said there are parts I love, this is one of the parts). Tapioca pudding is really too cold. Hollandaise sauce is still maybe too thin. Corn bread? Too ridiculous. Mashed potatoes? On the right track.
Okay, if I have to pick between mac ‘n’ cheese, risotto Milanese and mashed potatoes, I’m going with the mashed potatoes. I like the risotto Milanese the best of the three, but that’s just the reason why it’s off the list. I’m pretty sure that once I eat a vat of anything, I’m never going to want to eat it again. So, while I really enjoy mashed potatoes, I can live without them. Mac ‘n’ cheese and risotto? Not so much. It’s the cheese, isn’t it?
So there they are. My answers to the questions I know you’ve been dying to find out. You’re welcome. Of course, I’m always happy to hear your answers, too. Especially to the vat question.
*This is one of my favorite poems and one I memorized for school in first grade. I should have seen it as an indication of things to come.