No matter how much you learn, there will always be so much more that you don’t know. You may learn how to drive a car, but you’ll have no clue how to drive a boat or motorcycle. In a similar fashion, you could be skilled when it comes to making breakfast bowls but have no idea how to grill a steak.
What excites me about food is how endless it is. There is always a new ingredient, preparation, or recipe to try. Food represents how an infinite series of cultures, gardens, and forests have adapted over time. You will never know all that it entails, and that doesn’t matter. What’s important is carving out the one corner (or corners) in the food universe that resonates most with you.
One day while I was sitting on the floor at the bookstore (seriously, go beyond whatever is at eye-level), I came across this book, The Chocolate Connoisseur. I immediately grabbed it because I wholeheartedly love chocolate. I also picked it up because despite my love for chocolate, I’ve been eating a lot less of it as of recent.
Most people would consider my dwindling desire for chocolate to be a good thing, but as the author, Chloe Doutre-Roussel, expresses in the book, chocolate itself is not inherently unhealthy. It’s the processing of chocolate and the addition of additives and sweeteners that turns it into candy.
I try to always be reading something, but it’s very rare that I read a book and it completely changes my outlook on life. I never thought reading about the cocoa bean and commercial chocolate would transform how I look at food, particularly desserts and chocolate in the grocery store.
I realized that the reason why I have been eating less chocolate and opting for raw cacao nibs instead is because I’ve been chasing a better flavor. Dark chocolate is my preference and I haven’t had any dark chocolate recently (or any chocolate for that matter) that bodied distinctive flavors. I also have a pretty high bitter tolerance, if there is such a thing. I normally take my coffee black, no cream, no sugar!
Maybe my palate changed because everything was starting to taste bad to me! I didn’t know what was happening, especially since I love chocolate. What I don’t love is sugar. I have a more savory palate. If I had to make the choice, I would choose french fries over candy any day. My favorite fries are sweet potato fries because they combine salty and sweet flavors.
This book forced me to ask myself why I like the food and the snacks that I like. Is it because of the sweeteners or the smooth texture created by emulsifiers or the actual flavor of the food itself? That is a really frightening question to ask because flavor often gets lost or overlooked in the quest to create something tasty-regardless of quality.
Today, I went to the grocery store, planning to buy some chocolate to taste. And it didn’t happen. After reading label after label and perusing the snack aisles (I enjoy looking at the new products from time to time), I realized that there was nothing I wanted. There were things on the shelves that I liked, but nothing I wanted. As I stood there in the store, I tested myself. For everything that I had eaten before, most multiple times, I asked myself what I liked about it. If I saw a brownie, I asked myself how much I enjoyed it. If it didn’t knock my socks off and leave me wondering what I’ve been eating all my life, I left it on the shelf. What I observed was that I’ve had a lot of good food, but I haven’t had a lot of great food.
And maybe I can’t have it all, but that’s not going to stop me from wanting it all. Even my allergies are not going to stop me from desiring fantastic flavors.
This is all to say that I have a new outlook! I’m putting more thought into what I’m buying and eating. There is no reason to compromise on flavor or taste because something is fresh, local, healthy, organic, allergy-friendly, etc. Great food should be great food.
And if I can’t find anything so good that impresses me and I land in another dimension, then it’s probably time for me to get back in the kitchen and surprise myself.