Chicken Wings

Dublin is not a city for eaters, but for drinkers, and this is embedded in the Irish everyday life. Irish cuisine is as bad as English cuisine, but worse. And I am sure this is Britain’s responsibility, one way or the other.

On the other hand, Irish people have Guinness. Guinness is not the best beer in the world, it’s the best non-solid element in the universe. So it’s quite understandable why the Irish don’t give a craic about food, as they just don’t need it. If you have Guinness, you have everything. It’s the father, the son and the Holy Spirit in the same substance.

But today I want to talk about chicken wings. I love chicken wings, not because they are great food, as no chicken wings can be really great, but only because I lived in Dublin for four years and I found out that chicken wings play a very important role in Irish pub culture. You must be thinking: “Aren’t potatoes the ones who deserve a special spotlight in Irish culture?” Oh, yes, they do. But potatoes don’t play a special role in Irish culture; they are the Irish culture itself. The only place in the world where you can spot someone having a Lasagne Bolognese with chips is there, in the green island.

Back to the wings, I lived 2 years next door to a restaurant that was widely regarded as the restaurant with the best chicken wings in Ireland. People would drag themselves down to Ranelagh Village in order to appreciate the delicacy in Tribeca (I am getting no money out this marketing). For months I wondered how come these freaks would ride all the way to this restaurant just to eat chicken wings! Even with my reasonably open minded head I couldn’t accept that a portion of chicken wings could be worth a visit.

So one day I decided to try it. But I didn’t succeed, because the restaurant was fully booked and there was a queue with a 2 hours wait. “Hey, I am your neighbour, for heaven’s sake”!  It didn’t work. Two hours waiting to eat chicken wings?!  Puffff… Never.

Next day I was back, of course. With a reservation, of course. And there I was, sitting in the so famous and always crowded restaurant, ready to order my chicken wings. Order placed, pint of Nastro Azurro in hands, I started getting nervous and the atmosphere seemed as though I was waiting for the Minister of Finance’s deputation for our budget meeting.

When finally they arrived, the wings, it was a vision of heaven: the pieces looked like 40 Mohamed’s virgins waiting to be possessed. They were covered in a thick but delicate brown-red-gold spicy sauce so beautiful and shiny that I felt like jumping into the plate and swimming with the wings. They were accompanied by 2 gigantic green sticks of celery and a pool of sour cream. The tender pieces of chicken easily found their way to my mouth and blessed me with a flavour I would describe as platonically wonderful, unimaginable tasty, almost orgasmic.

From that moment on I could understand those crazies who would drive themselves all the way to Tribeca for those wings. They were absolutely wise people. And I, of course, would wait 10 hours in a queue to have those wings again. Can’t wait to be back to Dublin!

Misery

Sometimes life plays hard tricks that are very difficult to be understood. We go to bed in peace and wake up for a new day unaware of the pitfalls out there waiting for us. It can take less than a second for a smile to turn into tears and despair, and this misery may stick with us as long as we live or until we find another reason to rise up and face the problem with dignity and bravery.

This is a very difficult moment indeed, but I know there must be a reason for all that, even if it takes me long time to understand it. In this moment I just supplicate strength to keep going on without you, Krispy Kreme Pistachio. The reason why they decided to cease your production I may never know, but I ensure you that I’ll spread the word through the winds about your majestic legacy.  Love you forever.

 

KK pistachio

Moral

Among all the traits intrinsic to human character, moral values is one of which interest me the most. Unless you believe that someone above has established what we must and must not do down here (a position which I fairly understand and respect, by the way), it’s very puzzling to make a reasoning towards this issue. Since we’re born we have to deal with DOs and DONTs about basically every realm of our lives, and we are constantly watched and monitored in order that we make the right decisions. Decisions that we usually make without even thinking about, as they are already “established” and our duty is basically follow them rather than think about them. And that’s the way it is and has to be, because imagine you if we were to think about and question every little step we take in our lives. So the “society” or the “system” has already made lots of decisions for us, so that we just have to slip through life happily and smoothly.

But since this blog is about food, let’s talk about eating horses. I eat horses. Some people ride them, but I think it’s much safer and tastier to eat them. Actually I rode a horse for the first time when I was in Iceland, about 7 months ago. It was an Icelandic Horse, very beautiful though very small, much more like an overweight pony. It was a quite interesting experience, not so much for the ride itself as for the feeling that I was riding the fillet that I had eaten the night before.

I am not a vegetarian (really?!) and I would never be, as I can’t imagine my life without a bleeding flesh, I mean, meat properly grilled or fried or baked or even raw. But I truly love veggie food as well, and I nourish a deep respect for vegetarians, for the simple reason that I think they are totally right – or at least less wrong – from the “moral point of view”. There’re vast and rich studies in literature which provides good justification about the fact that we don’t need to eat meat of any sort in order to survive on this planet. The available resources of fruits, vegetables, plants, minerals etc. are more than enough to keep us healthy and alive. So why do we eat meat, after all? Because we are all slaughters. That’s it. We are culturally constructed slaughters.

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But are we that bad? Well, from the evolutionary point of view, no, we’re not, for many animals would benefit from that. Really? Yes, really. Daniel Dennett, one of my favourites Philosophers, has a very interesting argument on this issue. According to him, the fact that humans at some point of history started to domesticate the less intelligent creatures was a great advantage both for man and for animals. As he estates in his book “Breaking the Spell”: “How clever wild sheep to have acquired that most versatile adaptation, the shepherd! By forming a symbiotic alliance with Homo sapiens, sheep could outsource their chief survival tasks: food finding and predator avoidance. They even got shelter and emergence medical care. The price they pay – being slaughtered instead of being killed by predators – was pittance compared with the gain in offspring survival”. Isn’t that a cute argument?

What’s really interesting about this issue is that each person establishes personal limits and barriers for these moral questions. So you find the one who says: “It’s fine to eat beef, but pork is disgusting. Look where the pigs live!” All right then. Or, for example: “It doesn’t make sense to eat a horse, as they “are made” for transport. Cows and goats are made to serve as food”. Ok, try to convince a cow about that. Throw a saddle on a cow and I am sure she will take you happily anywhere. Others go like: “The way cows, pigs and goats are killed is just intolerable. That’s why I just eat fish”. That’s an interesting one, after all fishes are not killed; they are just “fished”, right? When they come out of the water their souls sublimate painlessly towards heaven. They keep quaking violently for a while only because they are very excited about becoming someone’s food.

Then we come to the realm of extravagant, not-so-common gastronomy, where inhabit the selfish, insensitive, oblivious and poor-hearted people, like me. But even we, the devils, have our own moral limits. I, for example, would never (never? really?) eat an animal under threat of extinction. Once I had whale for dinner, but it was a Minke, which is out of the endangered species list, at least for now. And I didn’t eat a whale wrapped in a banana leaf in Quito, but in Reykjavik (Iceland again!), where this delicacy is eaten normally in people’s houses. See how sensitive I am? I would never eat a Rhino, for example, despite the fact that its meat must be really tasty and I can even picture its bleeding thick fillet being gently grilled to a perfect medium-rare succulent meal… But rules are rules, and I wouldn’t contribute to its extinction.

The fact is that I don’t agree with the institution of degrees of slaughtering. I don’t believe that the ones who eat beef are less bloodthirsty than the ones who eat dog, puffing, moose, crocodile and so on. We don’t need meat to survive, so if we decide to eat it, it’s only for our own pleasure. Long live to vegetarians, who are the only spiritually and culturally evolved ones. And shame on us, the hedonistic slaughters!

Breakfast

Before moving to Europe, the idea of having bacon and eggs for breakfast was as clear to me as a piece of charcoal. During my childhood – the 80’s – this kind of thing was just available in my imaginary through American movies with those happy and muscled teenagers eating that greasy and shiny breakfast before heading for school where they probably would spank come nerd and seduce the princess of the ball.

When I was 14 I finally travelled to U.S. to meet Mickey and company, and then I thought: “Wow, that’s my chance to try that monster food”, but the agent who had organized the trip came to us in the first day with a smile the size of her sympathy and decreed: “in order that you kids feel as though you were at home, we have agreed with the hotel that they will serve Brazilian-like breakfast for us during our stay”. Excuse me? “Feel as though we were at home”? I come all the way to Florida and this woman-like creature wants me to feel as though I was at home? No, darling… Every day I feel as though I was at home because I AM actually every day at home and the purpose of travelling is not to feel as though I was at the same place I am EVERY DAY! Whatever…

Now that I am quite adapted to the life in the northern hemisphere, I have to say that by combining the flavours of a soft and creamy egg yolk, a very crispy slice of bacon and a piece of toast slightly inundated with butter one can reach the true holy trinity. Amongst all the possible combinations of flavours that Mother Nature generously provides to us, I believe that this one is a special one. This morning I had the opportunity to experience this blessing and I want to share this moment with you. Oh, I sometimes also include some beans just for the craic.

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Paris

When I booked my first ever ticket to Paris, almost 5 years ago, I was obviously as excited with the very charming bistros I would find there as I was with the unsurpassed Louvre, the majestic Champs-Élysées and the unique Eiffel Tower. Actually I had a very important quest: degust Foie Gras for the first time. For reasons that lie in economic and social-democratic issues, by that time this delicacy was very, very, very difficult to find and extremely pricy in Brazil, therefore our meeting had always been postponed.

In Paris, the first restaurant I visited was in Montmartre, just close to the Sacré-Coeur church. The bistro had maybe 20 seats all together, and luckily we managed to have a seat before it was completely full. There was no Foie Gras on the menu, but that was no problem. The place seemed to have emerged from an old movie: very old, small, woody, dusty, baguetty… Just like I always imagined! There was an old lady on the floor (she was very old, believe me), an oppressed servant in the kitchen and a dog at the till. Yes, a dog. And the till was positioned just at the corner, inside the kitchen. Yes, there was a dog at the till, which was in the kitchen. But who cares?! We are in Paris! Who cares that the table is dusty?! We are in Paris! The jug of water is dirty?! So what? We are in Paris, for heaven’s sake! There’s a dog in the restaurant? And? Any problem? Of course not! Even if they served that dog between two slices of baguette, we’d eat it, because we are in Paris, my friend! Woody Allen would agree with me.

The truth is that the meal was amazing. I had terrine as starter, and Beef Bourguinon as main. My lovely girlfriend had the best courgette Lasagne of her life, according to her.

At this point I have to mention that before we travelled I had bought a diamond ring to my girlfriend (the diamond was the size of an ant’s ear, but it was still a diamond), as I planned to ask her in marriage in Paris, which is a very original idea, I know.

So, at the big night, we set out to Champs-Élysées and at some point we decided that we were going to have our meal there. We chose our restaurant and we were sat on a very nice and comfort table, just next to a couple of lesbians who had a dog dining with them. Very cute indeed.

I had a look at the menu and soon I found what I had always looked for: there, at the bottom of the starter list, shining like a star, He, the Almighty, was waiting for me: Foie Gras with bla bla bla bla, and bla bla bla. That’s it! That’s why I am here! That’s why I was born! Bring it on!

So the order was placed, and there we rested for a while. I was so nervous that I almost forgot I had a diamond ring in my pocket. Anyway, after fifteen French minutes, I saw the waiter coming. He looked like an angel flying around with a golden tray full of holy food for the sinners. He placed the small plate on the table, and it took me a couple of seconds to see what was on it, because my eyes were full of tears. Finally I could see it, and it was so beautiful that I nearly fainted. A small slice of goose fat liver, flat, white and delicate, lying just in front of me defenceless, just waiting to be glorified. At first I didn’t know how to react, how to behave in front of it. Shall I use a knife, spread it over the toast? Shall I try it plain in order to feel its virtue without any external intervention? Actually my first will was to kiss it, but I sensibly realized that this could cause some bad judgements from the people around, so I just stared at it for a while, and in a brisk and passionate movement I placed it right on the centre of my mouth, where it comfortably rested on my tongue. Oh, boy, that was something. The flavour quickly spread all over my mouth, triggering frenetic spasms throughout my body. It was delicious, absolutely delicious. It was worth every single second of my errant life that I spent waiting for that moment. A great experience indeed.

I think I’ve already come too far in this story, and before you decide to leave this post, I must say that that night was one of the happiest nights of my life. Not because of the Foie Gras, but because the love of my life said “yes” to me.

English Tapioca

Following the poem mentioned by John Potter on his previous comment, which begins with a memory of eating chocolate Tapioca, here it goes the English version of Tapioca that I made a couple of months ago when I was carrying out some experiences in my kitchen.

For those who are not familiar with Tapioca, it has many different versions throughout the Americas, but in Brazil it’s a kind of wrap or pancake made of cassava flour and water. It can be savoury or sweet. For those who are not familiar with cassava, it’s the potato’s poor cousin.

The English version consists of Tapioca stuffed with golden and shiny scrambled eggs in a bed of beans in tomato sauce. Enjoy if you can!

 

English tapioca

A Religion

I have long dropped out of the church, as the only thing that attracted me there was that short moment when I could enjoy Jesus body in a form of a flat piece of bread – sometimes, especially during Easter, there was a bonus of that flatty being plunged into holy wine, which used to be an ecstasy for a 13yo boy – so I had to find something else to replace my religion, and gastronomy fitted in this gap astonishingly well. I don’t remember exactly when I started worshiping beans, potatoes and cutlets, but my proud Mom says that since I was a baby she would blend all sorts of things (I’ve never dared to ask about what these things were) and put in my baby bottle, so according to her that’s why I like to eat EVERYTHING, and I think that that was a the germ which developed my keenness on food and drink.

I think about food every day, every time, every moment of my life, from the time I am dragged off the bed until the time my brain turns off at night. Obviously I think about other things, but it seems to me that everything is in a certain manner attached to the context of food, one way or the other. For example, sometimes I am studying, reading an article, and my brain goes like this: “…an enouncement is not a unit of semiotic signs, but an abstract construct that allows the signs to assign and communicate specific, repeatable relations to, between, and among objects, subjects, and statements. Hence, a discourse is composed of a stew prepared with beef braised in red wine and beef broth, flavoured with garlic, onions and a bouquet garni, with pearl onions and mushrooms… Hey, wait a minute, what am I thinking about?! This is beef bourguignon!”

As a result, the act of eating has a huge importance in my daily life. Eating is never something simple, trivial, ordinary, normal, regular, typical, common or whatever other blasphemic word you might use to describe this sacred process. And it’s important to stress that I don’t mean that all my meals have to be very elaborated and expensive. What I mean is that the meaning inherent to the meal is also very important. And so it is the context. Regardless of what I am going to shove down my esophagus, without meaning and context no food would delight me. Maybe I should call out Gunther Kress at this point, but since I want to make this simple, I’d better say that over the next weeks I am going to try to present some simple ideas and situations in my life related to my passion for food, and I hope I get to express at least a little bit of this overwhelming feeling that fills my heart and overflows my soul.