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Jun 5, 2008 09:27 AM

It's official: I'm a peasant.

That does it. I have finally come to terms with the fact that I am just a peasant. I always knew there was something wrong with me. Faced with a stunningly constructed, top-quality, chef-produced restaurant meal, I have been consistently underwhelmed. Oh, sure, each bite is a sensory explosion and one is certainly impressed by the artistry required to create the plated dish. But it just does not one thing for me. Not. One. Thing. Give me a dripping porchetta sandwich served on a street corner; let me eat a bowl of flavourful ramen topped with freshly grated garlic and ground sesame seeds; leave me alone with a plate of olives, some feta cheese and ripe tomatoes; grill me a fish that was pulled from the ocean ten feet from where I'm sitting - and I'm in heaven. Heaven. I will remember that food for the rest of my life. But the fancy shmancy restaurant food, never mind the cost or quality, leaves me cold and bored.

As a food professional, I feel that I have somehow missed the boat. Shouldn't I be able to appreciate this other level of cooking? I've just returned from a trip to Japan where I ate from one end of the culinary spectrum to the other and, frankly, the only food I remember with any degree of passion was the stuff I ate on the street, in the fish market or from a bento box on the train. I am both relieved by this and depressed. Anyone else have this experience?

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  1. I suspect you will get a bunch of funny responses to this very honest post. I am with you 100%.

    1 Reply
    1. re: southernitalian

      >>But the fancy shmancy restaurant food, never mind the cost or quality, leaves me cold and bored.

      Insert 'tiny pretty overpriced artfully arranged' for 'fancy shmancy' and I'm with you 1000%.

    2. You know what? It's probably about the "soul" that's put into good honest food. Fancypants stuff is all about making an impact, it doesn't feed your base needs.
      Explains why even "gourmets" still go gaga over mac-n-cheese (even if some misguided souls try to fancy it up with truffles and such).

      1. Funny I love food and everything it entails but I have never been to a "top quality" place to I love it basic and simple yet delicious.

        1. There is nothing "wrong" with being a peasant, unless you happen to be a person whose self-image is based upon seeking approval from pseudo-aristos with blinders on! Virtually every "haut" cuisine has it's dirty-footed base in food that sustained peasants for millennia. When I, a joyously self-proclaimed peasant (heck.. I raised goats for years and I butchered them too), am "Faced with a stunningly constructed, top-quality, chef-produced restaurant meal" I see it as being like a trip to an art gallery to view pieces that are interesting and beautifully crafted and composed.. but that I wouldn't want to live with. I'd much rather fill my body and soul with the lovely homegrown Aztec bean and fresh ham hock soup swimming with onions, garlic, carrots,celery, fresh herbs from my garden, and stewed tomatoes from the garden.. than a perfectly constructed meal of teeny bites and that exquisitely prepared scallop with a silly headdress.

          My favorite restaurants are those local family owned ones where the food is different each time. La Tapatia's carne al pastor is always a little different and always mouth-fillingly delicious. I'd rather spend less than 10 bucks for a bottomless plate of Mongolian beef on fun noodles at Sam Wo than peck my way through a $100.00 meal.. not that I don't appreciate the skill and craft of the chef-produced meal. Truly, I do, and I've actually enjoyed more than a few.. especially if someone else is paying. It's just that my body and soul loves that earthy, heart-warming deeply sustaining peasant food.

          2 Replies
          1. re: fromagina

            Nyleve, the first thing I thought of when I read your post was soul. Love. Heart. So I'm tying in my thoughts to fromagina's similar post.

            I had one of the best meals ever a few weeks ago at a restaurant in Somerville, MA - not super high-end on the price point, but the potential frou-frou-ness of the meal was there. But the food and service was superb and it will remain one of my most memorable meals.

            But I've also still remember a birthday dinner when I was young. My birthday comes at a time of year that (way back in the dark ages) you couldn't get leg of lamb. One year, my mother surprised me with a birthday meal of leg of lamb. She had bought it in spring when lamb was sold for the Easter holiday (we always had ham), and stored it tucked way back in the garage fridge/freezer with my father's film canisters in the lower fridge. (Don't ask. <g>) She asked me to bring up what was in the freezer a few days before my birthday to defrost - and when she unwrapped the butcher paper, I shrieked with joy. It was a super-simple meal - probably little done to that lamb leg. But it was the thought that she remembered to get a lamb in the springtime for my birthday in the fall that has made it one of the best meals ever for me (that, and she made a spice cake - from a box mix! - for my birthday cake! NO one I knew had spice cake for their birthday cake!).

            One could also liken your post to what a parent would think of the first "painting" their child ever did for them - the love, heart and soul that went into that painting is no different than what Monet or Van Gogh may have put into theirs. You can admire the masters' works for their artistry and finely nuanced shading of light and color. But the pure continual enjoyment of seeing that fingerprint painting in its place of honor on your fridge door after having been handed to you by a beaming child saying "I made this for you, Mommy!" cannot even begin to compare to the enjoyment of the masters' works of art, can it not? (And I'm not a parent, but remembering the picture covered fridge in my house and seeing them in my friends' houses seems to prove this out!)

            Sometimes, simple is good. Like fromagina, I enjoy a chef-produced meal. But sometimes, the simpler the better. A good burger. Perfectly done french fries.

            You like what you like. Don't apologize.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              >>You like what you like. Don't apologize.

              How perfectly said, LindaWhit. Imagine there being any other point of view on this?

          2. I know a lot of people like you. Personally I like both peasant food and fancy schmancy food. I think each has its place. But I'll bet you'll be saving tons of money and not going through the ridiculous hoop-la I sometimes go through to get reservations! : )