In 1973, after graduating from College, my partner and I spent six weeks in Italy touring operatic sites, losing our minds over the food. When I returned, I sold some photos and a story about Giuseppe Verdi’s birthplace to an Italian-American magazine. When I returned to Italy the following summer (and for each of my subsequent 6-week trips there) I returned bearing a letter of introduction in Italian from my editor saying that I was a music, travel, and food writer, asking restaurants to open as many doors to me as they could. We subsequently spent a lot of time invited into restaurant kitchens in the morning, watching them prep the meals we’d eaten the night before, and much time in the kitchen during the service the next nights to watch them execute the dishes. Many of the photos were ruined in a flood, but the memories remain.
Skip ahead in time thirty years to when we got older, and much more pretentious. Now, thanks to a lifetime of frequent-flyer miles and hotel-points, we spend a lot of time eating in France, where I seem very able to befriend chefs and charm my way into their kitchens – not hard to do when the people there are so incredibly warm and inviting anyway. It’s been a long and rewarding life as a glutton, and all I have to show for it is an incredibly large waistline, and astronomical cholesterol count.
And who knew that there were meals with multiple foie-gras courses? I've done as many as seven courses of foie gras in a dinner, on many occasions.
Once, many years ago, while eating outdoors at a trattoria in Trastevere, a Roman at the next table devouring his lamb turned to us and said “you don’t have cholesterol in the States, right?” Would that it were so!