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Jonathan Day

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Jonathan Day

  1. With advance apologies to the board and to Msgr Knox. There was a young man who said: God, I don't like liver, truffles or cod. Yet a friend with good taste tells me my life's a waste since my palate's objectively odd. Said God: what's so hard to believe? I've got logic tricks here up my sleeve: If I say something's good, then enjoy it you would P.S. Kindly address me as "Steve".
  2. Steve, if you do start this thread, this is a plea that you frame it in a different way than "objective/subjective". "Objective" means that something exists independent of any person's perception. An absolute. Something about which nobody in her right mind, in full possession of the facts, could rationally dispute. We could have a philosophical debate about the objectivity of aesthetic judgements (ballet, Van Gogh, bouillabaisse, etc.) but I don't think that is the conversation you are trying to start. My sense is that you are trying to attack the notion that all tastes are totally relative,
  3. Julie Sahni wrote in a book called Moghul Microwave (or perhaps it was the other way around) that the best way to cook basmati rice was in the microwave. Her method was reprinted in Gourmet about a year ago. I don't have the recipe in front of me, but in essence you put rice and water in a glass bowl, cover the bowl, microwave it for something like 12 minutes, remove the cover, microwave for a couple of minutes. No soaking. I have done this a number of times and must say that it works beautifully. The rice grains are consistent and separate and the wonderful perfumes of the basmati are preser
  4. I took a client to Petrus last night. No scope for tasting menus or £45000 wines in this environment! I would not be that eager to return. The food was adequate but did not match the price. Some good but ordinary amuses: chicken liver parfait, aubergines, parmesan crisps, etc., then a lobster consommé. The latter had something odd about it, and I was not that eager to finish it though I was hungry. I think it was a note of bitterness, and also a littering of truffle shards at the bottom of the cup. It didn't start things off that well. Very well put together ravioli of quail (special), then
  5. There are three strands in the story that I hope we can pick up at some point. What follows is almost entirely fact-free (both of saturated and of unsaturated facts), but I will go ahead and write it in the assertive mode, even though it is only supposition. One is the comparative development of intellectual elites in the different countries. My impression is that France started earlier and went further in classifying and systematising many aspects of life, including the domestic arts and sciences, than did other countries. Dictionaries were produced by individuals in England, but the French h
  6. Cabrales, I agree wholeheartedly with this, as far as it goes. Most of us have "special foods" or "comfort foods", things we particularly like to eat. I happen to have a special love for salty, fishy things: bottarga, dried tuna, anchovies. I could make a dinner out of anchovy-stuffed olives, especially if they were of high quality. Children have strong convictions about their preferences. I've posted elsewhere about my daughter's love for pasta alla ketchup. HOWEVER, this world of solitary comfort foods presumes a solitary diner. There comes a point for some of us where we want to expand our
  7. We could also ask the 3 questions relative to Plotnickiism: do you understand it? Do you appreciate it? Do you enjoy it?
  8. This same theme (subjectivity/objectivity, well done steak, mint jelly on roast lamb, etc.) has appeared in several threads. So I won't go on about these themes or whether dish has standing to sue the diner (in the European Court of Gastronomic Rights, of course). However for further information see Bistecca #120821 v Diner #23234993 (Queen's Bench, 2002, page 2309...) I will say that more than a few waiters could learn something about how to persuade a customer to learn new eating habits. At a dinner at Tante Claire a few years ago, a colleague asked that her rack of lamb be cooked well done.
  9. FG, I obviously wasn't clear in my communication. I was talking about variance, not about progression. The youngest child has very "adult" tastes. The two older children have less "developed" tastes. I am confident that all three will develop more refined and confident palates over time, but it's striking that one of the three seems to have got there long before his older siblings.
  10. I am constantly surprised by how variable childrens' tastes are, even at a young age. In general, they have a strong preference for sweet tastes and a general intolerance of bitter overtones -- hence the frequently-observed dislike of many vegetables, which often have bitter notes. Is this nature or nurture, or a combination of both? My youngest (now 7) somehow has many of "my" tastes: he likes dark, bitter chocolate where his siblings stick to sweet milk chocolates. He likes meat cooked very rare, which the other two don't. Like his siblings, he loves to eat duck but prefers it it without sw
  11. An interesting thread. We could distinguish the ability to discriminate trace elements, not only in taste but also in smell (which is inextricably linked to taste). This is clearly similar to good pitch in music; it was said that Pierre Boulez could hear an oboe that was just slightly off pitch in the midst of a loud passage in a "big" piece (e.g. Berlioz at his more expansive). This can be learned, to some extent. I have a good but not great ear for pitch, but it took me awhile to get to the point that I could hear "beats" and do a half decent job of setting a temperament in tuning a piano o
  12. Jonathan Day

    Mutton!

    Larousse Gastronomique (Prosper Montagné, 1938) talks about mutton (mouton) for some 14 pages. It is clear that mutton was eaten at least as frequently as lamb. There are recipes for every part: cutlets, saddle, head, tongue. The lamb (agneau) section is shorter. Many of the recipes overlap. A lamb is defined as a sheep less than 1 year old. After a year, or after the first (front) teeth appear, it is an "antenais". After the molars appear, it is a "belier" or a "brebis". Suckling lamb (agneau de lait) has not been weaned. After weaning, it is an agneau ordinaire or agneau de pré salé. Evident
  13. That's because it is far easier to secure consensus on (1) whether the ball did in fact clear the endline outside the goalposts; (2) whether the accepted rules state that that it must cross inside the posts. Only the first, by analogy, holds in the case of the mint jelly on the gigot. (That one was not a 7 hour lamb, by the way -- it was a boneless roast. About an hour, if I recall, in a very hot oven). Nobody would argue that my guest had asked for mint jelly. All sorts of people would argue about whether the jelly would make the lamb worse or better. But why don't we just agree that you hold
  14. Jonathan Day

    Mutton!

    Welcome to Blighty, Saffy...the land where everything costs more. Your comment about the 70m sheep brings the following incident to mind. We have a friend, Martin, who is a PR in the City but in his spare time is a "gentleman farmer". He has a small plot in the country where they raise ornamental chickens (about 20 of them last I visited), 2 or 3 ducks and a few sheep. Farmhouse, Aga, all the stuff. A few years ago Martin visited New Zealand. In the immigration queue he was asked "have you been on a sheep farm recently?" Martin is an honest guy and answered "I live on a sheep farm", whereupon
  15. Jonathan Day

    Mutton!

    That leg of mutton (I do not remember the weight, but it was small to medium-sized) cost me £9.90. My guess is that a leg of spring lamb that size would have cost at least £15 and probably more like £20. "Mutton ... the sheep that's cheap!"
  16. Jonathan Day

    Mutton!

    As reported earlier (click here) I bought a leg of mutton -- not lamb -- at Borough Market. The raw meat was a dark red and had a gamy, almost spicy odor: not at all "off", but richer than the usual lamb. It went into a slow oven for 7 hours, with garlic, onions, a splash of red wine and a few bay leaves. I took the fat off the liquid after 4 hours. The result was delicious: tender and moist, with much deeper flavours than I've had using true lamb. I'm now motivated to try things like mutton civets and stews. This is the sort of dish that could partner a very big wine. It's hard to find mutton
  17. I continue to wonder about the role of regulation and certification in improving the general quality of restaurant cuisine in a country. France appears to have a more active "industry" (Michelin, Gault Millau, Gantié, Bouche-à-Oreille, Meilleur Ouvrier de France, etc.) for rating restaurants and chefs than does the UK or US. Is this true? And if so, does it make a difference? Cabrales (or any other member): are you more inclined to choose a restaurant based on awards that its chef has won? In the US, does the "CMC" (certified master chef) award have an effect in attracting custom?
  18. Cabrales, on some issues we're probably in closer agreement than it may seem. My point about non-touristic areas was that multiple-round games are then possible. I can get to know a restaurant, and I can make contact with locals who know it. They can get to know me as I make repeated visits. Each of us has fewer incentives to act opportunistically. (Can a restaurant patron behave opportunistically? I think so: she could demand special favours or make false promises of future business. Or make reservations which she fails to honour.) This is why I always prefer to limit my travels to a single a
  19. This is an example of what economists grandly call "information asymmetries"; less grandly, "the lemon problem", referring not to the fruit but to the sale of a bad used car. Suppose that I am selling you a car. I know that something is seriously wrong with it, but I also know that this won't be obvious on your inspection. The sale will occur once and you and I will never trade again, so I have strong incentives to conceal this information from you. (This is, of course, happening in the bizarre conceptual world of economics, where we assume that everyone is always as rapacious and opportunisti
  20. Is it difficult to be a good food writer if you yourself don't have any practical experience of cooking? Clearly it isn't necessary to be a professional cook to be a food writer, and there are excellent food writers who apparently never cook. I, at least, appreciate and understand fine restaurant food a lot more because I've spent a fair bit of time in the kitchen. I know how difficult it is to do simple things properly -- e.g. getting a piece of fish cooked exactly right and still nicely warm when it is placed in front of the diner. And I know that some things that look very tricky (stacks an
  21. There are a number of themes in this thread and in Steve's comment. First, it's clear that some people have wider experiences of food and spend more time reflecting on and integrating those experiences than others. So there is more to this pursuit than individual taste. There is mastery, both in the preparation of and appreciation of food. That mastery can take a long time to achieve. I have been "seriously" cooking and eating for around 30 years. Yet the more I learn about food and cookery the more I realise I have yet to learn. That's one reason it is so interesting. Yet there are individua
  22. It's been almost 7 years since I stayed on Monkey Island, but I wasn't impressed. Not "horrid and dirty" but dark, a bit foreboding and not very cheerful. The Monkey Island I recall wouldn't have been a good match for a celebratory meal at the Waterside Inn...or even a reflective one.
  23. Can't disagree with any of this. At some level the focus on differences becomes silly -- is the cookery of the eastern arrière-pays so different to that of haute Provence that we have to treat them as completely separate? How about Mentonnais vs Ligurian? Having said this, I think that the differences are worth focusing on and celebrating. I find the conversation about the best of specific regions and (micro)traditions richer and more interesting than generalised comparisons about one culinary tradition vs another. For simple verification of this statement, tell any deconstructionist you meet
  24. Isn't this the way through the interminable arguments about French vs Chinese, objective vs subjective and the like? The realities we are seeking in restaurant reviews (I was going to say "and Supreme Court debates, but let that pass) are socially constructed. They are neither objective ["belonging not to the consciousness or to the perceiving or thinking subject but to what is presented to this or to the non-ego, external to the mind, real"] nor subjective ["giving prominence to or depending on personal idiosyncrasy or individual point of view"]. There are old and well established traditions
  25. This is what I find so appealing about dining at a chef's table. It's not a substitute for dining in the restaurant, it's a complement. The atmosphere in a working kitchen, even in a fairly humble restaurant, is completely different to that in a dining room. In my experience it is pleasurable and educational to experience both. After spending time in the kitchen at Caldesi it was great to take a colleague to dinner there. I knew how dishes we were eating had been made; I knew what the cooks were worried about in getting them right. My "unthinkable thought" for a restaurant like Ducasse or Rams
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