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What are vegetarians missing?


indiagirl
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Quote: from cabrales on 12:19 pm on Feb. 7, 2002

Your mention of vegetarian dishes at restaurants led me to wonder whether you minded that your choice of dishes at restaurants (and, possibly, your choice of restaurants) may have been constrained when you ate neither meat nor fish. Were there many restaurants where there were no more than two  or three vegetarian entrees available?

This is one of the biggest drawbacks to being a vegetarian food geek. It is very unusual for there to be more than two vegetarian selections on an upscale menu, unless it's a restaurant with a healthy focus. Even Nora (I live in Washington, DC, and Nora in DC is the only certified organic restaurant in the US that I know of, which is why I address it as an example) only had one vegetarian entree when I ate there. This is one of the primary reasons for my interest in expanding my diet...I want to have more selection at hand.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to whine about salmon. I adore salmon. I think it's delicious. It's great in so many ways...gravlax, grilled, roasted, smoked. But WHY is it always the one fish on the menu if there's only gonna be one fish? Maybe I'm showing my DC-centric issues here, but I got really excited to be offered fluke a couple weeks ago in addition to the standard salmon dish at a good restaurant.

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Quote: from Sandra Levine on 3:45 pm on Feb. 7, 2002I had this dish at Guy Savoy in 1985 and remember thinking at the time that it was the best thing I had ever put in my mouth.  I wonder if it is still on the menu?

Sandra -- The dish was on Guy Savoy's menu in October/November 2001, listed as Huitres en nage glacee (44.21 euros or 290FF).  I have never sampled this dish, though.  (I request menus from restaurants after a meal, when circumstances permit).

(Edited by cabrales at 7:01 am on Feb. 8, 2002)

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Quote: from Malawry on 8:29 pm on Feb. 7, 2002

It is very unusual for there to be more than two vegetarian selections on an upscale menu . . . .  This is one of the primary reasons for my interest in expanding my diet...I want to have more selection at hand. . . .

I'd also like to take this opportunity to whine about salmon. . . . But WHY is it always the one fish on the menu if there's only gonna be one fish?

Malawry -- Choosing the progression and the set of dishes I will receive from an a la carte menu is an integral part of the restaurant experience.  I wouldn't want to miss that.  When you were not eating fish, did you take small bites from dining companions' dishes only when they had vegetarian dishes too? That could be another unhappy limitation ;)

On alternatives to salmon, is bass offered from time to time at restaurants in the D.C. area?  I like, among other things, turbot and skate too.  When not overcooked, turbot served "bones in" can present slivers of flesh in between relatively lengthy bone pieces.  When not close to the surface of the fish and when in fish that is not overcooked, that flesh can have some tenderness and harbor semi-gelatinous connotations (the ideal texture is difficult to describe). Unfortunately, turbot I order is not always prepared to my satisfaction.

(Edited by cabrales at 5:28 am on Feb. 8, 2002)

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Quote: from Malawry on 8:29 pm on Feb. 7, 2002

I'd also like to take this opportunity to whine about salmon.... WHY is it always the one fish on the menu if there's only gonna be one fish?

Although not a vegetarian, I frequently like to order fish when we go out (Jason doesn't eat cooked fin fish, so I never get to prepare it at home). Unfortunately, a lot of restaurants will only have one selection of fish. Like you said, it is usually salmon, which I don't like as much as I used to, but often it is swordfish, which I don't eat at all anymore.

One day (after having yet another overcooked swordfish steak) it hit me that maybe I just don't like swordfish and haven't ordered it since. Subsequently hearing about the overfishing of swordfish and also the parasites that frequently infect them haven't hindered my decision either.

What I really love is when getting a whole fish is possible. Trout, red snapper, bass, founder, etc. Fish prepared on the bone is just so much more delicious to me. It is usually so much moister and you get all the little pieces that may get discarded in a filleted fish, like the part just behind the skull above the gills, crunchy bits of grilled skin, or the cheeks, yum. Also, literally looking your dinner in the eye gives you more of a sense of appreciation for the animal that is nourishing you than an anonymous fillet, be it fish or beef.

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People on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet have an overall higher death rate from all causes combined,
Sorry I didn't pick this up sooner, but I though we all had the same death rate. I mean we all die, and we all die once.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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What I really love is when getting a whole fish is possible. . . .  literally looking your dinner in the eye gives you more of a sense of appreciation for the animal that is nourishing you than an anonymous fillet . . . .

I wonder if any non-Chinese restaurants mentioned on the board have fish tanks (including in their kitchens) containing certain fish, lobsters, etc. that may be terminated on the premises and served?

I do not know of any, except for (1) the less formal restaurant named after the Hawaiian state fish at the Grand Wailea, Maui, where one can get that fish and others, and (2) La Langousterie in Paris, a mediocre restaurant serving South African langoustes (aka one type of spiny rock lobster) not worth visiting.

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were there particular dishes or particular types of meat or cuts that you yearned for during the no-meat period?  Perhaps a grain of memory about the luscious fattiness or other aspects of a given meat that, even if you would not ordinarily like it, your not having sampled it in a long time would make the first "re-taste" of it (e.g., in the small bites a few times a year you describe) delicious?

It sounds like the answer to these questions is "no"  :)

My answer comes terribly late, but here it is anyway…

Yes, the answer is no... I don't think I have yearned for any meat after I stopped eating it. No, wait, I did think I'd like to have a burger, a very junk food kind of burger, or pizza with spicy salami soon after I stopped eating meat. I don't know why… I even thought I might get one some day, but then I never did. I don't know why. When I have tasted meat now, it has not tasted very delicious even though I have not had it for a long time. I find fish or shrimp much more delicious, and since I have a choice, I rather eat what I like the most...

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Brija--to pull out one of your examples,  a classic way to serve du Puy lentils--those tiny emerald green wonders--is in a vinaigrette with a few crisply sauteed lardons. do you think it's possible you are missing something in this case that cannot be duplicated or compared properly?  

Steve, sorry but my English vocabulary is somewhat limited (and when it comes to food, the meat products seem to be the group I know least words from) so I don't even know what lardons are… but I guess it does not matter, since it must be some sort of meat and knowing that I can answer your question.

You are right, I might be missing something if I don't taste dishes with meat. It's just that I don't feel like missing something, I'm perfectly happy with veggies, fish and shellfish. I guess this is because I know I can eat or taste meat if I want to. So, back to your example, if I had those lentils without meat and someone else were having them with meat, I could have a taste of both (if they let me sample theirs…). This is what I do occasionally, I mean having a small taste of meat just to compare flavours (I'm not that serious about not eating meat, eating it won't kill me or make me sick, I just don't like it much and why would I eat something I don't really like?). So far, I've liked the meatless foods more, and when I cook I simply (in addition to preparing vegetarian or fish/seafood dishes) leave out the meat or replace it with vegetables or fish. But perhaps some day I encounter something like the lentil dish you described and that might just change everything!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Since I made the decision to attend culinary school, I've been grappling with the reality that I will have to learn to eat meat and fowl at least so I can cook it properly while I'm being graded on it.

So, to that end, yesterday I paid a visit to L'academie de Cuisine, the DC area's only cooking school. I did not mention my vegetarianism in any sense, on the form they asked me to fill out or when I was questioned about my diet. They had suggested I talk with the admissions director and tour the school in time to finish up for staff meal. I joined some students for the staff meal and had mentally vowed to eat whatever was placed before me.

So I ate my first duck in almost a decade yesterday. I could only make myself eat one bite, but I felt it was important for me to eat that bite. My overwhelming sense was "boy, is this fatty." The duck had been braised and served with an orange sauce (duck a l'orange?)...the sauce was very mild. I don't know if I ate a bad piece or if it always tastes so fatty. The duck was plated with some "cabbage confit" which had been cooked down slowly in duck fat and I could barely handle that either. I expected to be turned off by a "gamy" flavor to the bird (I've unintentionally put chicken in my mouth over the time I've been a vegetarian and it tasted very gamy to me) but there was no such flavor to the animal. I was completely unappealed and felt I'd done enough by taking a single bite. But then, it's not like I had a regular duck habit before I eliminated fowl and meat from my diet. I've never craved duck or wished I could order it. I'm sorry that this was the meat they happened to have on the menu and that therefore I had to start out with. Sigh.

I suffered no ill effects from eating the bite of duck and few bites of cabbage confit, FWIW. However, I did feel obligated to go home and make a nice braised cabbage dish for part of my dinner to erase the memory of the duck-fatty cabbage I'd mostly rejected at lunch. I cooked it with onions, tomato paste, water, salt, pepper and cayenne. It was good and I look forward to lunchtime leftovers. I am, however, less enthusiastic about adding these animal foods back into my diet. Not that I was real enthusiastic to begin with. It's suddenly occurred to me how likely it is to be difficult for me to enjoy them. Though maybe I would have had a better experience if my inaugural duck had been a lacquered smoked Peking duck or something else with the fat mostly rendered out.

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I joined some students for the staff meal . . . . I could only make myself eat one bite

Malawry -- What did the students eating with you think about your eating only one bite?  :wink:  While duck can be lean, there is usually nice-to-me fat that buttresses, and that clings to, the skin. Are you referring to that fat, or to the "fatty" sensations of the flesh of your duck itself?

As has doubtlessly been mentioned elsewhere on the board, Ruhlman's "The Making of a Chef" describes experiences at the Culinary Institute of America. His other book, "The Soul of a Chef : The Journey Toward Perfection", contains a decent amount (approx. 1/3 of the book) on Thomas Keller.

http://www.amazon.com/exec....2283103

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I joined some students for the staff meal . . . . I could only make myself eat one bite

Malawry -- What did the students eating with you think about your eating only one bite?  :wink:  While duck can be lean, there is usually nice-to-me fat that buttresses, and that clings to, the skin. Are you referring to that fat, or to the "fatty" sensations of the flesh of your duck itself?

I have read both of the Ruhlman books, and enjoyed them both...though I think The Making of a Chef was a better, more focused publication.

The students I was with were very rushed because they were behind schedule. Staff meal is scheduled for 12:30 and they weren't able to serve until almost 1. They were all too busy scarfing to pay much attention to me despite my persistent questions. I wanted to know everything from what they used to braise the ducks to why they chose L'academie to how they made the lobster oil that finished the ravioli starter to what books they thought I oughta read before entering school. They were nice but not particularly talkative or attentive to me.

I am referring mostly to the fat clinging to the skin. The one bite I ate had a lot of skin attached. But I was also trying to mentally evaluate the flesh itself and all that tasted or felt like was fat too. I couldn't bring myself to try another bite without skin. It was further complicated by the unfortunate fact that I have an allergy to oranges, so I didn't want to eat more than a bite or two even if I found I liked the duck.

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Malawry, that's too bad.

A well-seared duck breast cooked rare to medium, sliced thinly with a citrus vinagrette and some light greens might be a good remedy. Score the skin to the fat, season well, begin skin side down in a medium high dry skillet. When a good deal of the fat has rendered (six minutes or so), pour it off and reserve it for use later. Turn the pan up for a minute. When you have a nice sear on the skin and its crispy, flip it over. If you'd like it very rare, you can just leave it for a minute or you could pop it into an oven pre-heated to 450 F for about five minutes or less. Let it rest on a towel to blot off any remaining oil. To slice it, flip it skin side down so that the knife doesn't pull at the skin and tear or mar it.

edit full disclosure:

I should add that I myself would prefer only about half a breast and so usually share it with a second person or reserve the rest for another use.

The first time that I duck. It was a l'orange. Feh. It took Peking duck in Beijing to cure that. While I like a confit from time to time, rare breast is my preferred duck to cook, eat, or serve.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I know plenty of people who trim the fat from a seared duck breast on their plate. Depending on how much fat is left I may eat some, or all of it.

It's been a while since I've had a braised duck and among the traditional recipes, I much preferred a duck braised with peas or olives than one served à l'orange. Canard à l'orange is a pretty old fashioned dish and probably seen more in cooking schools than in restaurants. I don't recall how much fat was left on a good braised duck. My impression is that most of it should have melted off, but of course the skin itself would be fatty no matter what. I've been told that the fat of water fowl is more like olive oil than butter or pork fat in terms of saturated, unsaturated, etc. fat, but that's not your stumbling block either. It's the taste and consistency. I would certain try duck without the skin next time, if there is a next time.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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And I am vegetarian for the same reasons as Indiagirl, my parents were Hindu vegetarians.  I was given the option to choose at the age of 16 what I wanted to be.  I chose to remain vegetarian.  And for the most part, I still am.  I have loved steak and foie gras.  Do I crave them?  No.  I love them when I eat them, just as I love eating Kararee Bhindi (crisp okra), Kamal Kakree (lotus root) or makhaane kee kheer (lotus seed pudding).  

I travel a lot and still have never yet, faced the need to be changing my diet. I have found something wonderful even in the most non-creative restaurants.  Often just an order of very nice French fries with some hot sauce, fried herbs or even a great grilled cheese sandwich in the deep south, that a chef made for me as they felt bad that I had limited options.

I am very happy being vegetarian.  And I could not ever think of eating meat even 2 times a week.  For me it is something I will eat when I go to a new restaurant, or a chef does a special tasting.  Even then, I take a bite or two, sate my need to try and move on to my vegetarian meal.

Call me strange.. But that is how I am.  And I seem to have no need to be otherwise.  I would love to eat more meat.. But I feel no urge... no desire.. I have worked with chefs and people that love meat, and yet, they have learned how to enjoy vegetables from me, and not the vice-versa.  For some reason, they choose to follow my lead in eating more of the vegetable options that would otherwise get neglected.  So, I seem to have no pressure from friends in social setting either.

My sister at the age of 16 started eating meat.  And now at age 31, she is sick of it.  She now craves for completely vegetarian meals.  She missed the many subtle ways in which vegetarians at least in India, create textures, taste profiles and innovative ways in sating their appetites with vegetables alone, that she never finds with meat.  And she I think is simply sick of having overdone something.  It was so new to her at age 16, that meat was all she ate for a long time after.  Now that the novelty is over, she wants to become that vegetarian that she was, but is not now.

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.  I was given the option to choose at the age of 16 what I wanted to be.  I chose to remain vegetarian.  And for the most part, I still am.  I have loved steak and foie gras.  

These are four odd sentences. Who gave you the option to choose? Why do you have to choose,at 16 or at any other age?You chose to remain vegetarian,but you eat meat.This is a bit like saying you're a non-smoker in between cigarettes. By your definition meat eaters are vegetarians when they're not eating meat. I thought a vegetarian was someone who did not eat meat at all,or have I been labouring under a misapprehension.?

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I wonder if any non-Chinese restaurants mentioned on the board have fish tanks (including in their kitchens) containing certain fish, lobsters, etc. that may be terminated on the premises and served?

Most any restaurant that serves lobster has a lobster tank -- it's a very common sight in steak-and-seafood restaurants in America. Crustaceans degrade rapidly once dead, so there's little choice but to start with live lobsters (unless you're going to use frozen). It's unusual, though, to see fin fish in a tank at a seafood restaurant. Fin fish meant for eating, that is. Plenty of seafood restaurants have fish tanks for display. The ultimate expression of this phenomenon is the one at Disney World where you're basically eating seafood in an aquarium.

Some Japanese restaurants in New York keep live fluke on hand. There was also a trend for awhile (I don't know if it's still the case) of New York restaurants getting their Turbot live and keeping it in tanks. But I think in the end there are different philosophies in play at Western and Asian restaurants: The Western approach to making fish as fresh as possible is to catch it, kill it, get rid of all the nasty stuff that can ruin fish as it decomposes, ice it down and get it to the table as quickly as possible. The Asian approach seems to be to keep the fish alive after it has been caught, and to kill it right before cooking. There are pros and cons to each approach. "Tank fish" as they are called may have been out of their natural environments for a very long time. For most fish, during this time, the metabolism changes and all sorts of degradation can occur. So even though the fish was alive until right before you ate it, it can be pretty nasty. Then again, I guess the Asian school of thought is, "At least it's alive. How bad can it be? Whereas, if it's dead, headless, and pre-butchered, you truly have no idea what you're getting."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It's unusual, though, to see fin fish in a tank at a seafood restaurant. Fin fish meant for eating, that is. . . . But I think in the end there are different philosophies in play at Western and Asian restaurants . . . .  The Asian approach seems to be to keep the fish alive after it has been caught, and to kill it right before cooking.

Steven -- The contrast you point out in the Western vs. Asian approach towards keeping fin fish alive is an interesting topic. Even top restaurants in France tend to receive deliveries of previously-terminated fish. I have not noticed anything lacking in fish at such restaurants, relative to fish in Asian or Japanese cuisine (although it's difficult to compare).

It is interesting that a popular preparation of finned fish in Cantonese cuisine is relatively unadorned -- steam it for the right amount of time (not as easy as it sounds), add soya sauce, ginger, spring onions and extremely hot oil to it. This cooking method allows the taste of the fish to come through quite clearly (without any negative connotations with respect to Western cuisines).

On Japanese handling of fish, I vaguely recollect the utilization of refridgeration/freezing with respect to select types of fish used in sushi/sashimi after the fish are terminated. Do members have knowledge about the pros/cons of how fish destined for sushi restaurants is handled? Or about what processing steps are applied to sea urchins to make uni taste so much less appealing (at least to me) than fresh sea urchins?

Also, if Steven or other members have the names readily available, which Japanese restaurants in NYC might keep live fluke from time to time?

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I was given the choice at age 16, since I was then a young adult.  My parents wanted to give me the freedom to choose my ways.  Is it difficult to apprehend?  I was living in the home of my grandmother, her rules were ours to understand and live by.  Again, something most civilized people do.  She like my parents and her own, was vegetarian.  In fact, had a temple in the kitchen, and all food prepared in the kitchen, was made by a Brahmin chef and first offered to the Gods and then to the birds and then to us.  So, as food was cooked, it was not defiled by tasting for salt and spices.  The chef had trained himself and his eyes and nose to do the tasting.  An art I have now learned from having observed him since I was a little kid.

I chose to remain vegetarian.  Again, it is by choice that I am a vegetarian.  I never eat meat at home or parties or for my personal pleasure.  Never.  I do not know of one instance when I was not working that I have every eaten meat.  I do cook with it, and I enjoy serving it to others.  But never have I eaten it when eating for pleasure amongst friends.  That is what I mean by saying I choose to remain vegetarian.

And for the most part I am.  I mean, there have been instances, where for my need as a chef and writer of food, I have needed to taste something.  I have done so.  At first, with much pain and strife, and now with cold-blooded work related duty.  The task of tasting meats.  I held back for 4 years before I started.  Just two years ago.  Much to my own and my partners chagrin.  For the small amount I eat when I taste, certainly does nothing for converting me, and also leaves 90 percent of the serving on the plate to go back to the kitchen.

I have loved steak and foie gras.  Well, when I have tasted meat, the two that I have loved most, are Steak and Foie Gras.  While I certainly will not be every eating it for pleasure, I do not even make any more effort to taste these.  But when I have, they have really made me happy.  Being Hindu, it was not easy to taste beef, but I realized how the roots of Hinduism are the most secular roots you could find anywhere.  There are no absolutes in Hinduism and no fundamentals.  Since I can afford that freedom, I made the distinction, that if I can more easily justify tasting chicken, why stop.  The connotation of holiness is human and our own need for control.

So Tonyfinch, I hope I have answered your questions... I have been vegetarian all my life.  I have eaten none more than a few tablespoons of meat, perhaps 15 times in my life.  Would that make me a non-smoker in between not smoking?  I doubt that.  Mine is certainly not pure absolute vegetarianism in terms of having made at the most 15 exceptions in my life and tasted 2 tablespoons at the most of some meat but should that qualify me as a non-vegetarian?

By the way, before I am considered to be a vegan having eaten a tablespoon or two of meat 15 times in my life, and assigned more sin, I should clarify, I am an ovo-lacto-vegetarian.  I eat eggs and dairy.

While it is human nature to want absolutes in life, I believe there can be instances where one is close to the absolute without having compromised much.  Do you not agree?

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I've been served live fluke (meaning fluke that was live until prepared by the sushi chefs) at Nobu Next Door several times. In the restaurant's raw bar, you'll find live spiny lobsters, sea urchins in season, and several varieties of bivalve. (I should mention in this regard that any restaurant serving raw bivalves such as oysters serves them live, as in they're alive when the customer actually eats them; there's pretty much no choice in the matter.)

Japanese restaurants, and by that I'm talking mostly about sushi restaurants because that's what is most represented here in New York, mostly deal in non-live fish. With the larger fish there really is no choice: There's no way to keep a tuna in a restaurant tank environment, plus no individual restaurant can use enough tuna in a day to justify keeping a whole one, plus the sushi places use only select parts of the tuna. Tuna is dead for a looooooong time before you eat it in most sushi places. Salmon are also pretty darn big, plus as you intimated there are good reasons to deep freeze salmon before serving it raw (parasites). I've been told that in some places this is actually required by law, though I've been unable to find the relevant US and Canadian regulations.

There are very few examples of actual refrigerators or freezers at the Fulton Fish Market. Most of the work is done by good old fashioned ice.

I've been to Chinatown with Western chefs who have said, "Yuck, there's no way you'd get me to eat tank fish." The predominant belief seems to be that, when you catch, kill, and eviscerate a fin fish on the boat, you essentially freeze it in time at the exact moment of best freshness. Then it's just a question of moving it quickly enough through distribution channels so that your customers can taste it that way as well. Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin was quoted in the New York Times a couple of years ago saying something to that effect, and dismissing the notion of the need for live fish. Likewise, many Western chefs feel that tank fish are mostly listless and half-starved. There's also the question of aquaculture -- a lot of those tank fish are farmed, and the best Western restaurants exhibit a strong bias against farmed fish. I believe, having discussed the matter with many chefs on both sides of the equation, that the Asian penchant for live fish is a cultural rather than a culinary preference. More than one Asian chef has told me that he'd be able to get better fish on the whole if he could use non-live fish, but that his customers would never buy it.

There is also some argument that fish is not at its best right after death, and that many fish are improved by 24-hours or so of time on ice.

When you deal with crustaceans and mollusks it's a different story: Most of them contain microorganisms that will render them inedible within a short time after death. So they are kept alive -- or used frozen -- almost everywhere.

I don't know exactly how an urchin is classified, but my experience conforms with yours: Urchins are much, much better when alive just prior to eating.

You will find many examples of steamed fish in Western cuisine. There are quite a few fish dishes I've had, even at very conservative French places in France, where a particular fish was steamed and adorned only with, for example, coarse salt and a bit of olive oil. And of course the whole Le Bernardin phenomenon is about presenting fish in pure form, often cooked very little and sometimes raw.

Cabrales, if you want to discuss this further, let's cut-and-paste and build this out into a new thread.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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  • 1 month later...
At this point, I feel like I will start walking down that road, perhaps with crustaceans as someone suggested. I suspect it will be a long journey, with smelly crabs and lobsters as my only company, and pehaps I will have changed my mind in the morning but tonight I am ready! . . . .

indiagirl -- If you are comfortable responding, is there anything members can presently assist on with respect to your decision on potentially sampling non-vegetarian items? Could it be the case that you have already taken some baby steps?  :wink:

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Cabrales, thanks for asking. I have indeed tried to maintain a diary of sorts for this

journey I am undertaking. Here it is (with how much I partook)

February 2002

*Toulouse Cassoulet

Chef Gun's version of the famous dish blends lamb, pork loin, duck, and sausage,

on a bed of white beans, a hint of tomatoes, and dusted with bread crumbs

(two bites, Kerrytown Bistro)

*Sea Bass de la Nouvelle Année

Chef Gun's recipe from New Year's Eve. The filet is lightly sauteed,

then sprinkled with a thin layer of breadcrumbs and baked.

The crispness contrasts with a sauce of lemon, white wine, and cream.

Served with rice and vegetables

(three bites, Kerrytown Bistro)

*Jarret d'agneau à la Matignon

Lamb shanks roasted slowly with potatoes, carrots, onions and

garlic in a Burgundy sauce. Served with braised red cabbage

(two bites, Kerrytown Bistro)

March 2002

Ronnies Lamb Stew

(a little bowl - loved it, don't have a recipe yet)

Bleu Cheese Encrusted Beef Tenderloin

With Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Vegetables And Brandy Scented Essence

(s single bite, Majestic Cafe)

April 2002

Cosi Pizza

Tandoori Chicken, Caramelized onions and asiago cheese

(one whole piece, Cosi Cafe, I think this is the same as Cosi Xando in NYC)

So that's my trip so far. Not stunning but little baby steps like you said, Cabrales.

How did it feel? Better than I had expected. Technically, absolutely no digestive type issues.

As a food person, an eGullet person? I have a long long way to go. And let me see if I can tell

you why.

The lamb, one bite and I liked the flavor. Aaah I thought to myself this is not meaty, not

"fleshy" for want of a better word. Only slight reservations.

Loved the fish. Soft. Melt in your mouth, flaky like no pastry I have ever tasted, not fleshy.

Absolutely wholeheartedly loved Ronnie's lamb stew. The lamb tasted like it was made of butter

but just had a texture very very different from typical butter. I went back for seconds.

Beef tenderloin was also interesting, I did not experience an immediate liking but there was no

instant disgust (and this is the taboo Hindu meat too, so much for years of social conditioning)

but I can't  remember any more why I did not love it or how it tasted different from the lamb.

And then it hit me, thinking of the beef tenderloin - I'm tasting all of these with a pure "Can

I deal with it?" sensibility - the cook in me, the ingredient seeker, is dormant. My senses are

all geared to searching for the life, the flesh in what I am eating and whether I can bear it,

whether my palate can bear it, and whether my spirit can bear it. And as a regular and

inspired cook, I found that frustrating - I was unable to recall a single flavor in that stew of Ronnie's

that I enjoyed so much, besides the lamb, of course. How funny. How dissapointing. How natural.

So now I'm telling myself to be more patient and try to take the developments of my palate in my

stride. I'll wait until I can taste the flavor andthe new ingredient (!)

And that was the state of mind that I tasted the tandoori chicken pizza and guess what - I like

chicken, but the tandoor flavors were totally mediocre.

So here I am. Still totally commiktted to the trip.

If everyone is interested I'll post more as I progress. Or I'll move this to a bio

thread or something. Lemme know.

Do advise/comment. But there's no need to say that.

PS - If March seemed like a slow month in my tastings it was because I was in India trying to

investigate my vegetarian heritage and origins. My vegetarian spirituality. Okay, I'm kidding  -

I was there for my brother's wedding and that was certainly a vegetarian affair.

Missed eGullet while I was gone. (I'm just feeling inspired by an eGullet love post I was

reading before I got here, only because it's all true. Sniff)

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If everyone is interested I'll post more as I progress. Or I'll move this to a bio thread or something. Lemme know.

indiagirl -- I appreciated your log, and would be interested in hearing about developments, to the extent it's not burdensome for you to post on them.  :wink: As for where you post, that's up to you of course.

You mention that, in some dishes, your sampling of a dish results in your focusing on the main ingredient (meat, fish). When you consider meat dishes, note that, in some cases, accompanying sauces may have been constructed using meat-based stock.

I like it when restaurants use "unexpected" meats in their saucing relative to the principal ingredient (this is not necessarily common in restaurants, though). For example, I have recently had fish with poultry jus at (1) Goumard, Paris (here, the turbot was cooked in a cocotte with poultry jus), and (2) The Capital, London (a filet of sole with a parsley/breadcrumb top, asparagus, peas, broad beans and a poultry jus). Another example is a meal at Pic, Valence (a scrambled egg dish with morels, serrano ham and pigeon jus). However, please don't feel like you have to pay attention to these things, or even the saucing, at this point.  :wink:

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Indiagirl - I noticed that several of the dishes you enjoyed must have been braised (lamb stew, lamb shanks). Even though you said the shanks were slowly roasted, that cut is usually braised, and I think this was too because of your describtion of the texture of the meat. So, when you see other things on menus that interest you, look out for that word, braised. You will probably enjoy that dish.

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I too have been exploring slowly. I have not tried beef yet, but I have had duck, chicken, and lamb. I instantly adored the lamb (and look forward to sampling it again) but was neutral on the chicken and really turned off by the fattiness of the duck. Like Indiagirl I have noticed I'm more interested in feeling out my ability to handle meat than in actually enjoying or evaluating meat, but that doesn't frustrate me. I figure that will change with time and experience. Meanwhile I've stopped quizzing waiters about whether or not the soup has chicken stock. I just order the soup.

Thanks, Indiagirl, for your diary. I appreciate the detail you've offered and look forward to more reports from the field. I'll try to remember to come back and check in too, and let ya'll know what I think.

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