My Culinary Shame and Food Bucket Lists

I have some public shame to admit to. It all happened because of the blasted Facebooks. Perhaps you’ve seen it. A status update pops up for one of your friends, stating that they’ve tried ___ out of the 100 foods on the list to try before you die.

I have. And I was intrigued. I watch a lot of food TV. I’m a food writer. Surely I had to have a decent showing. Fifty, at least.

I took the quiz. 42. 42?

But I’m a food writer!

After I calmed down from my embarrassing showing (although I still lurk under the radar, waiting for my editor to see my low number and banish me from writing for Distinction magazine henceforth), I thought about the foods on the list. They’re all, shall we say, unique. Some are ethnic. Some are rare. Some are regional. Many are expensive. All are notable. Well, sort of. I’m not sure about the merit behind including Hostess Fruit Cakes in the list.

This got me thinking, though, about food bucket lists. How many of us have them? We have places we want to go, things we want to do, but are foods usually on the list?

In a really lovely interview with Nadia G of Bitchin’ Kitchen (which unfortunately never got published, but perhaps I shall on the blog), I asked her what she would eat on her last day on earth. She thought for a moment and then began an exhaustive list of all the foods she would eat on that last day.

Definitely a dozen Raspberry Point oysters with mignonette, and then some foie gras terrine, and I want it with caramelized onion and fig, on toast points. Then I would go for baby back ribs, nice and spicy. I want some fried chicken with maple syrup and whipped butter and a waffle. Then a little gnocchi poutine. Then it’s time for a fresh salad. Baby romaine, something real simple, a bunch of fresh veggies—cukes, cherry tomatoes—and an aged balsamic and maple syrup vinaigrette. Then I’d take a break. Probably drink a bottle of champagne. Then dessert. I’m going for a dark chocolate soufflé with fleur de sel, and a little piece of crispy applewood smoked bacon in chocolate with smoked salt. Then hopefully it’s open bar.

Yeah. That’s a bucket list.

Which got me thinking about mine. The things I’d want to try before I go. The list falls into two categories:  things I want to eat, and things I want to master making. Here are my lists (well, today’s version):

First, to eat:

Fried chicken and waffles (I should have this by now, but somehow I moved out of Georgia without ever having it)

Lobster roll (I also should have tried this when I lived in Provincetown, where lobster rolls were plenty – alas, I missed that chance)

One dish from the Two Fat Ladies show. I’d want to pick which one because some of the stuff they make does not sound appetizing to me, but I’m game to try something. My girlfriend and I watch that show regularly, and we’re always astonished at the sheer volume of meat they use. Recent example:  a loaf dish lined with bacon, then layered with goat meat and possibly walnuts (?), and then (here’s what I definitely remember) a bacon lid. Because we don’t want any of that juice to escape. A bacon lid. A lid made of bacon. I mean, really.

Fresh chevre right off the farm. Spread on a baguette with a little bit of honey.

Sole meuniere, just like in Julie and Julia.

And a chocolate souffle.

And then there are the things I want to make. For me, cooking is a way to express love, creativity. It’s a source of comfort. Most of all, it’s fun. So I have a list of foods I want to make before I kick it:

Crab cakes. I’ve had crab cakes made for me so many times, I’ve picked crabs, I’ve had crab sandwiches, crab sushi, crab wontons, but I’ve never plunged my hands in the bowl and made my own crab cakes.

Doughnuts. Fancy ones.

A big pot roast in a beautiful cast iron Dutch oven.

My mom’s peanut butter balls. They have never once turned out right when I’ve made them outside of her supervision, which tells me she’s got a secret to her recipe that she’s not telling me. Right? That’s the only reasonable explanation.

Pizza. I’ve made pizza before, but I want a pizza party with all the dough, toppings, and fixins I could want, just ready for me to assemble into doughy deliciousness.

English Muffin Bread. I saw a recipe for this in my most recent edition ofCook’s Country, and it looked not only delicious, but also simple.

A chocolate souffle. Ooh, no. I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit years ago for vanilla bean souffle with chocolate sauce. The souffles were in miniature, and the bottoms of the dish were lined with tiny, dazzling vanilla beans. After they came out of the oven, you crack open the top by poking a spoon through, and you pour in that rich chocolate sauce. It looked heavenly.

So now that I’m good and hungry, and I’ve set even more goals for myself, I’m going to call my local seafood market, ask them to hold a pound of crab meat for me, and make my own crab cakes tonight. Anyone with advice, pointers, or bucket list entries of their own, leave me some love in the comments section.


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