Still, two stale tuna sandwiches from a refrigerator bin proudly labeled ‘Organic and Prepared… Recently’, a bag of BBQ potato chips and a weak cappuccino later, we were cursing. Not only because the sulfates in the sandwich were making us sick and spacy, but because this lunch had cost us $28! Our flight cost $128. You do the math!
Luckily, San Francisco and its bucolic spread of restaurants and bistros of all persuasions awaited us only an hour's flight away. It is very hard to have a terrible meal there, though some are better or pricier than others, which brings me to the interesting epiphany we came to whilst exploring this gastronomical landscape.
Haute cuisine does not necessarily a good meal make.
In my opinion, good food is a combination of quality in ingredients, care and deft creativity in creation, with a respectful nod to tradition. A chicken should look like chicken in my humble opinion, not the wreckage of an alien space craft. There is primitive comfort in food that is – well, recognizable as edible, and which does not seek to reinvent the wheel. Also, there is a point at which the price of a meal becomes ridiculous, and value becomes a matter of conjecture.
The best meals we enjoyed in San Francisco were Mediterranean or French bistro fare, frequented by locals and crafted from locally produced meats and produce so that one had the feeling of eating in the comfort of a farm house in Provence; a fond fantasy, since we were only an hour away from our smoggy home base.
These places made sensuous use of local fruits, pairing cherries with lamb or figs with duck breast. I would describe this cooking as inspired variations on a theme by Bach, rather than the pretentious strivings and clattering of Charles Ives, who scorned musicality and inserted fire alarms and barking dogs in his pieces.
To merely enjoy music, in his opinion, was to be banal. However, if it seared your ears like fiery hot tongs and you still managed to tape a clenched-jaw smile on your face and rave like a lunatic, then and only then could you claim to appreciate music and lay claim to being an intellectual sophisticate whose tastes and understanding rose above the rabble. This is a colossal load of hogwash with regards to music, and the same metaphor applies to cooking and the enjoyment of food.
One restaurant comes to mind as I write this. Since my husband picked it, I was blissfully blame free, while he could only mutter and laugh at himself before pondering whether he’d need to order something from room service later. He finally settled on a protein shake mixed up with tap water from our boutique hotel’s bath.