Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The High Cost of Being a Foodie: A Love Story

Nearly everyone has one: a story, that is, about a pivotal meal that forever changed their relationship with food. For us it was a prix fixe menu at Seattle's now defunct (but soon-to-be-resurrected) Mistral, where a course of seared halibut bathed in vanilla foam invited us into a world in which meals can tell stories of what is in season, where people are from, and sometimes, where they are going.

For Samin Nosrat, whose story I had the good fortune of hearing recently on NPR, it was a dinner at Chez Panisse with her boyfriend that ignited her immense passion for food. The meal was the culmination of a year-long effort of saving spare change in a jar, and by the dessert course Nosrat admits she was a changed woman--even if she did ask for a glass of milk to enjoy with her chocolate souffle. In fact, she was so moved by the meal she wrote a letter to famed Chez Panisse proprietor Alice Waters, describing her food epiphany and asking for a job. In a turn of events that seems all too movie-like, Nosrat's wish was granted.

Sadly, Nosrat's recent interview on American Public Media's The Story was not simply a chat about falling in love with food, but rather, a bittersweet recount of the closure of Eccolo, the Berkeley restaurant she recently worked at which had been built with a careful focus on sustainability, but was taken down almost overnight by the economic recession. While at moments the story of a culinary dream unraveling is enough to break any foodie's heart, I was still moved by Nosrat's admirable refusal to cut corners just for the sake of keeping the doors open. You can listen to the story online here.

- K

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