Apr 27, 2011

This literary slice of Yum was written one day before I had to vacate my retail storefront space in Rehoboth. ENTER Cheese Man, stage left, SOLILOQUY...

It's the day before moving day. Tomorrow is the end of my tenure in my current retail space. Sitting here as we all do, putting off the inevitable. Procrastination? I'll get back to you on that! More like, hmm, what can I eat, surrounded by good food?

So, on goes the kettle. Coffee is chosen from the remaining beans in the coffee bins, ground and dumped into the French Press. Up the road I run to the bakery and secure butter croissants. Coffee brewing in the press, and I pop the lid on a jar of Maggie's Burnt Fig Jam for the croissants. What's left in the cheese case? Perfect - a chunk of Cypress Grove Midnight Moon Goat Gouda.

I download the podcast of this weekend's The Splendid Table with Lynne Rosetto Kasper on NPR and am delighted to hear the opening segment is a review of a tribute book to Britain's culinary groundbreaker, Elizabeth David. Uh-oh, I'm not going to be packing any boxes any time soon, this is going to be a good one.

Elizabeth David (1913 - 1992) spent the years of World War II in Egypt,  travelling throughout Europe, the Middle East and India. On returning to the UK after the war, David was bummed out by the 'drabness' of post war rationed British life. Grey weather. Brown food. Grey moods. Blah! David set out bringing the colors and social culture of Mediterranean foods into Post-War Britain. The result was the classic Mediterranean Food, followed by five other books that all became bestsellers.

I was born in Wales, UK and lived in the country until the age of 28. Even in Wales - a region with its own specific food culture, I can attest to how deeply Mediterranean foods (from all parts of the Mediterranean) are ingrained into your average domestic kitchen and professional restaurant kitchens. This is to David's credit. David is also referenced as a defining professional influence by many of our popular modern chefs on both sides of the Atlantic - Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Alice Waters... Ruth Reichel, American food writer and critic, discusses on NPR that while on our side of the Atlantic, Julia Child has been credited as a major influence in our food culture relative to French cooking (France has a Mediterranean coastline), Child's focus was on technique - anyone could make French food if you knew how. David's focus was on the importance of ingredients and the social experience of her delight in simple, picnic meals made with quality ingredients. No stuffiness. Simple ingredients.

Well, this latter point struck a chord with me. I had the rare, and privileged opportunity this past weekend to sit in on a pre-dinner service staff meeting with one of our most talented, and most sincere local chefs - Nino Mancari, of Salt Air Kitchen and Salt Air Farm & Table. I got to hear Nino share his philosophy and driving passion - the rational for his restaurant, farm and food business with his staff. I know! How cool is that? While listening to The Splendid Table today, what I heard from Ruth Reichl while disussing Elizabeth David, Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver, and Nigella Lawson with Lynne Rosetto-Kasper, resonated in the back of my busy mind. I heard much commonality with Nino's own words and open-hearted impropmtu mission statement with his staff.

Salt Air - Delaware Beach Picnic, beach BBQ, farm to table, seasonal, locally sourced ingredients supplemented by quality ingredients sourced as locally as possible. No stuffiness. You know as customers, it is sometimes hard for us to perceive the end point in an ongoing development of a business concept. I will say, two years ago when Salt Air first opened, I didn't get the beach picnic concept. What I did get was the great food, great service, and dining experience. Two years  on it is quite evident for a customer to see Nino's vision, his dream for his business, evolving before our eyes. Eye get it (get it?). I hope you will hop on over to Salt Air Kitchen, Delaware Avenue, Rehoboth, and get a great experience at Chez Nino! While you're at it, hop on over to NPR's online store or Amazon and get Elizabeth David's books; hop on over to NPR and get Lynn Rosetto-Kasper's weekly broadcast of The Splendid Table.

For me it's back to the packing. Yum will be back. Persistence wins the race. Look to one of my inspirations, Julia Child. No more gutsy, persistent person ever lived. Watch her TV shows re-broadcast. She's awkward, drops utensils, drops food, forgets her mark, yet keeps going, we learn as we watch, yes we laugh (admittedly with the unease of recognition of the same traits in ourselves), but you know, somewhere along the way, we get it!

Bon Appetite! Suck it up Cheese Man! Keep on going!

P.S. Why Tumbleweed Times? Because that's what this past year of business has had me feeling like. Time now to nuture some new shoots of this business, settle in one place, and re-grow from there. I hope I'll find you there too, and if I don't then I'll always come to you (big hint on what's coming next!). See ya around town, pardner!


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