Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Sweet Life in Paris: just delicious enough

Thank-you for the encouragement on David Lebovitz's bacon and blue cheese cake, which I took to last night's dinner party at my friend Debra's house. This was like a yummy, tidy, sliceable frittata, very successful and elegant.

We give Europeans a lot of credit for being disciplined when it comes to diet. But maybe they're not restrained -- maybe it's their food that's restrained. I've said this before, but I think the wisdom of (some) traditional cuisines is that their food is delicious, but not too delicious. You eat one or two biscotti and then go read a book. You can't eat one or two Toll House cookies without superhuman effort. You end up eating 27 and have to join Weight Watchers.

There was no way anyone was going to eat more than a slice of the bacon and blue cheese cake. I had a piece and thought, well, that was nice, but now I am sated. I wish more of the food in my world was like that.

I wish less of it was like Lebovitz's spiced nut mix which I made in case the cake wasn't any good. This spiced nut mix is something you might get at a spectacular Super Bowl party; it's the kind of thing my grandmother used to send in big tins at Christmas. But way better. Nuts and pretzels tossed with melted butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, smoked paprika, and cocoa, then roasted. Almost tacky, how delicious this was. Uncivilized. I sat there at the party trying to focus on the conversation and was completely distracted by the sweet-salty-crunchy nuts. And I wasn't even hungry! This defines too delicious. 

Has anyone ever been driven to distraction by a little bowl of olives? Or tapenade? Or marinated artichoke hearts? Or Spanish tortilla? I think not.


  1. Actually, I love spanish tortilla and, even more so, artichoke hearts. If I open a glass I will eat it all... I have no will-power when it comes to food that I really like....
    On a more general note, I wonder if it's not a matter of cultural taste, as well of individual. We all cut our teeth on certain foods, and while we acquire new tastes over the years, so to speak, they never become so compelling... or rarely. I love many cuisines but like you wrote, mostly I can restrain myself: I eat one slice and have enough. However, with the comfort foods that I grew up with, I have a much harder time....too bad that I am Austrian, which is not exactly known for healthy cooking (lots of sweets, lots of meats, lots of deep frying...)!

    Love your blog, by the way! :)

  2. Oh, my "argument" is full of holes. Deep fried calamari? Not exactly easy to stop eating and ITALIAN. Hummus, Pot stickers. . .

  3. I'm so glad that worked out for you and now I am curious to try it. Maybe I am just looking for *everything* to be "too delicious." That's kind of my deepest criticism of my own cooking; I want to love everything, not merely have it for dinner. Congrats!

  4. Last night I made what I thought was a delicious dinner, which included a side dish of farfalle with alfredo sauce (Guiliano Hazan's recipe - soooooo good).

    All was well until I finished all the farfalle that was left in the pot while I was cleaning up. The only good thing was there wasn't too much left over.

  5. I've definitely been driven to distraction by a bowl of baked artichoke dip (of which I've already eaten too much).

  6. I love your 'too delicious' concept. though i'm' not sure it's a european/american thing all the way- i.e. belgian fries with mayonnaise? i think a lot of it has to do with the crunch-glisten- salt factor. If it has one of those, it's a little addictive, if it has 2 or 3, it's all over. fries (all); toll house cookie (salt, crunch); nut mix (salt, crunch), and so on.

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