Monday, April 8, 2013

A Day of Perfect Meals


On a recent episode of Spilled Milk, Molly Wizenberg and Matthew Amster-Burton described what would be their day of perfect meals, if waistbands and wallets were not a factor. What an exciting prospect, to spend the entire day indulging in only your favourite things! It feels almost impossible to devise a list of my own, considering what I was preoccupied with yesterday (leeks and parsnips) is not necessarily what I am obsessed with today (sumac and dates) and it may not be what be I will love tomorrow (bulgar and barberries?). Setting rules for such an endeavour feels necessary - while it would be possible to compose a list of the most decadent, inaccessible, or sublime dishes from around the world, it seems easier to limit this to a perfect but attainable day, one that is based upon the way we really eat, rather than some form of aspirational consumption.

An ideal morning would begin with some oatmeal banana pancakes, made at home, served with maple syrup and fresh strawberries and blueberries. The pancakes are tender but with crispy edges, a wholesome but decadent start to the day. Perhaps the meal would end with a mug of Mariage Freres tea, while reading the New York Times.

It's difficult for me to decide on a proper mid-morning snack. A handful of homemade olive oil granola with almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and maybe a few slivers of dark chocolate would be quite lovely. As would a couple of multigrain crackers and a mini-wheel of Babybel (perfect can really be defined as humble and comforting in this example). But if we're really talking about the best of the best, I would probably say a pain au chocolat with another mug of Mariage Freres tea is the only answer.

Lunch! Nutritionists are always recommending individuals eat heavier meals during lunch rather than dinner, to allow the body more time to metabolize. For the most part, I do not believe in such things because a large meal during the day means I am more compelled to nap in the afternoon, and who could a) afford to do that during the work day, or b) would want to nap during a sunny afternoon in my perfect day? Nevertheless, in order to fit in as many of the things I love to eat as possible in one day, I would embrace the heavier lunch recommendation in this case and either eat a delicious plate of pappardelle (tossed in a bright pomodoro or a glorious slow-cooked bolognese sauce), or, to enter into pure childhood bliss, an order of black bean chow mein with the greenest gai lan and an even ratio of crunchy and saucy noodles.

The late afternoon snack would satisfy the sweet tooth with likely a Chez Panisse gingersnap and another mug of tea.

What to do about dinner? I have spent a disproportionate amount of my birthdays eating sushi, which would lead you to believe that what is good enough for my day of birth would be good enough for the best day of eating ever, but somehow it doesn't seem quite right. Considering I derive such great pleasure from cooking my own meals, it would make the most sense to choose something that I love to make, and what I love is often what feels reassuring and familiar. In this case, I would choose roast chicken, something I have devoted countless Sunday dinners to. I often dream of Yotam Ottolenghi's version of the Zuni Cafe's chicken and bread salad, but in a pinch (a discount perfect day, if you will), I would settle for just an organic chicken roasted with lemon, fresh herbs, and whole cloves of garlic. Served with the dated but ultimately so delicious strawberry, goat cheese, and pecan salad.

On the perfect day, there is most certainly room for dessert. A roasted strawberry and vanilla ice cream made with my trusty hand-crank ice cream maker sounds kind of delightful. Or a warm slice of apple pie. I love a slice of cake but surprisingly it doesn't call to me on a day that isn't my birthday, so it's not in the mix. Instead, I will settle (I use this word so very loosely) for two chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven. Made with feves or discs rather than chocolate chips though, for slashes of chocolate melted through the caramel-flavoured dough.

If you want to get down to the company, the dinner may also include David Chang, Thomas Mars, Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hersheimer, Okwui Enwezor, and a trio of TADL (totally awesome dead ladies) Louise Bourgeois, Susan Sontag, and Nora Ephron.