Food Retrospection by Chef Michael Langdon

Memories.  How important are they when it comes to food?  To me, very. I often wonder how I happened into my first kitchen job. I was 15. Couldn’t even drive yet. I don’t know if I wanted to get a job, or my parents wanted me to, but I do know, this pizza place I stumbled into would be one of two summer jobs I held that year, possibly gearing me up for the long days that awaited me in my future.  My first experience in a kitchen was profound. At this age I was quite impressionable and thought it was the cat’s ass that the owner bought beer and cocaine for after hours when we were to fold our boxes for the next day. Clearly, looking back, this man’s head was quite fucked for distributing such nonsense to minors.

My food memories though, go back much further. Both my Mother and Father cooked, so I learned at an early age, it was something everybody did, or so I thought. My Grandfather also cooked. He hunted as did my father, and eventually me. You kill a deer, you gut it, you fabricate it. It was horrifying for me. Emotional. Sad. From this all, I learned to respect life. To respect food. To see where it comes from and, most importantly not to waste. Growing up, my Father also had a rather large garden. He taught me how to can tomatoes and make pickles. He taught me how to make homemade sauerkraut. At that age, I thought the fermentation was vile…but now, living this fast paced life, having no time for even my own children it seems, I want that time back. Me and my Dad, mashing cabbage and fresh dill. Later, whilst we did it, getting wickedly pissed on Bourbon and laughing. But I cannot get that time back, nor can I get my father back.

chef_boyardee02A certain smell. A certain taste. It’s all relevant. To this day, I’m amazed that a dish, or a woman’s perfume, can bring back a snapshot of a memory, whether painful or filled with joy. I cannot go into the dining room without smelling a certain perfume and think about a broken heart, or eat a bread and butter pickle without thinking about my childhood. It’s profound. Food for me, is everything. Every special occasion is geared around food. Even in death, we finally find ourselves trying to take a deep breath and surround ourselves with our loved ones, around food.

Food brings us all together. They’ve not yet made a pill or a machine that can do what we can with food. When that happens, I’ll probably bow out and live my dream of being a recluse, living off the grid and foraging and hunting the land, finally getting that fucking vacation I’ve wanted to take for sixteen years. Until then though, I will continue to push forward. As I do this, I need to take a look at my past. Look at what got me here. As I do this, I realize I need to have fun. I think we all need to do that. Stop taking everything so serious. We need to create dishes that make people look into their past. It’s more than food. It’s emotion. Passion. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone leave your restaurant near tears because the entire dinner moved them so much that they cannot even speak, or would you rather support the ideal of getting cheap food and slapping it on a plate so they can slap on their feed bags and roll themselves out afterwards not giving the slightest fuck about what they just experienced??

Serve food from a tinned can. Appreciate the irony and humour, have a good laugh, and chill out. It’s only food. It’s only everything.

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