Our Town: An ode to food as I age

Our Town: An ode to food as I age
Mary Zimmer of Culinary Heights

It seems odd to me that writers rarely elaborate on joys of eating. Perhaps writers don’t like to use words like thick, heavy, rotund, chubby, fat or obese.

However the only thing that seems to improve with age is my enjoyment of food. I wish I could enjoy sex or sports or fighting with my brother the way I did as a youngster but sadly I do not. But I am certain that my love of good food only increases with age so let’s pay homage to the wonders of gastronomy in eight ways:
1. The virtue of Campbell’s tomato soup: Andy Warhol was not the only one who loved Campbell’s tomato soup. My family would spend summers in Maine and my grandmother was a superb cook. We lived in a big house on a hill with farmland and forests all round us. My brother and I would sleep in a glass enclosed porch on the third floor and she would wake make us up each morning and would ask what we wanted for breakfast.

Pancakes with maple syrup right from their trees? Eggs, oatmeal, bacon, cereal? For breakfast and lunch each day I insisted on tomato soup. And she would just shake her head back and forth and say “Oh tommy, what am I going to do with you ?”
2. Henry Miller on starvation: I was lucky enough to have a gifted older brother who introduced me to great literature from an early age. And my most vivid memory of Henry Miller’ books was a description of the time he lived in Paris, was nearly starving, stumbled into a church, listened to a Bach concerto and hallucinated to the music. Since then I always knew that food in the stomach actually distracts you from clear thought.
3. The Story of the Grail is actually about food. : In this 12th century masterpiece the young Perceval is fed a feast by the Fisher King. The food is brought in on a golden grail by a beautiful young maiden. The banquet was so mesmerizing that he spends the remainder of his life seeking out the grail. So let’s drop the religious pretense, the search for the holy grail is really the search for the perfect meal.
4. Virginia Woolf: In the first great feminist paper, A Room of One’s Own, Woolf notes that food is rarely if ever written about , “It is a curious fact that novelists have a way of making us believe that luncheon parties are invariably memorable for something very witty that was said, or something very wise that was done. But they seldom spare a word for what was eaten. It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of not importance whatsoever.”
5. Elizabeth Gilbert on the pizza in Naples: One of my favorite mainstream books is Eat, Pray Love which is the irresistible memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert’s emotional collapse after her divorce and her brave decision to take the year off to travel and to find pleasure and peace in other parts of the world. The book inspired me to seek out the world famous pizza of Naples.

Naples is a sweaty nasty place but the pizza was great. And I recently learned that Tokyo is now the place to go for perfect pizza and someday I will make it my business to see if that’s true.
6. River Café: Here is a short paragraph on what has to be the most romantic restaurant on earth. If there are restaurants in heaven they will use the River Café as the model. This restaurant is considered by many to be the best in the world and it is in driving distance from Nassau County. In other words, go.
7. Culinary Heights in Garden City: The gourmet carry-out and off-premise catering establishment has been a Garden City institution for 35 years. It is run by the husband wife combo Mary and Norm Zimmer who are always there tirelessly working to serve those who have discriminating taste buds. With items like chicken salad with grapes and cashews, wild rice and shrimp salad, stuffed leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic or sandwiches more French than American one learns quickly why their customers are totally loyal to them.

I love their apple turnovers, the carrot cake and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing. If my mother baked like this I would have never left home.
8. Chef Flynn: I was lucky enough to see what may be an Oscar winning documentary last weekend at the Gold Coast International Film Festival in Port Washington. This was the story of Flynn McGarry who developed a passion for cooking at a very young age and with the support of his filmmaker mom has become an international star.

The film is about the making of a prodigy, which is a subject I know something about since my practice as a sport psychologist consists of helping the families of very talented young athletes cope with international competition, travel and fame.

In the film Larry King askes the already famous 15 year old Flynn whether it bothers him to be referred to as the ‘Kid Chef.’ He handles the question with aplomb but I will share with Flynn the story of Lance Armstrong.

Many years ago I was in Miami covering a professional triathlon and during the run up to the race there were whispers that ‘The Kid’ was coming to the race. I asked someone who ’The Kid’ was and was told “It’s a young 15 year old prodigy out of Texas named Lance Armstrong. He wins every race he enters.” And if you want to find out more about Flynn he has already opened a restaurant in Manhattan called Gem.
So that’s my ode to the glories of food. So what if I’m a little over weight, at least I have a smile on my face.

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