50 Foods


Edward Behr is not a man with whom I'd like to go to the supermarket.  A strawberry comes to perfect ripeness for only a day. Anything that has been shipped is not to be considered.  You should buy lamb from a farmer you can trust. Chestnuts are best in the weeks after the harvest.  By Christmas they are already in decline.  So there, Nat King Cole! 

"Most commercial wine vinegar doesn't taste like much, because it starts with cheap wine, which can give it a muddy taste and off flavors. And the industrial process doesn't help," he writes in  , which I recently picked up at the Plymouth Library and have been reading with interest.  Don't even get Behr started on supermarket balsamic vinegar.

He writes, "Supermarket asparagus, so many days having passed, has muddy, unclean, nearly human flavors."  "Nearly human"!  Has he been lunching with cannibals? Behr, terroir expert and editor and publisher of The Art of Eating magazine,  is a gourmet of the old school who combines his enthusiasm for the best with his scorn for anything less.  I have to agree that fresh asparagus is better, and if it has been shipped from Argentina, I'd just as soon leave it alone.  Like him, I prefer the green variety to the more expensive white.  He likes north Atlantic oysters, and so do I.  I think I could serve him freshly opened Island Creeks, without shaking in my shoes.

I don't mean to imply I didn't like the book. I enjoy fantasizing about butter churned from fresh unpasteurized cream, preferably in the spring. I agree that the old fashioned varieties of corn that had to be eaten very fresh were better than the modern genetically modified corn that retains a sweetness that tastes like corn syrup to me.

I agree with him that grass-fed beef can be terrible.  He says sometimes it's great, but I haven't found that kind yet.  Naturally he thinks supermarket beef is inedible.  With beef, as with nearly everything else, Behr wants to know the farmer.  He is extremely knowledgeable and provides a wealth of information about farming, storing, processing, and shipping.  I find reading him enjoyable despite the impression he gives me that I have seldom experienced the best of anything.  

He motivates me to frequent farmers' markets, specialty cheese mongers, butchers, and fish markets.  Knowledge can't do me any harm and I can keep an eye out for something good.  With Behr's guidance I will ask the right questions. That being said, I have to eat every day, and the supermarket is where the food is.  He has not made me dyspeptic over my buttered toast, my burger, or my vinaigrette. 

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