Love of Food

The phrase “Love of Food” is one of those turns of words that can be misinterpreted. There is the all-encompassing love for all food and all things food-related. Then there’s the love that I wish to speak of today: the love for very specific items.

For all the love I have for food, it is surprising to me how many items for which I’ve had a real passion. It’s as if I’ve reserved this energy for a few select items to be exalted only when they met some list of nearly unattainable criteria.

Often that criteria is based solely on the uniqueness of the food. My first true love was for General Tso’s chicken . My father had introduced it to me when he had taken all of his children to a Chinese restaurant in Pittsburgh in the early 1980′s. For a child who had grown up on burgers and hot dogs, it was a revelation.

And as with most first true loves, an infatuation appeared. For the next few years, every time I went to a Chinese restaurant, I would order the dish, basking in the crispiness of the fried chicken pieces, and how the sauce was both spicy AND sweet at the same time. Even the rice was adored, as it became coated with the remnants of the oil and sauce of the dish. To me, it was the pinnacle of food.

Until it wasn’t. The problem with love is that sometimes it wanes. In the case of the General Tso’s chicken, over the years it had ceased to be mysterious and exotic, and had instead become commonplace. It was and is still respected, but the infatuation was lost.

Over the years there had been several such love affairs. There were the hot dogs at Cedar Point covered in Cole Slaw, who fell into disfavor after being consumed on a nearly daily basis. There was the brief but meaningful passion for sangria and the obsession with a dessert called the El Diablo. But both of those love affairs ended when an improperly made batch ended on my table. Nothing ends a relationship faster when a food ceases to be as good as one remembers it.

And now? The picture says it all. I’m in love with a 21 year old single malt whiskey from Bushmills that has spent it’s final year finishing in a Madeira cask. To anyone who has heard me talk of whiskey since arriving home from Ireland, they have heard me speak of this drink.

The problem with a person’s love affair with food is the same when they are in love with people – when they speak of the object of their affection, they straddle the ever-so-tenuous line of cute versus annoying-as-hell. All they can speak of is are the best aspects of the loved-one, and are blind to the flaws.

Love, whether it’s for food or for others, is one of life’s greatest pleasures. But it needs to be handled responsibly. One needs to take care not to allow the love to become commonplace, nor expected. It should be cultivated and treated carefully.

I will not drink the Bushmills as often as I would other whiskeys. One reason is it’s price tag. At one hundred dollars a bottle, it’s not a cheap date. And expensive dates should only occur every so often. But I will relish each time I get the opportunity to share its company.