There's a scene in Pixar's animated film "Ratatouille", where cold-hearted food critic, Anton Ego, samples Remy's traditional Provencal stewed vegetable dish and is instantly transported back to his childhood in some obscure French village, tasting it for the very first time. The scene is, in my humble opinion, the singular best moment of the film.
There are times when I struggle to remember the hazy details of my life, when names and dates escape me and I have to exert effort to shake the sediments of what remains buried for so long, but one sniff of a favourite recipe or of a meal my mother made for me as a child and memories come flooding back. It doesn't matter where you grew up, what you ate as a child, what part of the world that memory is contained in, you know what I'm talking about, right?
"The smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us…" states Marcel Proust.
Nothing has the power to conjure up images and memories from our past like food does. The smells and taste surround us and transport us somewhere else; most of the times to a place that doesn't even exist anymore.
When people travel, one of the first questions I ask is: "How was the food?" When I think of the time I’ve spent galavanting across the planet, my memories are inescapably intertwined with the food that I enjoyed along the way.
Siena, Italy brings back visions of pastel-covered walls and cobbled streets, but it also evokes aromas of melt-in-your-mouth osso bucco, gamey wild boar sausages and sweet Tuscan wine. Vietnam makes me think of grilled cuttlefish and ice cold Hue beer, of basil-tinged pho and crusty French bread. Greece makes my mouth water with memories of tangy feta cheese, tomatoes fresh off the vine drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, mixed in with Kalamata olives that make your mouth pucker. New Orleans makes me think of spicy jambalaya and heart-clogging Muffaletta sandwiches. Just one bite and I hear the Zydeco music start in my head.
It’s no secret; I’m obsessed with food. I talk about, read about it, salivate over it, create mental check lists of restaurants to visit, often plan my travel around it, and there’ve been a few embarrassing nights at Au Pied de Cochon when I was moved to propose marriage to chef Martin Picard after having tasted his daily specials.
Like a friend of mine once astutely commented, a man can lose his looks, but a good cook will never lose his charm.
When people travel, one of the first questions I ask is: "How was the food?"
We humans are hedonists at our very core. There’s a reason we close our eyes in orgasmic pleasure when we bite into something we like. Most of us savour the textures, sights and smells of good food. And it’s always about much more than the simple act of eating.
Food obsessed that I am, I started chatting with some local Montreal food bloggers on Twitter and I recently had the pleasure of joining them for Sunday dim sum at Chinatown’s Kam Fung restaurant. As we chowed down on all the delicious offerings, we talked about – what else? - food. We took pictures of it, compared notes, discussed culinary favourites, and dished on the misses.
Let’s face it; food’s a big deal! It’s the way we celebrate, we comfort, we commemorate, and, ultimately, it's the way we connect.
“My idea of heaven is a great big baked potato and someone to share it with,” Oprah Winfrey once said in an interview. Who am I to disagree with Oprah?
Montreal is brimming with great dining options for people who, like myself, are obsessed with food. Here are some great unpretentious, fun local blogs with no vested commercial interests, that may help you separate the wheat from the chaff. Keep in mind that everything in life - including food reviews- is relative. Enjoy!