Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dinner With Lucullus

M.F.K. Fisher, the simultaneously subtle and brilliant food writer, devoted a chapter in her opus Serve It Forth to the importance of dining alone. She loved to cook and entertain guests which is beautifully rendered in her writing but she never forgot to make time for herself. Even when dining alone Fisher would treat her meal with the same delicate touch and refined style that she lavished on her guests. I totally agree with her notion that eating alone does not have to be a chore, bore, or quick fix of crappy food. She attributes this philosophy of eating well, even when alone, to a Roman noble named Lucullus. Lucullus was a grand gourmet notorious for the wealth he squandered on his food budget and opulent feasts. One day he verbally abused his team of chefs when they served him leftovers, stale bread, and overly watered wine on an off day from his busy social schedule. When his staff stood apologetically before him they pleaded that since he was eating alone they assumed a lavish feast was not a necessity. He rebuked them by saying that when Lucullus dines with Lucullus the food should be at its very best, going above and beyond what they served his guests. Lucullus ate the finest foods and drank his most potent vintages when dining alone, because he was worth it. I agree wholeheartedly that it is warranted to treat yourself now and again to a special meal made especially for you.

Tonight I decided to dine alone and model Lucullus’s gastronomic philosophy. I had a lot of tasty things leftover from my last trip to the farmer’s market so I threw some stuff together that worked out really well. I had a second pork tenderloin that had been marinating in the fridge for two days, leftover from the dinner party I threw for Nick’s birthday. After sitting in the flavorful marinade (refer to last post) for several hours it had taken on a tremendous amount of flavor. I roasted it in the oven and finished it under the broiler to give it a nice crust. I plated the pork next to a mixed green salad with crumbled blue cheese and cubed bosc pear. The spring mix of mesclun and fresh herbs paired well with the zing of the blue and the sweetness of the pear. My vegetable side dish was stir-fried baby bok choy purchased at the Korean stand at the Union Square farmer’s market. I threw them in the wok with vegetable oil, garlic, and minced ginger and briefly sautéed them. Right at the end of the cooking time I added sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and chili paste to give it some Asian flare. You could say my dinner had an east meets west vibe to it with the bok choy standing as the antithesis of the more Mediterranean pork and salad combo. Dining alone does not have to be banal; one can eat like a Roman noble even when breaking bread solo. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!


Amelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amelia said...

This is perhaps the finest writing you have ever done for Pomander Saveur! Bravo!