Sunday, November 30, 2014

Fishing around

The festive period is fast approaching, along with all the entertaining duties that accompany visiting  family members and friends. As mentioned on numerous occasions here and no disrespect intended to other social gurus like Martha Stewart et al, when it comes to wining and dining savoir faire, Debretts is a good source to consult.

Last time, the focus was on the selection and imbibing of champagne including the proper way to open  the bottle. Among the advice offered by Debretts was that the choice of drinking receptacle is an important factor to enhance the experience and taste and that a tulip-shaped flute glass be used to preserve the bubbles. I mean, what's champagne without bubbles? Like wine without a  vintage. Right? It's not called bubbly for nothing. The glass flute (somehow "flute" reminds me of the musical instrument even though there is no way it could be used for drinking purposes...just a thought, such as it is...but I digress) should or even must be held by the stem to keep the liquid cold. Getting back to the bubble aspect...

As an aside (big on these) a study conducted by the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, in France, suggests that there are 15 million bubbles fizzing in a single glass of champagne. A researcher studied the role of the carbon dioxide (CO2) throughout its journey from the bottle to the glass, focusing on the second fermentation stage, resulting in the CO2 dissolution into the wine -- aided by the addition of yeast and sugar before sealing each champagne bottle -- to the stage where the gas escapes through tiny bubbles popping on the surface of the wine in the glass.
( Go figure! Somebody actually studied champagne bubbles. Just thinking...wonder if any tasting was involved... Just a thought.

By the way if anyone reading this is interested in studying champagne other than by a taste test and happens to be in the Reims, France, vicinity, the Institut des Hautes Etudes du Goût, de la Gastronomie et des des Arts de la Table is offering a course, entitled, "The Physics of Champagne Bubbles."  No mention whether a degree is offered for those who pass or complete the course. What would it be called? A BA in Bubble Study?

A good match for champagne is caviar, or the roe of the sturgeon fish. As mentioned previously, it's not a personal favorite but it certainly has its adherents. The average portion of caviar is 30 grams. According to advice offered by  a special spoon made of bone, crystal or mother of pearl should be used in order to preserve the taste and eaten in amounts smaller than a tablespoon. This sounds like logical advice given the high end price of what in the end, is fish eggs. Furthermore, it's good etiquette to consume caviar in small bites. One would never deign to stuff one's mouth with caviar and if one does, one should immediately take a large gulp of champagne to wash it down (my personal advice, not experience). Champagne always seems to make things right. In my mind - such as it is - there is a somewhat snobbish appeal to being served caviar at a party:

"Yes Felicia - they served the golden caviar with crackers. Only the best and found in only one in 1000 osetra sturgeon. I must remember to pick up a can at the supermarket tomorrow for the bridge club ladies."

Debretts also offers advice on eating lobster although it's a specie that is morally difficult to eat - at least for me. Somehow, it's hard to reconcile seeing a future meal positioned in a tank of water along with others of its kind, waiting to be selected as a main course. Moreover, when served whole, it's also problematic to eat a food that stares back at you with accusatory eyes that seem to say, "killer!" Then again, perhaps it's just me. The actual eating of the lobster requires the wearing of a bib while grasping the shell in one hand, while the other hand slowly and methodically uses a lobster cracker to reveal the flesh, after which it's pulled out with a lobster pick. Oh the angst of being a tasty crustacean favored by many!

Last but not least, snails is another shell type food, which has its devotees. Having never consumed one but spotted a number in the garden, can't comment on their flavor value. Judging by their size, not much to eat and once again work is required to remove them from their shell. Debretts advice includes the use of snail tongs to remove the meat, yet another meal requiring work.

Speaking (or writing about) snails, while researching this piece, came across the Mother Earth News site, which advocates using your very own snails found in the garden. FYI, the site provides among other interesting facts, this background info.: "The common garden snail, Helix aspersa, is a close relative of France's commercially harvested Helix pomatia. Both can be found on French dinner plates, where the former goes by the affectionate "petit gris" (little gray) to distinguish it from its cousin gros blanc (large white)." A snail, is a snail is...

Perhaps Jean-Paul Sartre sums it all up: "“It is not a matter of indifference whether we like oysters or clams, snails or shrimp, if only we know how to unravel the existential significance of these foods.”

Whatever you say, Jean-Paul.

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