Back to the Minefield
March 2, 2014
In the good old days – say, 1990 – eating was a pleasure – that is for those who could afford to eat for pleasure.
And selling food was even more fun.
Certainly I know what you know – that 24 years ago we had less access to varied ingredients than we do now and our restaurants were far less varied.
In the late Eighties two major reports had called for reductions in dietary fat and the low fat fad began. I opened Marvelous Market in 1990 but still at that time people didn’t ask, “How much butter is in the brioche?” They simply wanted good bread.
Low-fat wasn’t the first American food fad. (Have you, as a witty example, read The Road to Wellville or seen the film?) Food fads are a long tradition in America and the low-fat trend gathered steam.
But in 1990 people didn’t report so frequently and quite so forcefully that they were they allergic to peanuts…lactose…oats…shellfish…eggs…soy…tree nuts. (Some were, of course, but not in such abundance.)
Really in 1990 people didn’t ask frequently, “Do you have low fat…low sugar…pastry without butter…without cream…without yeast?”
Just seven years later at the BreadLine customers warily asked for tastes of soup before ordering it. I couldn’t bear the sight of an adult being spoon-fed like a baby a first taste across a counter.
The U.S. is the capital of consumer choice. In America many of us can afford that luxury. I exercise that choice as much as anyone else. I don’t buy chickens or meat and many other foods that aren’t local and/or organically raised.
The ability to choose is a great privilege.
All of us who make food to sell to others want only customers who delight in what we do – of course. All of us find depressing those who dissect and worry and question all our ingredients. I hate it when people ask, “Is that a cream-based soup? As if we would start a soup with a pot of cream. We want people to trust us – especially if we think we do the best we can.
I’m now going back into this business – at Bread Furst – and hope you will say about what we make only, “That was the best soup…cookie…ice cream…chicken salad that I have ever eaten.”
It’s not that the compliments are important. It’s that I want to make breads, foods, and pastries that captivate you. I want to make the most flavorful foods I can, the absolutely most chocolaty brownie, the freshest asparagus salad, the blackest and sourest pumpernickel, the most vivid strawberry ice cream.
I don’t want to tone down anything.
If I try to make foods to satisfy aversions and anxieties, I lose myself and don’t know what I am doing. You’ll have to believe that I am care a lot about making healthful food. You will see evidence as you find a lot of foods based on vegetables, tree nuts, whole grains, fruits, and olive oil.
But when we make a sweet, we will make it with butter and wonderful chocolate and heavy cream; and we’ll make it quite a bit smaller than the saucer-sized portions you can find these days.
I do worry, however, about offending customers who want less – artificial sweeteners, skim milk, and the like – and you should know as much about my food commitments as I can tell you.
Variety, vivid flavors, local ingredients as much as possible, seasonality, organic as much as possible, smaller portions as much as you will allow.
I believe in moderation and balance and most of all enjoyment.