Last week, we continued our new series, "Food Pairing for the Modern Sophisticate" with an in-depth look at the nasal arts and a discussion of the best ways to pair food and drink with cocaine. This instructive essay on food pairing and party etiquette proved that even in today's hectic, hurly-burly social climate, the traditional social graces of the 1980's have not yet completely vanished from the earth. This afternoon, our series continues with a few suggestions on how one might comport themselves like a Victorian dandy, a man-about-town and a true gourmand in a world which can sometimes seems sadly vacant of appreciation for the sartorial and gastronomic arts.
There was a time when the gourmand stalked the earth like a dinosaur--making buildings quake and ladies swoon with his every step. It was a time when a dozen oysters, two stuffed quail, a whole lobe of foie gras and a bottle of '61 Cheval Blanc was considered an appetizer, merely the beginning of a night of true epicurean excess. Beard, Escoffier, Careme, Fatty Arbuckle, the Marquis de Cussy: these were names that meant something. They were men who were famous (mostly) for their girth and their appetites, for the exalted place in which they held their passions and their notions of living the way they ate--hugely and without restraint.
It was an age when moderation was seen as something that should be practiced only by others, when temperance and sobriety were looked on as fine for the parson and maybe the coachman, but also as traits for which all a gentleman's fortune might be well spent in obliterating.
Frankly, we think it is high time that the world saw a return of the epic gourmand. His (or her) passions and appetites and screw-the-consequences philosophy of a good and well-lived life would be a fine tonic for these times of lack and forbearance. And if any of us could figure out how to afford it, we'd totally live that way all the time.
In the meantime, here are a few suggestions for how to behave like a gourmand in your every day life.1. Buy a Gout Stool
Gout stools used to be all the rage among Victorian gentlemen, and a bedchamber or sitting room without one was proof positive of one who lived a sadly dull and abstemious lifestyle. Seeing as gout (or "the gout," if one wants to be proper) is caused primarily by an existence steeped in alcohol, butter sauces, organ meats and stupendous fatness, it is the hip disease to catch if one truly wants to be considered a modern-day gourmand--one's suffering acting as a signal to all and sundry that you are a man willing to completely sacrifice the temple of the body and at least one kidney for the pleasure of having lobsters and gin for breakfast.
Even if you don't currently have gout (though, really, what are you waiting for?), the gout stool by itself is still a necessary affectation. Buy one, place it prominently in a public portion of your home, and use it all the time while moaning, rubbing at your swollen joints and rhapsodizing over the shots of butter you did last night at Canlis.
2. When Having Your Portrait Painted, Always Pose With A Turkey Leg
First things first, have your portrait painted. That's awesome for all kinds of reasons. And better than a photographic portrait because you can force the artist to do things like cover up your hickeys, dueling scars or not paint your hideously swollen gout foot.
When you have your portrait painted, always pose with a turkey leg or some other kind of food item. This will guarantee that, many years from now, when the portrait is being sold off by skinflint relatives trying to pay off their bookies/bail bonds/student loans, the auctioneer at Christie's will announce the item as, "A hand-painted portrait of the infamous gastronome, Sir Roderick Von Turfberry, in repose."
If your name is not already something like "Sir Roderick Von Turfberry" or "Lord Augustus Snoot, Marquis of Queensryche," you should also consider changing it. No famous gastronome was ever called Enos Skaggs or Eugenia Piddles.
3. Bring Back The Opera Cape
If you want to be taken seriously as a modern gourmand, you're going to have to buy an opera cape and wear it everywhere. To work, to school, to bed, to your parole hearings and colonoscopy--everywhere. No one will believe you're really a true boulevardier and appreciator of life's finer things without an opera cape (and maybe a top hat).
But the opera cape is not just good looking, it's also functional. Here are several things you can do with an opera cape that someone without an opera cape can't:
1) Sneak entire hams into the movie theater (or the opera, I guess, but really, who goes to the opera anymore?)
2) Make sweeping entrances and dramatic exits
3) Sneak other things into other places--like a rapier into church or pork chops into a vegetarian restaurant
4) Be the envy of all your friends and enemies
5) Impress jackhammer operators with your fine silk lining
6) Surreptitiously masturbate
4. Remember Three Simple Letters: A.B.D.
A.B.D.--Always Be Drunk. We're not talking sloppy, falling-down-in-public drunk. We're not talking picking-up-tranny-hookers-with-Hugh-Grant drunk. We're not even talking calling-up-old-girlfriends-and-pretending-to-have-herpes drunk.
No, what we're talking about here is the careful, scientific maintenance of a .10 blood-alcohol content at all times, occasionally spiking to Dudley-Moore-in-Arthur levels (particularly when one has an opera cape, a top hat and a driver at their disposal), but never dropping below a .08 (or Dudley-Moore-in-Foul-Play) ratio.
This is not as easy as it sounds. But it sure is fun to practice.
5. Always Bring Your Own Provisions
Nothing is sadder than some rube on an airplane desperately sucking down the 11 peanuts he has been allowed by F.A.A. regulations on that flight from Tacoma to Camden. Nothing is sadder than some fat kid trying to tongue the last Goober out of the box at a noon showing of The Social Network.
A true gourmand knows where to get the best provisions and (generally with the help of an opera cape) carry them with him. Which is why you must always attempt to smuggle a full, covered platter of lobster thermidor into the movie theater with you, hide bottles of vintage wine in your sleeves, bring a cocktail shaker full of bloody marys with you to court (a la Bill Murray as Hunter Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam) and all sorts of gourmet snacks onto all airplanes, yachts, hansom cabs and autogyros.
Granted, with the current TSA rules about what can and can not be packed in a carry-on, this might involve slathering one arm in pate de foie gras or kiestering an entire salami, but no one ever said the life of a roving gourmand was an easy one.
6. Try to Die In An Amusing Fashion
There is nothing memorable about dying of a heart attack. Unless you do it in the lap of the Queen of England. There is nothing amusing about choking to death. Unless it is done on a whole ham while dining with another at Taillevent.
Everyone dies. But a true gourmand will endeavor to ensure his memory by going down for the big dirt nap in as unique and classy a way as possible. We remember Vatel not so much for his food as his suicide by sword upon realizing the fish course was going to be delayed. And the Marquis de Cussy demanded that his servants fetch him roasted red partridge as death approached, which he then ate with his fingers with great and memorable relish (though history does not record which of the little bastards poisoned him for being such a prick).
Today, most of the truly original methods of food-related death have already been done. But here are a few suggestions:
1) Falling into a giant meat grinder while trying to recover one's top hat
2) Actually dying while eating a "Death by Chocolate" dessert at some terrible chain restaurant
3) Choking on foam at Alinea
4) Eaten by ducks while touring a foie gras factory
5) Death by blowfish toxin, not encountered while eating fugu at a sushi restaurant
6) Auto-erotic ham-sphixia