Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sensory Action: Part 1 of What is TasteMemory.com?

Herb Butter made with sweet cream unsalted butter, fresh basil, parsley, dill & slight hand o' sea salt laid over slices of fresh baguette a la radish on top.....

I grew up with this savory snack after I discovered the 'makings of it' in my parents old TIME-LIFE BOOKS series entitled The Cooking of Provincial France via 1968.

I recently discovered the book was written by M.F.K. Fisher THE FOOD WRITER of our century!!!

I have this sacred book in my kitchen bookshelf :)

As you know, I have this Magnificent Obsession for food.

I also have this infinite Magnificent Obsession for the concept of taste memory and food.

Consider taste memory a total recall or in other words a deja vu that delighted you in earlier years or perhaps in the recent span of a decade or so that stills your senses toward a minute moment of enthrallment....*sigh*

Portrait of my basil earlier this spring. A must have for anyone that enjoys her intoxicating scent.....at least for me; she reminds me I'm alive!!!

Also eloquently mentioned by James Beard himself about taste memory:

"The ability to recall a taste sensation, which I think of as "taste memory," is a God-given talent, akin to perfect pitch, which makes your life richer if you possess it. If you aren't born with it, you can never seem to acquire it....And naturally good chefs and cooks must depend upon memory when they season or when they are combining subtle flavors to create a new sauce or dish."

-- James Beard, excerpt from Delights and Prejudices, 1964

For so many reasons; I've entitled this website-blog TasteMemory.com to capture those moments I savor and perhaps many of you have as well.

One of my fondest taste memories is actually related to the sense of smell.

I grew up in San Francisco and in my early years my family owned a delicatessen in the heart of the Mission District.

To be exact it was at 24th and Potrero near San Francisco's General Hospital. If anyone out there remembers my family owned deli - it was called Purity Delicatessen. We were one of the first families to revitalize that part of the neighborhood during it's *slump*. Back then it was the undeveloped 'inner city' and today it's the city's hub of culinary excitement.

It was an exciting time during the Bay Area's food revolution and my family jump started scores of revitalization projects via culinary establishments throughout the Mission District, Haight-Ashbury & later the Castro District.

I feel my blood reviving just describing that time.

Going back to the sense of smell memory by taste memory has to do with my first encounter with San Francisco style french bread and sourdough bread.

Franco Bakery (I can't find them on the web and they may be retired/defunct as many of my old haunts have) would deliver the loaves still warm from the brick oven in giant paper grocery bags everyday except Wednesday. The bakery closed Wednesdays so my parents always ordered double the amount on Tuesdays.

The bread man arrived first thing in the morning when the deli opened and I would wait for him (at a distance)to come through the front door.

He was a real crusty looking guy too; kinda like Popeye the Sailor but scarier.

I never got too close to him as I would always wait for him to leave so I could stake out my claim without him getting too close or asking me any weird questions.

Garlic & Olive drenched toast points made from Jacksonville bread

The Franco Bakery 'loaf' itself was about 3 feet long with two slits equally apart; thus recognizing three rolls of bread one ft. long each.

My parents deli specialized in sandwiches - real sandwiches that fought back with every bite; yet you just wanted more. Think meat, think sweet, savory, fresh; think love and fog while trying drive in the sun in pleasure....hmmmm.

Anyways, often times during the lunch hour; there would be a line of people streaming from the sandwich counter all the way out door to the corner of the sidewalk on 23rd Street......just waiting for a personalized sandwich to be made!

Since then; my poor soul can be found at Publix grabbing a lean baguette in the bakery section.

I'm pretty much there every other day to buy a fresh baguette and if the kids aren't screaming too much I can make my way over to Fresh Market for a step up better baguette.

So if you see me there; I'm the crazy lady that's slowly cascading through the stack of baguettes (no one in their right mind in Jacksonville would careless for one over the other).

I'm also the same crazy lady that lifts the chosen loaf right under my nose to make sure it has THAT scent.

It's a certain scent that combines in the dough with the right enough snapf and smoke with air; but forthright enough that I'm somewhat assured that more than a fluff of Styrofoam awaits inside.

On a couple of occasions the guy behind the meat counter at Fresh Market caught me doing that. He just gave me a look like 'whatever your thing is lady' ; then went back into the kitchen I suppose to hack some meat.

The lady at the bakery counter at Publix saw me doing that too and gave me the same look.

I've seen euro-types and other cultures doing the same thing I do.

I have to admit I sometimes do it with melons too; even grapes (farm grapes from Ohio) & especially fresh chives.

A recent lovely 'take' from Bistro Aix here.

When we went out to dinner during the seventies, Yorkshire Pudding was the rage in San Francisco. They would always serve it at restaurants when you ordered a T-Bone Steak while Al Martino crooned in the background. Hey don't forget the short order of smith and wesson.....

What I've come across here hasn't been too similar to San Francisco style bread. The closest has been French Pantry off Powers Avenue near University Blvd.

My next adventure awaits.....hopefully something with a crust on top!

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