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Is Meat Overrated?

On Friday I reported that Jose Andres was at the farmer’s market on Vermont Avenue, cooking a giant paella.  For those that didn’t read that post, Andres is a major foodie celebrity who owns multiple restaurants in D.C., and is a James Beard award winner who trained with Ferran Adria at El Bulli in Spain.

Sadly, the paella was gone by the time I left the office and headed up Vermont to the McPherson Square Metro station.

However, this Jose Andres sighting seems to have been some strange twist of fate, because he also appeared on 60 Minutes this weekend, when Anderson Cooper visited his D.C. restaurant Minibar and was served up some goodies.  However, what is most notable about his appearance is the following heretical and provocative statement:

“I believe the future is vegetables and fruits. They are so much more sexier than a piece of chicken… Let’s compare a chicken breast, the best chicken breast from the best farm with a beautiful pineapple. Cut the pineapple, already the aromas are inundating the entire kitchen. Acidity. Sour after notes, touches of passion fruit.”
“I love meat too but only once in a while. You get a piece of meat and you put it in your mouth, you chew, the first five seconds, all the juices flow around your mouth, they’re gone, and then you are 20 more seconds chewing something that is tasteless at this point. Something like this doesn’t happen with a pineapple, an asparagus, or a green pea.”

What Andres is saying, of course, runs counter to centuries of culinary conventional wisdom – that meat is the centerpiece of the meal, whereas fruits and vegetables merely play a supporting role.  But is he right? Have we really had things backwards for so long?  There is a very legitimate argument that many fruits and vegetables are more intriguing and pleasing to the palate than even a quality piece of meat.  Take, for example, sweet corn, freshly picked.  Heirloom tomatoes off the vine.  A perfectly ripe honeydew melon.  Roasted garlic cloves. New potatoes, crisp-fried with rosemary.  A ripe mango, with lime juice and chili.   Freshly picked summer strawberries.  A ripe durian. Roasted beets.

Are any of these clearly less flavorful than a ribeye, or a pork chop, or a turkey leg?  Additionally, many of these items are far more universally loved than their meat counterparts.  And yet, they have remained relegated to a supporting role, served alongside meat portions that may well not be their equal  when it comes to pure depth of flavor.

Of course, Jose Andres has the luxury of being able to serve dozens of tiny plates containing these ingredients, and to fuss and tinker with these tiny plates until they are perfect.  He does not have to feed a family, where the most efficient course may be to serve a meatloaf or some burgers.  But at a very basic level, even the busiest home cook is capable of appreciating the vegetables they are cooking – that is, not merely boiling or steaming them to death, but preparing them in a way that brings out their best.

In the coming months, Allegations Of Deliciousness plans on posting a series of recipes for seasonal fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on recipes that take a seasonal ingredient and attempt to turn it into something really exciting to eat.  We hope that these recipes will come in handy as farmer’s markets return and people once again have access to high quality fruits and veggies.  If you have any recipes of your own that you wish to share, feel free to leave them in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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