We have three political parties: Democrats, Republicans and Maybes/Maybe-knots. Similarly we can divide ourselves into three groups: the Bries, the Brans and the Barbecues.
The Brie group is populated with exuberant folk who live to eat something new. These are the explorers, who flock to elBulli, The French Laundry, Alinea and The Fat Duck. Their heroes are Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz and Heston Blumenthal.
These are the Cirque du Soleil of chefs: high fliers who soar to new heights on bended twigs and clouds of dry ice while Iron Chefs and their challengers continue to astonish and delight their followers as they exhibit their own brand of jaw-dropping daring and culinary expertise.
The Brie group hurries to every new restaurant, daring to savor novel tastes, marveling at the dazzling décor and freedom of choices. They are having a glorious time, shouting applause and encouragement for the chefs and spurring them on to new creations to delight their fans. The cooks are like a jam of jazz musicians, playing set after set, variation after variation, spurring each other on with flair and imagination.
As Bobby Flay observed: “In the end, your creativity — perhaps even your outrageousness — will determine the final result.”
A characteristic of the Bran brigade is their tendency to treat themselves as outpatients. They study food labels as though they are prescriptions for life or death. Members of this group concern themselves with calories, cholesterol, and fat and have lately become obsessed with gluten.
The Brans medicate themselves with food supplements, rigorous exercise regimes and diets of denial. They fret about fluorides in the water and salt, (except sea salt), in the soup. They do not lie in the sun.
Many Brans are united in their devotion to slow (food). They sing rousing choruses of Amen’s to the principals of sustainability, seasonality and farmer’s markets. They believe we should treat animals humanely so they can eat them. Their hero is Saint Alice.
The Barbecue brotherhood are an entirely difference kettle of fish. They are happiest when dressed in warm clothing, armed and fortified with spirited drinks. They like to hunt and kill their own food: doves, ducks and dears.
The Barbecues can be found striding around their contemporary backyard version of an ancient campfire, carrying a beer and a spear, while their mates scurry about gathering all the sides and washing the dishes. The Barbecues regard a large steak with the same near reverential awe as the flag and the constitution. To those with whom they disagree, they offer tea — and sympathy. Their hero is not the Jolly Great Giant.
It is interesting to discover all three of these disparate approaches to dining result in an almost identical lifespan of three score years and ten (or twenty if you are an actuarian totting up future social security benefits.)
A lifetime if you are watching the political parties — party.