Friday, February 20, 2009

From the Annals of Anti-Social and Counter-Productive Behavior

The scene: Seward Co-op parking lot, Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A shopper, on foot, approaches the store as a mini-van, parked at the end of aisle nearest the store, starts to back out. Mini-van brakes to allow shopper to pass.

Around the corner comes cream-colored PT Cruiser, oblivious of mini-van's reverse lights and shopper, both. Cruiser must stop halfway around the corner, blocked by mini-van. Mini-van is also now blocked by Cruiser. Cruiser driver honks and gestures angrily at mini-van driver.

Mini-van pulls forward to let Cruiser pass. Shopper proceeds into store.

Leaving store, shopper sees Cruiser parked where the mini-van was.

(Don't get shopper started on the cell-phone-chatting shopping cart drivers inside....)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Inaugural Meeting of the Aïoli Anti-Defamation League

Okay. I'll call the meeting to order. Roll call: OYGID?


Anybody else?

Very well then. Let's get started:

Aïoli is not synonymous with mayonnaise. Let’s break it down: aï-, that’s for ail, garlic; -oli that’s oil spelled sideways, also olive without the –ve. Aïoli may appear very much like mayonnaise, but in fact it need not even contain eggs—a boiled potato can be used to emulsify the sauce.

It is a sauce of garlic and oil, usually made in the manner of a mayonnaise, with the frequent addition of lemon juice, salt, Dijon mustard, and pepper. It is served, in Provence, in near ritual manner, in the aïoli monstre, platters of vegetables, meat, fish anointed with the garlic-hot sauce which, according to the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral, “intoxicates gently, fills the body with warmth and the soul with enthusiasm. In its essence it concentrates the strength, the gaiety, of the Provençal sunshine.”

Says Mireille Johnston in The Cuisine of the Sun, “aïoli is a legend, a festival. It offers a whole banquet by itself.” “This wonderful sauce has been called ‘the butter of Provence,’ ‘the soul of the south,’ ‘cream of sun’…”. “In all cases, it is supremely invigorating.”

Fergus Henderson: “Aïoli often seems to be mistaken for garlic mayonnaise, but this is not so. Aïoli is aïoli and eating it should be an emotional experience—it is strong, but that is its role in life.” (The Whole Beast)

Roy Andies de Groot: “Following the custom of Provence, I stuck the corner of my huge napkin into my collar, while Madame cut chunks of bread, poured the wine and served the fish and vegetables. I ladled a dollop of aïoli onto the side of my plate. It stood up, glistening and stiff. I spread a little of it on a piece of fish, on a bean, on a carrot, on a slice of potato, on a morsel of bread…the garlic seemed to be the perfect companion to enhance the flavor of everything on the table. Perhaps it is the aromatic strength of the food, the hot softness of the air, the lazy beat of the sunlit hours…in Provence, garlic is a way of life.” (The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth)

Aïoli is not a sandwich spread, or a catch-all for whatever flavorings some fusion-minded chef mindlessly dumps into a mayonnaise.

Chipotle aïoli? Lemongrass aïoli? Wasabi aïoli? Basil aïoli? Ginger aïoli? Barbeque aïoli?

Merci, non.

The most egregious abuse of aïoli I have recently encountered was a “pineapple-mango aïoli,” at a small Minneapolis restaurant known for its devotion to local ingredients. Pineapple…mango…aïoli?

On y'r bike, Jim.

Let aïoli be aïoli.