I recently read a very funny essay by Brett Martin about how, as large as it seems, in our modern times the world is actually a small place and everything is easily accessible... right?
The author had returned from Malaysia and found he was missing the food he had eaten there. He had the bright idea that with overnight shipping anything was possible. And so, he set out to order some memories from around the world. He would have meals FedEx-ed to him.
It would certainly be more economical than a plane trip for the sole reason of eating food... other than that, we can safely assume it's not the cheapest way to dine.
As it turned out, it wasn't actually as easy as he'd initially dreamed. The first problem was finding people people willing to assist him in his scheme.
Bollito misto from Italy? Neither he nor an Italian émigré friend living in Brazil was able to find a willing assistant for the endeavor.
Cassoulet from France? His answer was, "Clearly you are not familiar with the French."
However, with all the other problems, the USDA and U.S. customs would be the biggest deterrent...
Suckling pig from Bali? No chance.
If you've ever tried to smuggle something into the U.S. (whether knowingly or not) you'd understand. Explanations don't matter.
I always wonder what happens to unopened foodstuffs that's confiscated at airports, no matter the country.
One can seriously and sadly imagine someone else enjoying whatever wonderful something you've just lost.
Do they have to throw it away? Do they actually do it?
Within the country, he successfully obtained muffalettas from New Orleans, BBQ from North Carolina, burnt ends from Arthur Bryant's in KC, and green chile enchiladas from New Mexico.
Our writer figured out that seafood was not on the list of items scrutinized by the USDA.
So, he obtained herring from Sweden.
He tried to get a seafood dish from Malaysia, but it was stopped in Alaska.
It finally arrived a week later, and by that time he decided it probably wouldn't be a good idea to eat it.
After all of this food frenzy, he decided that maybe things weren't really as good as he remembered them. While they seemed fine, they weren't quite as fresh. But more importantly, what makes the food really good is the special ambiance that a place exudes.
An example for me is that while in France one time, bright and beautiful red frais de bois and fresh creamy brie tasted wonderfully good sitting on a bench under a willow tree, next to a stone wall complete with a bubbling stream rushing by. While I can think about it, and those things were excellent in and of themselves, they were probably made much better by the surroundings and the ambience.
The best part is the experience! All the senses are involved to help complete the memory.
Asparagus and Ricotta Tartlets
Adapted from Donna Hay's Entertaining
makes 12 tartlets
1 pkg (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed
1 1/2 c whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 c finely grated Parmesan cheese
zest of one lemon
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches asparagus (you'll have some left over)
Olive oil, for brushing
Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
Straighten/stretch a sheet of puff pastry and cut along folds so you have 3 equal rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half across the long edges so you now have 6 equal rectangles. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry.
Place the pastry rectangles on the baking sheets and score a 1-cm wide border along each side. Divide the cheese mixture evenly among each piece of pastry and spread evenly in the center part of each, being careful to avoid the outside border.
Trim asparagus so they fit the cheese-coated areas, and lightly press a few spears into each tart. Brush the outside edges of the pastry with a little olive oil and bake the tartlets for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry has puffed and is golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature.