THE GOCHISO GOURMET: What would you eat?

Maybe it’s because the Mayans calculated the end of the 13th Baktun on Dec. 21 of this year. Perhaps it’s because that radio network preacher has predicted the end of days … on multiple dates, mind you. Or perhaps it’s just because the National Geographic Channel airs a show called “Doomsday Preppers” every Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. that I’ve been thinking, “What am I gonna do if the world ends?” Or more importantly, “What am I gonna eat the day before it ends?”

I’ve actually posed this question to several members of our informal wine and food group, or those willing to entertain my vision of eventual worldwide destruction. I’ve also thought about it on occasion, assuming that life will be “normal” until it’s actual extinction the day after (although it’s very unlikely to be the case). My hypothetical scenario looks like this:

“And how much is a bottle of 1959 Clos Vougeot?”

“$1,500”

“I’ll take a case, since I won’t be liable for the ensuing bill tomorrow.”

“Well, please enjoy!”

In any case, perchance the Western interpretation of the Mayan calendar does comes to fruition, I’ve posed this question, “What would you like to eat as your last meal?” to some acquaintances.


Comfort Food

For most of the acquaintances to whom I’ve posed the question, the answer is surprisingly but understandably, foods that they’ve grown up with, that take them back to a simpler place and time. And mind you, a vast majority of my informal wine and food gang enjoy their fair share of seared foie gras, sous vide this-n-that and caviar … when we can afford it. But contemplation of that last meal invariably takes us back in time. For instance, one friend simply would like a fried fish dish that her mother prepared years earlier when she was a child. Another wants a good lau lau (taro leaf wrapped salted pork and fish steamed in a ti leaf bundle for several hours) and poi (steamed, then mashed taro root). And a third simply wants to savor mom’s home cooking.


My Last Meal

Indulge my “vision,” if you will. I know that the world won’t wait until I finish my meal before it explodes into oblivion (according to the movie “2012,” Hawai‘i will be a vast lava field with Diamond Head erupting), but perchance it does, I would like to start the evening with a cocktail. Though I always order the obligatory Manhattan whenever dining at a steakhouse, my cocktail of choice is the perfect Negroni — equal parts of gin, vermouth and Campari, shaken, not stirred, with an orange peel twist garnish. It’s served immediately after shaken so that the perfect ice line remains on the upper part of the libation. And per the Buckeye Roadhouse’s recipe, it is two parts dry vermouth to one part sweet vermouth (the usual recipe is all sweet vermouth). “The Gentle Side of John Coltrane” is the perfect accompaniment, on the stereo.

Then we progress to the meal: eggs. Lots of them, specifically, runny egg yolks. As I’ve stated in previous columns, in the words of Tony Bourdain “I’m a total egg slut”… runny egg yolk slut, that is. What about salmonella, you ask? No problem! The world ends tomorrow. And if it doesn’t, that’s what antibiotics are for. One of my favorite applications is tamago meshi — freshly cooked rice in a bowl topped with furikake, a little yatsumi-zuke (the Tropics Market in Honolulu had the BEST, but alas it’s just a memory now) or mustard and head cabbage pickled in a shoyu based marinade, then crack that fresh egg on the rice and mix. Perhaps a little Kikkoman Menmi. Heaven!

Then we progress to the fried rice with sunny side eggs. There’s something about the marriage of slightly salty meat (proteins), rice and an unctuous egg yolk tying everything together. And although I love several purchased variations of fried rice (Kin Wah’s shrimp fried rice or Masa & Joyce’s (45-582 Kamehameha Highway, Kane‘ohe) fried rice musubi), I’ll state for the record, that I also make a pretty mean fried rice myself. Of course, the rice needs to be “dried” for one or two days, and if that comet is striking earth at a 24-hour notice, it would be difficult to dry the rice.

Salade Lyonnaise. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Poached eggs are also very good, especially when sitting atop some cold smoked salmon and a toasted brioche round covered in Champagne vinegar based Hollandaise sauce … or sitting atop crisp frisee with lardons and croutons with a simple vinaigrette ala Salade Lyonnaise.

And since I’m having a frisee salad, what about other veggies? I still love to eat oven roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, especially when tossed with minced fresh garlic, olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper and smoked sea salt, then finally tossed with grated lemon zest. And I can’t exit this little orb until I have a final serving of sautéed beet greens or broccoli rabe (rapini) with sliced garlic and olive oil.

Then there’s Mom’s pan fried miso butterfish. Not a family secret recipe, but your everyday supermarket variety of pre-marinated misoyaki butterfish that Mom pan fried until the sections of meat split. I skipped many-a-karate-training-session during college simply because while I was stretching, Mom was cooking the miso butterfish. Every excuse popped into my head — “I do have an exam coming up next month” or “my knee does feel a little stiff” or “is the rice done already Mom?” And while we’re on the subject of Mom’s cooking, I definitely need to sample her pan fried flank steak as a final course. Mom made several variations of her flank steak — thinly sliced like a thin katsu, then dredged in cracker crumbs. Sometimes it was simply with a curry powder spiced flour mixture, other times it was teriyaki marinated and the piece-de-resistance, marinated in a mixture of shoyu, ketchup, oyster sauce and sugar with a touch of garlic, ginger and liquid smoke… “Is the rice done already Mom?”

The Boneless Minute Chicken. photo by Ryan Tatsumoto

Of course, there is one commercial product I want as part of my last meal. Not really commercial, but prepared in a restaurant. Kin Wah Chop Suey’s (45-588 Kamehameha Highway, Kane‘ohe) Boneless Minute Chicken with Cake Noodle. I actually know people who live on the Leeward side of the island who make a trek specifically to the Windward side just for Kin Wah’s food. But that Boneless Minute Chicken is a MUST do. Especially if I’ll be awash with molten lava the next day. Tender boneless chicken pieces with a hint of smoky flavor from the charred wok on fried cake noodle — soft chow mein noodles crisped on the outside and tender on the inside that soak all of that gravy topped with boneless chicken and choy sum … As mentioned, their shrimp fried rice and pickled cabbage and beef are also great but the boneless minute chicken is a MUST have!

And I do love my fried potatoes, whether they’re grated (hash browns), cubed (cottage fries), frenched (frites) or machine processed (Tater Tots). And they DO have to be served with a mayonnaise-based dressing (though my Mrs. would beg to differ — she prefers ketchup-based dips). They’re also great dipped in sunny side egg yolks (are we back on eggs again?). Or in a pinch, chips that are thinly sliced and fried straight from the bag (Ruffles Reduced Fat, Cape Cod Reduced Fat or Kettle Cooked Reduced Fat Chips) then dipped in shoyu-sesame dressing are great if time is a factor when the Earth’s crust is rapidly splitting and swallowing mankind.

Finally, I do enjoy my proteins and I realize steak is on most people’s lists as a last meal. I’m just not a steak person — I enjoy filet mignon which most “real” meat eaters would say isn’t a steak at all. But I do love steak tartare, especially Michel’s tableside preparation, but I do believe it would be difficult in reserving a table or placing a take-out order if the Earth was facing annihilation. So the next best meat substitute would be San Danielle proscuitto or Speck, or even a simple Spam musubi, of course with the Spam properly crisped on the outside then slathered with a nice teriyaki sauce and wrapped with good spiced nori. And since mankind doesn’t live (or goes extinct) with food alone, I’d uncork every bottle of Noel Verset Cornas along with every bottle of Champagne for good measure. But that’s just me. The big questions is: “What would you eat?”

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the Univ. of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a clinical pharmacist during the day and a budding chef/recipe developer/wine taster at night. He writes from Kane‘ohe, HI and can be reached at gochisogourmet@yahoo.com.

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