This month, our F.A.Qs series brought me to an engrossing blog called The Food and Wine Hedonist, where I interviewed John (the food blogging artist currently known as “The Hedonist”). John’s food blog, where I’ve been spending so much of my time as of late, is always honest, frequently hilarious, and a must-visit for any lover of television, music, and popular culture as well as food and wine. You’ll see what I mean when you get there. Just get there. After you finish reading this page.
Every so often, I’ll come away from an interview convinced that the subject is someone with whom I could strike up a better than average friendship in real life. This interview was one of those. From our shared views on wine traditions, the ubiquity of bacon, and how parental influence shapes one’s love of food and cooking, we seem similar enough that we’d probably vibe well together if it weren’t for the 500 miles separating our towns. Our chat served me several plates of food for thought on multiple additional topics not limited to burritos and wine, so check it out, and then head on over to experience food and wine through the eyes and palate of The Hedonist.
Flavorful World: Your blog is run by The Hedonist and The Sicilian. Tell us how you divide the duties of maintaining your site. What are your respective greatest strengths as individual bloggers, and in what areas are each of you working to improve?
John (The Hedonist): The Sicilian and I have been friends since before I started the blog almost four years ago. She’s always been into food and is a professional writer, although not anything as—*ahem*—glamorous as my site. I could tell she was itching to write about food so having her post from time to time was a no-brainer. She has an amazing way of connecting with readers that I could never do and it drives me nuts.
My strong points have always been an ability to remember the most trivial things and my sense of humor. Although… trivia makes me sound like Cliff Clavin in a bar and that sense of humor isn’t always appreciated in my house. So I guess I need to improve on getting some actual strong points.
FW: In the spirit of Food Network television series Chopped, create a brunch-suitable meal course that utilizes each of the following ingredients in some way: dark chocolate fettuccine, blood oranges, sunchokes, and marshmallow fluff. Other ingredients are allowed; your creation simply has to make use of each ingredient named above.
J: I’m really tired of the whole “bacon in everything” trend, but there are reasons why the trend happened—the stuff is irresistible and goes well with just lots of things. So I’d mix some in with the fettuccine because I think the saltiness would complement the dark chocolate nicely and add some texture. I’d then perfume the fluff with some of the blood orange juice as a topping.
I was just at a grocery store the other day staring at sunchokes wondering what the heck they were. I just checked on Wikipedia and it says that Germans make it into a brandy. So I’d take a few swigs of the brandy to prepare myself for the fluff, because I can’t stand marshmallows. Or I can use it to flame the dish, because… well… FIRE IS FUN!
FW: References to music, film, and television are woven throughout your postings. Tell us the last food- or wine-themed movie you enjoyed, and what aspect of it spoke loudest to your own experiences with food and drink.
J: Because of the kids, most of the movies I’ve seen in the past decade were animated. Luckily, one of them was Pixar’s Ratatouille, which was absolutely brilliant on so many levels. There were so many parts of it that spoke to me beyond the simple fact that French cuisine has always been my favorite to cook. I really identify with the scene where Remy (the rat protagonist) gets overly excited trying to explain to his brother how to savor the intricacies of food and how the different components of taste, smell, and texture interplay with each other. And it goes completely over his brother’s head. No joke, that same exact scene happened with me and my brother a couple months ago. Here’s a link to the scene – https://youtu.be/6qtEjJuGo_U
FW: In a post on wine traditions, you spoke candidly about traditions that we still need as well as ones that need to go away. If you could implement a brand new tradition (as opposed to an existing one you’d like to see sustained) that you’d like to see catch on among wine lovers, what would it be, and why?
J: This one’s tough! They help us to keep order and a shared sense of history but, in general, I’m not one for traditions. Any new tradition has to start out as a new experience and that experience has to be great, right? Because you wouldn’t want to make a tradition out of hitting your thumb with a hammer. For me, any time I consciously try to recreate the magic of joyous event, the second time often isn’t as earth-shakingly good. By the third or fourth time, it often feels forced. I guess I love new experiences too much. Catch me in a few years, I may have a new one by then.
FW: To what or whom do you attribute your greatest influences as a lover of food and wine?
J: Without a doubt, my dad. Whether it was a large party, a cookout, just a couple people over—or even just us—there was always an abundance of food. And there was no such thing as “ordering a pizza” or putting out a couple bowls of chips. Everything was made like it was the Pope coming for dinner. It never mattered what it cost or how tired he was, he made sure that everyone was more than well fed. His cooking also had an indirect influence on me that went well beyond food. In our house, he cooked every meal, which was the opposite of all the other families I knew. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb in saying that in 1970s America, cooking was the mother’s job in almost all households. I really feel that watching him cook and clean taught me a valuable lesson about how silly defined gender roles and stereotypes can be.
As for wine, he didn’t drink. I had to blaze my own trail there.
FW: You devote significant attention to the rating of burritos and explaining to readers the HBI (Hedonist’s Burrito index). Tell us what restaurant’s burritos you have yet to try, but hope to experience soon, and what places that restaurant above all others in terms of you wanting to taste its fare before any other establishment.
J: I think I’ve had most of the national chains and definitely all the local burritos in a 25 mile radius from my home. Sadly, I haven’t had one that excited me in a very, very long time. Every new joint that pops up thinks that it knows what it’s doing, but it really doesn’t. But I think that has more to do with living here in Michigan.
So I can’t name a specific restaurant I want to try, but I can tell you what qualities it will probably have. It’ll be independently owned by Mexicans and targeting fellow Mexicans. It’ll probably be a little run-down with awful Ranchero music playing overhead. I know that the bathroom will probably be an abomination. There probably won’t be a waitstaff, but there will be different salsas and pickled vegetables on the table. Chances are it’ll be in Chicago.
FW: Tell us the name of a white, red, or rose wine that you’ve recently tasted, then review it in the 5-7-5 syllable format of a haiku.
J: 2011 Chateau Mayne Vieil Fronsac (Red Bordeaux)
Bought a case real cheap,
Restrained, light fruit and tannins
Solid for the price
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
J: “The Undignified Food Snob.”
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods and traveling to exotic locales, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
J: First off, in the odd chance that my wife’s reading this – I enjoy spending all my time with her and our kids. OK honey, close the laptop…
For the past few months, I’ve been having a blast as music director for the school’s musical. This is my fourth year doing it. I’ve also been doing a lot of remodeling and redecorating around the house and I love it. Now with spring (hopefully) around the corner, I’ve got a major itch to play golf.
That all said, I could easily spend 16 hours a day playing my guitar or piano.
*Note to readers: Just because you’ve reached the end of the interview doesn’t mean the party’s over. Eat and drink your fill of food- and wine-related wit and wisdom from The Hedonist and The Sicilian at http://foodandwinehedonist.com/ and follow John on Twitter for the latest in amazing things edible and potable, and where to enjoy them.