A Little Proust Moment

Scotch fillet with five different types of mushroom in the sauce seemed like an act of vandalism when I read it on the menu. Why threaten something so good with something so “mushroomy”? Mushroomy is a word Laetitia coined, and one that I like, although for her mushroomy is very enticing concept, and for me it is most decidedly the opposite. Still, I thought, I like steak an awful lot, and the sauce part of mushroom sauce is often a pretty neutral gravy-like substance which provides moisture and carries the meaty flavour, and, you know, for an instant, I felt bold enough to consider ordering the scotch fillet adorned by several different kinds of fungi. Perhaps it seemed longer than an instant. That was because I announced that I was thinking that way. That I was willing to take the chance, to risk it. It was bold thinking, and possibly it was never truly serious, as – you can probably guess – I’m not in the Mushroom Fan Club. (A work colleague who agreed with my mushroom views once hit back when I suggested that cream of mushroom soup wasn’t such a bad idea: she said that it was worse than dishes which have mushroom in them because it was all mushroom, and therefore, you might say, it was unrelentingly mushroomy. Or something.)

So, after careful consideration, and because there were two other steak options on the menu, I went with the rib eye. And it was delicious, by the way. Funny how good simple things can be. Funny how special simple things can seem because you are in a restaurant. But there were, wait for it, potatoes, and cherry tomatoes. It was really a very good meal, though, and thoroughly enjoyed.

One moment sticks in the mind, somewhere in the nostalgia region of that jumbled filing cabinet I keep up there, and that’s when Laetitia gave me some of her scotch fillet, with a bit of mushroom, to taste. She had ordered her steak medium, and the edges of the fillet were charred and I ate and the taste of singed meat brought back such memories. For a moment I was six again and sitting in a Black Stump restaurant with mum and dad and they had ordered a steak for me, well done, and it was exciting and there was anticipation and the seat was comfortable, and the plates were before us and I was eating and maybe feeling a bit like an adult for one of the first times I felt like an adult – a little bit, you know, just a smidge – and perhaps I had one of the serrated knives in my right hand, and perhaps I’d told dad that I could handle it and cut the things myself, and the plate was heated and there were chips which were a lot better than McDonald’s chips, although nowhere near my Nanna’s chips, and life seemed grand and full of promise. There was something exciting about steak. And there still is. I imperfectly recall mum and dad endeavouring to explain to my sister and I what “the black stump” means, and I certainly was too young to appreciate an abstract term like that and thought, although there must have been strenuous efforts to persuade me otherwise, that there really was a big black tree stump somewhere – an actual black stump – and the world beyond this former tree was remote and possibly backward, while the world on this side of it, where we were right then, on the comfy cushioned seats, at the impressively laden table, was more sophisticated and certainly more familiar and my well done steak was testament somehow to the truth of that.

Such are our imaginings when we do something basic like eating. It’s a basic function to eat and our associations tend to be longstanding ones, the memories triggered can surprise us in a happy way. The overall dining experience can be more comforting as a result.

I wonder why it seems so difficult to get meat which isn’t bloody on your plate these days.

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Published in: on May 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

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