Saturday, May 19, 2012

Food Envy

Every month I look forward to getting my new issue of Bon Appetit in the mail. I love my food porn, but I do also read it for the articles: the April issue taught me all kinds of new things about eggs, and the January version had a simple but delicious recipe for roasted eggplant that's going (with a few tweaks) in the regular rotation. However, living in Conakry has taken some of the joy out of my favorite food reading.

There's one section in Bon Appetit I've never liked: an "aspirational lifestyle" feature that tells the story (with lots of pictures of course) of a [writer/designer/chef/otherwise chic person] having a [dinner party/tea party/barbeque/picnic] at their impeccably decorated [sleek Manhattan skyline apartment/quaint country farmhouse/massive French chateau/private island bungalow] with their stylish, incredibly photogenic friends. And there are recipes. As I have always been a few tax brackets (and many, many chicness brackets) below Bon Appetit's target demographic, this section doesn't so much get me excited about making [featured recipe] just like [semi-famous person!] as it does make me sulky about having things I don't have rubbed in my face.

Unfortunately, living in Conakry makes this worse, as the whole magazine is suddenly filled with things I don't have. There's a whole article about salmon this month. I can't get salmon, except for the occasional smoked salmon smuggled in through the mail. No mushrooms. Rarely lemons. No scallops. No fennel. No pomegranates. No leafy greens besides butter lettuce. No berries, except very rarely frozen ones. No peaches. No jalapenos. Cream can be hard to find. Whole worlds of cheeses out of my reach. Recipe after recipe rendered moot due to ingredient unavailability. And let me tell you, it stings much more to not have asparagus than to not have a personal chateau.

That's not to say that I'm living on gruel. Any staple from home I want can be sent in the mail, as long as it can handle two weeks in a box and African temperatures. And there is fresh produce here - it's mango season, and you've never seen so many different varieties of mangoes, all delightful in their own way. It's just easier to miss the things I can't have when I get full-page glossy photos of them mailed to me every month. I could unsubscribe, but I really value expanding my repertoire with the occasional recipe I CAN make, or close enough anyway. I just have to grit my teeth through the fig and goat cheese pizzas with arugula and strawberries with chamomile cream for another year. Then I'll be back in the States on home leave and hitting up Whole Foods HARD.

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