In Search of Gritty Cuisine


Coal-fired oven. For me this notion conjures up visions of industrial era London caked in soot. And the Black Sheep, pizza shop that uses coal-fired ovens, had that promise of olden days written all over it.

When we got the pizza at the Black Sheep I expected there to be smudges and ashes of coal on the crust, maybe like when you cook on a charcoal grill or wood fire. A little something to remind you where it’s been. But the pizza was pretty clean.

That’s because, I believe, unlike wood fired stoves the coal does into come into contact with the cooking chamber. Probably a good thing, I guess.

When you go out to eat nowadays everything is so pristine. Everything is so well laid out and distinct. Sometimes the food comes on oversized plates where the food is arranged like a flower arrangement, with drizzles and dollops. Lots of clean lines. Almost minimalistic at times. It’s all very pretty and very tasty.

Sometimes, though, you want something a little more gritty. More rustic. I don’t mean something sloppy or ill-prepared. I mean intentionally gritty. Like Charles Bukowski poetry on a plate. It’s art but it’s not pretty.

Maybe it’s like my version of the Paleo diet. I’m not even sure what is all acceptable on the Paleo diet but my definition is like this: You can eat whatever you want but no utensils. No forks, knives, spoons or chopsticks.

The Utensil Free Diet. Put those fingers and opposable thumbs to work. Eat like a human not a societal construct. All those arbitrary rules around forks and knives and spoons were all created simply as a way for one class to distinguish itself from another anyway. Throw those out the door. Bring eating equality back in.

Dig in. Become one with your food. Add the tactile experience to the taste and smell and look of the food.

You don’t even need a plate. Serve it right on the nice table. Just need a good hearty napkin. So you’ve made a mess. Just bring out the Zamboni rag and wipe it off. Bam. Next.

You can have a cup, I guess. Though it would be better if everyone shared a universal mug or drink the wine right out of the bottle.

And how back to nature and green is that. Good for you, good for the cook, good for everyone.

For all you creative chefs out there, this is the your challenge.


About joegergen

To evoke a smile. That's all. Author of "Methane Wars: A Fable" and "Lear's Fool" as well as various poems and some these painting things as well.
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