Editor’s note: William Dunk is an international business consultant based in Chapel Hill.
CHAPEL HILL -We’re still passionate believers in the 3-martini lunch.
And we still eat calves brains at the drop of a hat, which, of course, set vast amounts of cholesterol coursing through our veins and arteries to the chagrin of every cardiologist worth his salt-free diet.
Our families, for generations, have either been eating a meal laced with imagination or discussing the next one.
This is not to say that we haven’t taken a few bows to our straitlaced, health-obsessed era. Our diet has shifted from French and Italian to Southeast Asian, heavy on the fish. A salmon regime from some faddish doctor at Yale has trimmed a bunch of weight off our collective waistlines. But, in our hearts, we would rather die young and happy than old and worried.
Fortunately Americans are beginning to disagree with us, and we are seeing many reports that they are finally shifting their diets, eating salads at MacDonalds rather than the other junk served there. Obesity is the nation’s biggest killer and surely our most pervasive epidemic. Nothing will make more of a difference in the mortality tables and our healthcare bills than a little healthy eating. As you can see here, we preach the virtues of diet and then sneak off to the temple of gluttony.
Health aside, we would like to make a plea for you to indulge yourself a little. After 2000, we entered a Y2K world that is fraught with continuous breakdown. We think that you should resurrect the old adage, “Living well is the best revenge.” To escape all the stress of the 21st century, you need to sin a little with food.
Back to martinis.
It was somewhere in the 1980s. At that time we had our headquarters in a remodeled firehouse somewhere in the East 20s of New York City. The Chief Executive of what was surely then the world’s best advertising agency came down to visit, because he was passionate about everything to do with New York’s Fire Department. Neither of us tried to shinny down the brass pole that ran from my second floor office to the ground floor. But we vowed to take a trip on an antique fire tanker someday.
After his tour of the premises, we repaired to a nearby Japanese restaurant. Very quickly we got into the martinis. This led to a very animated conversation, as the gin, or was it vodka, loosened our tongues. It was not long before he stood up, energized by the excellent cuisine we were sampling, and replayed for us a brief but enthusiastic speech he had given in Japanese in Tokyo to some very welcoming hosts. This martini moment told me why he headed such a great advertising firm: he brought panache to what otherwise would be trivial encounters.
Food and biography.
Again and again, we have discovered that food excursions with interesting people lead to good bites and tell us volumes about the companions who are along for the adventure.
In 1976, a buttoned-down MBA, fresh from America, dragged us off to a restaurant in Tokyo that served nothing but eel, which was quite a challenge for us at the time. We caught on that this young chap was always secretly into the exotic, never inclined to pursue middle of the road pleasures in life or business. A New Jersey strawberry picking expedition in the 90s resulted in a very rich, fruit-filled ice cream that told us that our host was a man of strong tastes, never disposed to mild wines or over-subtle conversation. He had a bluntness about him.
The hottest meal —
One Tuesday night in the late 1980s our then partner Dick asked, “Do you want to eat something really, really hot?” “But, of course,” we said. On the spur of the moment, which was his way, he booked us into a 2d floor fish restaurant on Second Avenue, in the mid twenties. We both had squid diavolo.
Never before or after have we had anything so hot, anywhere on this planet. Every bite worsened our case of rampant hiccups, although we managed to get the whole plate down. In fact, Dick, the instigator, never finished his meal, having bitten off more than he could chew.
Dick was always into surprise and presentation. For the fun of it, he’s even turned out a guidebook or two, wanting to lead the unwary to places they have never been. With that meal, he outdid himself. That was his Barnum and Bailey triumph. He had given us a fiery meal where the flames never went out.
Food, more than we know, reveals humankind’s strongest drives and lets you see the souls of those we encounter at the table. In dining, dieting and healthy eating are only sideshows, whereas the main theme emerges from somewhere deeper in the psyche. Should you really want to know somebody, let him take you out to eat and linger awhile.
Cocktails, incidentally, are staging a comeback and you can see recipes for them in this magazine and that. Likewise, we are returning to food with body and soul, no longer content with eye food, the decorator cuisine that looks sort of half pretty but fails to really satisfy. That’s why we had a whole fish, steamed sea bass, accompanied by bok choy on this very evening.
William Dunk’s web site, Global province, is a marketplace of business ideas for investors, business executives, journalists, and elitists everywhere.
Global Province: www.globalprovince.com