August 22, 2007
MY FAVORITE FOOD
I once ate pressed duckling at a restaurant in France named La Tour d'Argent, and before the ducks arrived, a haughty French captain handed each of us at the table a certificate with a number on it.
The certificate was the official number of each person's duck. Before they went to meet their maker, the ducks each had a little metal tag with a number on it tied around their tiny ankles near their cute little webbed feet.
Apparently each duck had a number to tell us all how special each individual duck they served was. The duck tasted like . . . well, it tasted like duck, although I remember everyone at the table raved that it was the best duck they had ever tasted. I kept thinking about the number and wondered if the ducks milled around and stared up at the duck press, and whether Donald told Daisy, "Here they come for me. I guess my number is up."
I remembered being quite drunk and asking my waiter if I could have a duck with an unlisted number. The waiter gave me his best "all Americans are fools" little smile and said, "Sir, every duck we serve at La Tour d'Argent has had a number since the first duck was served to Edward VII in 1890. We have served 1.2 million ducks." God, the French are creepy when it comes to food.
Is La Tour d'Argent a frightening word in the duck world?
I believe so. On Bastille Day, go to David's Lane in East Hampton, where all the ducks on the East End live, and announce out loud that you are a talent scout for La Tour d'Argent. Then watch those little suckers scatter.
The most expensive meal I ever had was in Italy, when my host ordered a pasta dish with butter and olive oil and incredible grated cheese and the waiter started slicing two whole white truffles on my pasta. I remember thinking that a truffle is the only thing of its size that is more expensive than cocaine. Each paper-thin translucent slice of truffle hit my pasta and the sound I heard was a cash register.
I once sat down alone at the counter of a Japanese restaurant in California, drank Sake and cold Japanese beer, and ordered everything in sight. When the bill arrived it was over $350, just for me.
The chefs all shouted, "Arigato gozaimasu!" as I left, which in my sake-soaked state I thought meant, "Dumb American bastard doesn't know when to stop eating."
I think that Michael Rozzi, my chef at Della Femina Restaurant, is a genius, and his Maine Day Boat Halibut with baby shitake mushrooms and a local snow pea salad, black rice, coconut and kaffir lime is one of the best dishes I have tasted anywhere in the world.
When I am anywhere near Periyali, a Greek restaurant on West 20th Street in New York City, I have to get their famous octopus dish. It's a dish I dream about. No one in Greece does octopus better than Periyali in New York.
Then there's the linguini with clams anywhere on Capri.
Why am I saying all this? Because I want you all to know how much I love food, and I want you to know what my favorite food in the world is. There is nothing – not truffles, not lobster, not numbered duck – nothing in the world I enjoy more than a Sausage Egg McMuffin at McDonald's.
There is a ritual I follow with my Sausage Egg McMuffin. I take the part of the muffin that is closest to the egg and throw it away so that I get more of the full tasty treats inside like sausage egg and melted cheese. I take two of those annoying little pepper packages that spill everywhere but on the food and shake as much pepper as I can on to the egg. Then one packet of salt. Then I take my treat to my car.
I prefer the McDonald's in Manorville because I like to sit in my car and stare at the traffic and listen to music on my car radio and sip my coffee and take little tiny bites of the Sausage Egg McMuffin so that it will last longer.
I plan for my next Sausage Egg McMuffin the way Eisenhower planned the Normandy invasion, because this incredibly delicious dish is not available all day. No, some genius has said, "Let's stop serving breakfast at 11." On weekdays, some places stop at serving breakfast at 10 or 10:30.
Now, I read in Forbes that many McDonald's around the United States have shown an incredible increase in profits by staying open 24 hours and serving breakfast all day. But apparently the managers of McDonald's in Nassau and Suffolk don't read Forbes. All they need is one extra worker to make breakfast and Sausage Egg McMuffins all day long. As I look at the Manorville McDonald's staff, I think I'm only one or two illegal Mexican workers away from getting my Sausage Egg McMuffin all day and night.
The other day I realized how much of an obsession this Sausage Egg McMuffin has become with me. I was traveling out to East Hampton on the Long Island Expressway when I realized I wasn't going to make the 10:30 deadline in Manorville. A quick check of my GPS told me if I switched to the South Shore I could make it to the McDonald's near Patchogue that served breakfast until 11. I looked at the speedometer. I was doing 80. My GPS told me I would arrive at my destination at 11: 03. That wouldn't do. Then I said to myself, "Jerry are you ready to die for this frigging $2.63 piece of sausage that's shaped like a hockey puck and has an overcooked egg on it?" Then I thought of the taste of that first bite and I stepped on the gas. I arrived at 10:55. By 10:57 I was sitting in my parked car taking my first tiny bite. You should have seen the s---eating smile on my face.
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