Friday, September 19, 2014

Eating Sine Qua None

Fig.1. All of the above ingredients are farm sourced. When cooking with such ingredients, your finished dish will sing songs of sublime taste. Such ingredients should be Sine qua none with life.

Sine qua none refers to an ‘indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient.’ (Wikipedia) It’s a Latin legal term that has tied its assertion alongside many of life’s doctrines. I first read the words Sine qua none in a cookbook. The author used the term to explain that, while it’s up to the reader what ingredient they ultimately use, the end result is indispensably linked to the quality of ingredients used.  One can see evidence of this when eating in the county sides of France, Italy or Greece: Farm and hill sourced ingredients will cause the final dish to rise significantly up the taste echelon when compared to the same dish made within the walls of a city. And while many of the ingredients we buy carry markings of ‘local’ and ‘organic’ and ‘free range’, it’s best to remember that the finest, freshest, and best tasting of ingredients have no packaging at all; the only markings on the garlic you grow yourself is dirt. But like it or leave it, the vast majority of us who live in the city but long for a taste of the country have to avoid food-cynicism and find a way to cope. So, the question becomes, how does one live in a city and eat and cook sine qua none? The answer can be found in travel and sourcing.
There is one constant truth with regard to every major city the world over: they are surrounded by farms. Some of these farms are large-scale, industrial farms and some are small, family run; go to the latter. If 
you live in Montreal, you don't have to travel far. Laval has some great farms, most of which can be found on  
A little further away than Laval, Vermont is a bastion of good ingredients. Vermont’s abundance of small farms, co-op farm programs, and food shops makes this American state an ideal place to source worthy ingredients.  Another noble trait that makes Vermont a territory filled with Sine qua none ingredients is their attitude towards food: eating local is not a theory in Vermont, it’s a practice. Any worthwhile restaurant in Vermont creates their menus with local ingredients front and centre.

For those who can't travel, sourcing involves knowing where your food comes. Your best bet is a farmer's market, but, ask questions. Buy local and eat foods that are in season is a tired sentence for most food writers worth a damn, but I'll keep writing and repeating it until I don't believe it anymore. 

The cookbook in which I read the words sine qua none, in case you were wondering, was in Jacques Pepin’s, Complete Techniques—an indispensable and essential cookbook if ever there was one. Pepin's mindset is one shared by all of the great gastronomes that have pondered the philosophy of food: Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, James Beard, M.L.K Fisher and George Auguste Escoffier all agreed that only optimal ingredients should ever be used when cooking. 
There is, however, one essential need Pepin forgot to mention when it comes to food and eating. We would do well to remember that it’s not just our ingredients that should be sine qua none with what and how we eat, but hunger as well. For without hunger’s genuine state, nothing will taste as it should.

Fig.2. Farmer's Market in Woodstock Vermont.

Fig.3. A mascot cow from Sugarbush Farms in Vermont. Sugarbush is a great place to get Vermont Cheddar,  smoked cheese, and blue cheese.

Fig..4.  Moving to the country, gonna eat me a lot of peaches.