I’m not sure where sporadic culinary obsessions come from sometimes, but it occurs to me that my leanings are inspired by personal eating experience, of course, and also… vicarious eating experience via media, like film. I’ve had this thing going with cold chicken for a while. It was the inspiration for a picnic that I threw once, to much success (if I do say so myself). I asked everyone to bring cold chicken salads to Prospect Park for a picnic themed around this dish, and many friends did just that with aplomb. I am remembering this event because two friends of mine who I had invited independently and who met one another that day have now gotten engaged, six years later.
I’ve been watching Project Runway and it was brought up recently in a judges’ critique that a designer might have been inspired (partially, or maybe just subconsciously) from a style seen in a movie (Pretty Woman was the one in this case). I think that chefs might also be influenced by movies that they’ve seen and enjoyed very much, ones that lingered in the memory. I conclude that my cold chicken obsession stems from two classic films in particular: the opening scene of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, where Elizabeth Taylor glumly fumbles through the fridge and picks out a chicken leg to eat with her hands after sprinkling salt on it while talking incessantly to an annoyed husband, played by Richard Burton; and the cliffside picnic scene in To Catch A Thief, where Grace Kelly famously asks, “Do you want a leg or a breast?” to Cary Grant while they stop their convertible on a hill with a glorious vista of the French Riviera in the background (incidentally, the same roads that Princess Grace would later die on in a car accident). In both scenes the women pull out chicken legs and sprinkle salt from a shaker onto them, before ripping into them with their teeth. I love that. I so freaking love that. That’s how I like to eat. But it’s so freaking dated, because no proper lady that I know of, at least not in Manhattan or in such a nice dress, would break out a cold chicken leg and just go at it like that anymore — it’s just not like that these days. For so many reasons, but the most important being the one that I’ve meditating on for years: nobody cooks now, hence, why would any mature, presentable woman have a piece of spare, leftover, or otherwise COLD chicken on the bone to break out?!
Thankfully, at least today we no longer carry around salt shakers to season our cold, or hot but fully prepared food with nowadays. That is culinary taboo from a less-enlightened yesteryear in food; if food is properly seasoned to begin with (and it darn should be), one should not have to stoop to add salt grains to the surface.