39 things I should do

If you're into food, and wondering, "what the heck should I do next?" check out the [UK] Observer's list, The top 50 things every foodie should do.

To celebrate OFM's fiftieth edition, we asked some of our favourite bon viveurs what they considered most essential to do before they died.

Amazingly, I've already done ten of the items they've listed! Is that because I'm a "bon viveur"? Maybe a little, but also I've liked cooking and food for a very long time. Of what they've recommended, I've already completed the following:

3) Dismember a chicken
I learned this last summer when I was working at a restaurant. Our chef said everyone needed to know how to break down a chicken. Now I do. I haven't done it since.

6) Dine at the French Laundry
May 2002. I can't imagine you're reading my site and haven't read my review, but if that's the case get thee to It's All About Finesse immediately! Now start saving your dollar a day!

18) Shuck an oyster
I first learned this in 1994 on Cape Cod, where indeed just as they recommend, I enjoyed 'wild native oysters, from a forgotten oyster bed'. I last shucked two dozen for my family at Christmas.

20) Wolf down a hotdog on Coney Island
July 4, 2003. I ate one. Japanese super-eating legend Takeru Kobayashi ate 44 1/2 in twelve minutes. A photo of Kobayashi in action!

24) Be cooked for by a legend
(See #6)

32) Shop till you drop [at La Boqueria in Barcelona]
When I visited Barcelona in October, 2003 I spent many hours exploring this amazing market, though I never bought anything because I was staying in a hotel and had nowhere to cook.

33) Catch your own dinner
They recommend deep-sea fishing for tuna in Barbados. I went fishing for bluefish off Nantucket in August, 2003 and cooked up the riches for dinner with my family. Bluefish is my favorite, and I think one of the best meals you can eat (but only if you're in the northeast of the United States in July or August) is bluefish baked with breadcrumbs, butter, and lemon; steamed sweet corn, with butter and salt; and boiled red potatoes. If you don't have strawberry shortcake for dessert, with real whipped cream and homemade shortcake, you haven't gone all out.

39) Visit Pierre Gagnaire in Paris
I did this in June 2003. For some reason, I never wrote about it. Drat, I wish I had.

40) Bake a loaf of bread
I can't even remember the first time I baked a loaf of bread, but it must have been around 1986. I started my culinary adventures in the baking arena (cakes and sweets) before moving into the savory world of cooking. Of course, the Guardian says, "If your loaf is a true San Francisco-style sourdough then all the better." And I say, "No!" Yuck. I don't like sourdough. I had enough "San Francisco-style sourdough" when I lived in San Francisco to last my whole life.

47) Kill a pig
The last on the list, I did this over the 4th of July weekend, 1994. Some folks I knew in college had a little tradition of doing this. At a farm in New Hampshire, we (by which I mean a friend named Danny) killed the pig and bled it. Then we all took part in gutting and skinning it (writing now, it sounds more "Lord of the Flies" than it was). We roasted it in a pit for a very long time, and the result was the best thing I'd ever tasted. I had never liked pork before that, and I didn't for a very long time after. But everything we ate that day was incredible.

They also recommend that you:

9) Pick your own [mushrooms]
But I've never done this. I had a class in college called Plants and Humanity and we learned from our biology professor never to pick mushrooms in the wild. He said it was too dangerous, even with books and training, because the possibility of making a mistake was too great. I learned a lot from Prof. Ellmore, and to this day I still recall much of what he taught, so I'm going to trust my gut and skip the picking of wild mushrooms. The 39 remaining items could easily take the rest of my life as it is, I don't want to end it prematurely by eating a Death Cap!