Discussing “Evil Alcohol” with Dr. Lionel Tiger

by Rachel Anderson

IMG_2796“Food is more than a source of electricity,” Dr. Lionel Tiger announced before going on to joke about the “nineteen” glasses of wine he consumed that evening. Speaking to a room of gastronomes, our thoughts and actions truly paralleled those initial words. It is undisputed. We recognize food as significantly more than fuel. Food is ritual, community, love.

Tonight we all gathered to learn “Why We Use ‘Evil Alcohol’ to Celebrate Life” while enjoying a four course dinner and wine pairing prepared by BU’s culinary arts team. The discussion led by Dr. Lionel Tiger and Dr. R. Curtis Ellison was held the evening before they were to defend their stance on alcohol consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle for the 2014 Bicknell Lecture Series at Boston University on September 18th (click here for a recap of the debate).

IMG_2799The demonstration room at 808 Commonwealth Avenue had been transformed for this first installment of 2014’s Pépin Lecture Series in Food Studies and Gastronomy: white table cloths, wine glasses, loaves of bread. Over sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne and a spread of Italian cheeses and Sicilian caponata, we introduced ourselves to the other attendees at the table. The second course was then served, and while listening to Dr. Ellison casually introduce the evening’s topic, we took sips of Pinot Bianco. Creamy, easy, and mellow, it was a pleasurable pairing with the poached salmon over shaved fennel, grapefruit suprème, and lemon vinaigrette.

IMG_2802Tenderloin of beef with a red wine pan sauce was our main course. It was paired with tri-colored cauliflower and a zucchini and heirloom tomato gratin. The wine chosen was a Tres Picos Borsao from Spain, whose leathery character complimented the meat nicely.

It was after enjoying our tenderloin that Dr. Tiger got up and discussed how food was a “mammalian transaction” and “profound interchange.” According to him, the act of cooking tells what humans view as important in the hierarchy of needs, and food forms part of our processes of understanding. We live with a purpose and a desire to feed other mammals.

Dessert brought a lovely apple, pear and cranberry crumble with hints of zest and spice paired with another Spanish wine, this time a dessert wine by Jorge Ordoñez called Victoria 2. Dr. Tiger believes the use of food and ‘Evil Alcohol’ to be part of that mammalian transaction that binds us. On days when those ties to one another feel weakened, we can remember the connection that exists through the sharing of food.

Tonight the meal confirmed that food and alcohol bring pleasure, while the conversation confirmed that both those things grant connectedness. Dr. Tiger’s final declaration for the evening: “The crispy zucchini – that was worth getting up for this morning.” Amen.

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