TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN
Once a pride of lions gathered at an exclusive restaurant called “Top of the Food Chain.” The restaurant had long enjoyed glowing reviews from food critics and was praised as “a ‘pleasure dome’ for a Khan’s palate” or, just as cleverly, as “a gastronomic bacchanalia for all but the shyest of taste buds!” Such lauding scarcely did justice, though, to either the array of tempting viands on the menu or the welcoming ambiance that characterized an establishment so stylishly catering to carnivores of discernment. While weighing the dining suggestions offered by a portly waiter, the lions also gestured towards various thick slabs of meat being carried out from the kitchen for other patrons and asked questions that demonstrated their own nuanced appreciation for the famed abilities of the head chef and the saucier. After much discussion of the relative merits of this or that selection, weighing “a bold demonstration of venturesome spirit” here against “a charming nod to tradition” there, the lion pride unanimously decided to order the specialty of the day for the entire table: a free-range biped turned on a spit to perfection and marinated in its own juices. The aroma rising from this one-of-a-kind rarity, the waiter guaranteed, would be “a veritable feast for the nostrils.” While awaiting the arrival of their order, the lions continued their appreciative commentaries on the steady arrival at other tables of one tantalizing dish after another. They noted with a discernment that comes only through years of the gourmet life how the eyes of a young pair nearby quickly shifted from each other to the tantalizing amuse-bouche tray between them, betraying in their expressions an embarrassed but charming culinary naiveté. Then in an instant these trifles were swallowed and the pair could return to eyeing the mutual attractions of their own tender years. While at another table, obvious habitués had long since reached the point of satiety and were discussing the choice of a final libation to top off the evening. But without question the pièce de résistance had to be accounted the lions’ own selection, drawing a low purr of admiration as it was paraded past neighboring tables on the shoulders of six waiters, its arms and legs trussed tight, smothered head to foot and fingertip to fingertip in rich gravy, with the crowning touch of an enormous apple in its mouth. Enchanted by this tour de force, the lions invited the head chef to come out and accept their compliments, which continued for several rounds of the pride before ending in a hearty burst of applause, joined by all in the restaurant. The chef acknowledged this tribute by offering praise in return for the assembled patrons themselves, the lions foremost, of course, for their impeccable taste buds. When the lions finally left the restaurant hours later, each was already looking forward to their next little gathering, though few could conceive of an outing to top this one. Not just for the fare offered but also for the genius of its preparation. How many masters of haute cuisine could, with such a virtuoso performance, raise a mere necessity of survival to the quintessential expression of the good life, to the ne plus ultra of gourmet dining? In matters of the table, the art of the sublime was all in how you transformed the choicest of ingredients into a meal fit for kings. It had to merit the kind of magisterial “Bon Appétit!” that the head chef had pronounced over the centerpiece of the extraordinary repast the lions were still sucking their teeth about as they stood outside the doors of “Top of the Food Chain” and posted online snaps of this rare delicacy.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans