Sunday, March 10, 2013

Diana Lempel: With taste, smell, and imagination

I’m standing in the basement of Bondir, the intimate, award-winning Cambridge restaurant, watching Chef Jason Bond dismantle a hindquarter of beef, removing fat from muscle and muscle from bone. As he drops each chunk into its designated plastic tub, he explains to me what it will be used for. Every bit of this 200 pounds of meat will be consumed. The steaks will dry-age for some months; the fat, brightly yellow because the cow was grazing on bright green grass, will be rendered and used for daily cooking; the tough muscles will be stews, cooked with the stock made from the bones. This one animal will feed hundreds of diners; it’s the only way for high-quality meat like this, Chef tells me, to be economic.

But I don’t think it’s just economy that drives Bond’s pursuit of a "snout-to-tail" approach to beef, or his painstaking efforts to remove different kinds of pollen from every dried blossom of a fennel bush, or his abiding affection for his long-lived sourdough starter.To show what I mean, here’s a reflection offered by Sous Chef Rachel Miller, as she prepped spiced kuri squash. "I like to read a lot of old cookbooks because they’re more resourceful... it’s more about ingredients and a process... different ways to utilize what grows here, because that’s what we’re going to have a lot of."