I am a Food Criminal

In Cooking, Grocery, Marketing on September 25, 2009 at 1:43 pm


My parents are Haitian immigrants and they raised me to obey the law and set an example of leadership.  Their advice served me well for the first 40 or so years of life but a recent experience has converted me to the dark side. I am not ashamed to have joined the ranks of New York’s felonious underworld. The following is the story of how I came to be a food criminal.

Last August, I attended an industry event in Lower Manhattan. It was hosted by the National Association of Specialty Food Trade, the sponsors of the Fancy Food Show.  It was there that I first experienced Alili Morocco’s harissa. Business events are often cold and impersonal; I expected no better when I entered the conference room. There was a food table and so I helped myself to the offerings so lavishly provided. After spreading a little harissa on a piece of french bread, I chomped away.  The first bite ignited a culinary explosion inside my mouth; the second bite caused me to tell somebody. Within minutes, the room was sticken with harissa-fever. Everyone tried it and we all experienced something profound.

We live in a world that values conformity, convergence to the mean and (quite frankly) blandness. It was uncommonly refreshing to experience the unique and bold blend of spices that make up Morocco’s third greatest export (behind Wm Shakespeare’s Othello & Humphrey Bogart’s Casablanca). The harissa shook us all up. That shared experience was the ice-breaker that ultimately brought us all together.  Suffice it to say, we had an extremely productive meeting.

At the close of the session, everyone shook hands, exchanged business cards and went on their merry way.  I, on the other hand, had a more grandiose plan. It isn’t fair for industry professionals to have sole exposure to this North African delicacy; it belongs to the people! Fancying myself a Robin Hood of the kitchen, a Babyface Nelson of spices and a culinary Jesse James, I swiped an unopened jar for my personal consumption.

I shared it with some colleagues and often bring it to picnics, brunches and dinner parties.  In doing so, I have rescued countless palates from the gastronomic mediocrity of most processed foods. Just as Robin Hood “stole from the rich and gave to the poor,” I steal from the enlightened and give to the bland. My harissa campaign, if you can call it that, is to “Spread the spread.”

As the Alili Morocco brand is not yet carried in local New York supermarkets, I have had to get creative in order to satisfy my harissa addiction.  I frequent their website to learn about upcoming trade shows. At the ones I attend, when nobody’s looking, I apply a five-finger discount toward the acquisition of my next harissa supply. So far, I haven’t been caught and I doubt that this public confession will alert the authorities.  After all, who reads my blog?

I am a food criminal. So goes the story of my entry into a life of crime.


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