Progression of the Palate

I was having a conversation with The Cat the other day about how my food tastes keep changing. He said his tastes haven’t changed and he quickly rattled off the five things he likes to eat “bag food, treats, tuna and the green stuff that makes me believe I can run through walls…” Then went back to reading “Kafka on the Shore”.  Anyway, it got me to thinking about how my food tastes have changed since I was a kid and keep changing to this day…

I was positive I had a discerning palate in kindergarten. I mean most kids were fine with the usual snack of graham crackers and milk, but I knew better than to fill up on that garbage. I knew the very best food was a pâté of sorts and given out in the little black bowls. Most of my classmates wasted theirs on egg carton Christmas Trees covered with glitter meant to festoon their parent’s refrigerators.  My parent’s fridge went artless in lieu of my paste habit…that is until I discovered the nutty deliciousness that was Elmer’s glue.

School lunch programs were often looked down upon by my peers but I happened to love everything about them. The pressed turkey chunks floating in a moat of wall paper paste (read: gravy) circling a spackle grade mound of instant potato, pizza that if dropped on edge could crack floor tiles and spaghetti that had been cooked so long it was approaching night crawler diameter. I remembered thinking how picky my peers were and how lucky I was to benefit from their misgivings about canned spinach that tasted more like dirt than actual spinach.  

My first apartment consisted of little more than two lawn chairs, a two-by- twelve plank resting across milk crates with a big assed TV balancing precariously on the plank and a bed. In this virtual palace I had the finest foods any 19 year old cash strapped teen would have. There were piles of ramen noodles, minute rice, beef or chicken bouillon cubes (cause that’s how I rolled), four for a dollar canned vegetables and limes. The limes of course were for the gin but also to fend off scurvy. I was after all a student of history and read something somewhere about how they prevented this… or was that the clap? What about meat?! Meat was only eaten by the wealthy, well the wealthy and people who weren’t busy with the serious business of drinking their bodyweight in top-shelf gin.

Thinking I knew all there was to know about food and cooking I attended culinary school and found out there was more to Asian food than the venerable pu-pu platter, meat pies could be made without black magic or witchcraft and saucisson, pâtés, rillettes, terrines were not mythical Greek creatures from Homer’s Odyssey. In learning these things I started adopting new ingredients and food stuffs into my life, abandoning others and yet there were still things I clung to.

Soft serve ice cream I believe is the treat of choice…In Hell. Seeing packets of “Taco seasoning” makes me feel like kicking furry little animals. I want desperately to punch the person who came up with frozen pizza in the temple. I have no idea who’s buying hamburger friggin helper or why.  That being said… I still enjoy the shame and taste of the occasional Filet O’ Fish sandwich. I very nearly can’t contain the joy I feel when I eat a Zero bar. Slim Jims should be a food group. Deviled ham… rub it on my nipples or eat it, sometimes I can’t decide.

About every ten years or so I look back on the previous ten years and say to myself, “What the hell were you thinking?!” I’m wondering; does this continue until I’m drinking my low fat, low sodium, low iron, high in protein, gluten free dinner through a straw because I have no teeth, and who the hell is this man pushing me out to the solarium?! What foods do you refuse to give up, and which foods are you convinced are made in the depths of hell itself?

What’s that?! What was The Cat’s fifth favorite food to eat?! Oh, well for the sake of total disclosure… “his ass”. Ugh, where’s the cat nip?!  

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Food Trends of 2013, A Review

Sitting here reading an article on food trends of the past year, well past for some of us. The Cat left with a bottle of whiskey yesterday and I received a text from him an hour ago with the following: “Happy New Year! Exchange rates on Brazilian Real? What’s the Portuguese word for hooker?” Anyway, I was reading about food trends from the previous year and naturally I have some thoughts.

LOWLIGHTS

The Cronut- For months we knew how much they were selling for, how long the wait was and the Vegas odds on the “inventor” getting a Nobel Peace Prize in economics for swindling an infinite number of dawdle-heads out of their hard earned cash for the privilege of eating a glorified donut. While everybody raced to copy the cronut I offered an alternative… The “Crotch” which is 1 medium croissant stuffed in a rocks glass, add three ounces of scotch, enjoy.

Self-Serve Frozen Yogurt- First off the word “froyo” may be more cringe-inducing than the head of PETA giving a speech at the national butcher convention. I have no issues with frozen yogurt itself, but if I wanted something cold and satisfying with no fat I’d stick Selma Blair in a snow bank for a half hour. The problem I have is with the toppings as this is the equivalent of getting a Diet Coke float with a scoop of lard.

The Lobster Roll- I’m glad folks as far as the California are getting ready access to Maine lobster but I think I finally understand what Philly people have been bitching about all these years wit regards to the cheesesteak. Seeing lobster rolls bastardized to a degree that it’s left unrecognizable is a hard thing to watch for a puritanical New Englander. Charcoal rolls, green curry and herbs don’t belong in a lobster roll anymore than Cheez Whiz belongs in… anything (sorry Philly). When I’m paying twenty-five bucks for a sandwich I want to taste the star ingredient, not leaves and burnt wood.

Highlights

Korean- Speaking as someone who grew up in a town where the local pizza joint was considered Italian, I can’t tell you how happy I am that Korean food and flavors are taking the country by storm. Granted, the closest Korean joint is still an hour drive from me but it’s worth every horn honking minute. The spice level, the condiments, the broths, the flavors and the smells all make for a great dining experience. If you can find a Korean joint within a mini-vacation’s drive from you I highly recommend visiting.

Deviled Eggs- Yes, deviled eggs! I know most of us grew up with deviled eggs where the eggs were boiled until the yolks were as green as emeralds, mixed with mayo and relish out of a jar, then sprinkled with paprika that was old as dirt but with less flavor. But hey, lots of things get better when you use solid ingredients and good technique. Take the old classic Ham and Bananas with hollandaise …um, on second thought.

Charcuterie- You know, cured meat products. It’s not just in big cities anymore and there are lots of local folks putting out some amazing product. The down side is it makes it nearly impossible to go to the grocery store deli department, because everything from the maple ham to the baked turkey all taste of the same flavor…meat glue. Look I ate deviled ham, corned beef and spam from cans when I was a kid, but that’s because I was on a kid’s budget meaning; boogers and ear wax. So I pretty much had to eat what was put in front of me, but now I know the difference. I’ll take real, hand crafted, cured meat products…you take the boogers and ear wax.

In the year to come I’m sure there will be more cronuts, or people making things with cronuts, or making things to replace cronuts and that’s never going to change no matter the year. I am happy to report aside from silliness, there are good things on the horizon. Local, seasonal, sustainable foods are all up and coming. Hopefully these “trends” will become a mainstay in this country as I believe they are a necessity for a healthy food system. Now… does anybody know Portuguese or a good bail bondsman in Rio?!

Happy 2014 everyone. 

207 Foodie-The Critic Beyond Critique

Sarah,

Since you’ve blocked me from making comments on your food blog “The 207 Foodie”, I figured I’d grab your attention via Twitter so that you don’t lose the opportunity to learn and grow… or at least the opportunity to stop shitting on food, the cooks who make the food, punctuation and grammar. I’d also like this opportunity to offer up a challenge to you as well. More on that in a bit…

 

I’m going to say a few things that may sting, but as you’ve graduated from college with a BA in English I know you have at least one pair of big girl panties so you may want to put those on before reading any further. I know it’s hard for your generation to take criticism. Especially growing up wearing a helmet everywhere and playing “everybody ties there are no losers” t-ball your whole life but trust me, there are always winners and losers. The difference is the winners learn from their mistakes and move on, while the losers bury their heads in their collective asses.

 

You’re not a very good writer and your knowledge of food and the critiquing thereof is in question as well, and by “in question” I mean that pretty much sucks too. Your use of grammar and punctuation leads your reader to not only question whether your BA in English should really be BS, but also your mental well being.

 

I know this sucks ass because I’ve been there. Well I didn’t actually spend tens of thousands on a degree I’m not very proficient at, and thankfully I was blessed with the gift of taste buds and logical thinking. But I have been critiqued before. In my case it was by an editor, and I broke down their thoughtfully considered letter giving me honest criticism and turned it into a blog post shitting all over their thoughts. Yup…I was a douche nozzle. You chose to block me as a way of protecting your words, your…”babies”. The good news is in time, it’s going to get better if you’re open to criticism.

 

 I find it interesting when food bloggers critique restaurants, that restaurant’s food and by extension the people who make it… but are somehow above critiquing themselves. I have a word for those people, assholes. The good news is you don’t have to be an asshole your whole life. Believe it or not when someone takes the time to write a comment on something you have written it’s because they were moved to do so in some way by your words.  You choose to almost never acknowledge comments and I call horseshit. You’re in Maine now so don’t be afraid to pull the stick out of your ass and get your polite on.

 

Feel free to respond with a “thanks” if it’s a positive comment which I’m hopeful will happen for you soon, or at the very least “I’m sorry you feel that way, thanks for reading.” To ignore or block someone who has commented on your work without at least a “go screw yourself” is not only rude, but also ignorant. Just because you’re out of college doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Thus the challenge…

 

I’d like to do a joint review of a place of your choosing in Portland, Maine. Sight unseen and no edits from the other… then share each other’s blog link to see the other’s post. We don’t have to eat there at the same time or even meet each other. Just write about the same place. Think about it…. could be fun. I won’t mention you in my critique at all… you can feel free to bash me in yours.

 

I await a reply…

 

Sincerely,

Pavlov

Diet Cheaters

I’ve been checking out health blogs lately to make sure someone hadn’t discovered a carb and calorie free way to make spaghetti tacos. While the blog posts were fine the thing I found shocking were the comments. People were talking about the different diets they were “trying” and discussing the merits or pitfalls of said diets in nearly the same sentence they admit to cheating. This was invariably followed by a sentiment of resolve to get back on that horse and keep riding while other comments cheered them on.

First off I’d like to reiterate my thought that a diet is a short term solution to a long term problem. If you’ve decided to cut a supersized fry, large soda and a Big Mac a day out of your daily routine until you lose enough weight to start doing it again, then Ronald isn’t the only clown at that restaurant. Thinking you can handle making smart long term food choices after a “diet” ends is setting yourself up for failure. You need to look at the root of the problem.

I looked long and hard at what and how much I was eating to determine my daily caloric intake. Then, I looked at the daily caloric needs for people of varying degrees of activity. According to my calculations I was eating enough food to fuel a three hundred pound hummingbird. I knew that being healthy was simple; the problem was I knew it was harder than sitting on the couch and wishing I was healthier. I needed to stop eating so much food, make smarter choices, and start exercising…for the rest of my life.

Those three things are what you need to do to be healthy and it sucks a fat one because you’ve got a long road ahead, but that’s the deal and you know it. When you “try” a diet and said diet doesn’t work because of this or that, it’s really just a convenient excuse to keep stuffing that hole in your face. This is especially true if you think diets are meant for cheating when it’s convenient, and then you blast them when you can’t fit your size 12 chair cushion into a pair of size 8 skinny jeans. Diets don’t work that way and in the end diets stop.  

Making the hard choice to change your entire lifestyle is not easy, because you’re trying to undo years of bad habits overnight. That said I’m not one of those people that will give you a hug you when you cheat or offer empty platitudes like “you can do it.” When you cheat, you’re screwing yourself so knock it off and stop sucking. You’re an adult for the love of Cheez Whiz, and you know better. There is no easy way to get in shape and there are zero shortcuts. It’s hard damned work and sacrifice, but in the end you can eat what you want and at the same time understand what extra calories cost.

 People are rarely given the keys to a brand new Ferrari just by walking into the dealership. People have to work really hard for them or at the very least, work pretty damned hard to steal one. Don’t expect results without the effort, because it’s never going to happen. If you want your body to be sexy like a Ferrari, get your Hyundai ass off the couch and work it until it is one. 

 

Week 11: Total lost to date is 54 lbs. (Eurofriends that’s 24.5kg or 19 liters of Mayonnaise) 

 

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Grilled squash, zucchini and Egplant to be used as “pasta” for lasagna.

 

 

Instagram Worthy Food and Dieting

I’d like to make all my meals “Instagram worthy” but like most people, I have a life. Sometimes life gets in the way and I don’t have time, patience or energy to be “Little Suzie Homemaker” with the perfect meal and look, I learned how to fold my napkin to look like a swan! Sometimes eating is just an annoyance and something you have to do, like taxes or listening to your neighbors talking about their trip to Barbados. Don’t worry about how pretty your food is but rather, think about what it is…Sustenance.

This goes doubly true for anybody who has made dietary changes in their lives. After about six weeks most people with a life are pretty much tapped on what to eat to keep their diet exciting and visually appealing. I’m no different and if I’m being honest I was tapping out after my second week having topped arugula or mixed greens with everything but cat hair and doughnuts. After a long day of dodging work and lying about the work I haven’t done to my boss, the last thing I want to do is think about dinner. I mean I didn’t think at work, why should I have to think in the privacy of my own home?

Armed with this brand of non-thinking and needing to make dinner, I’m oftentimes inspired to make it quick and painless. These nights are decidedly not meant for Instagram, as I’m sure nobody is scouring the internet looking for undercooked asparagus and overcooked haddock. That said it works in accomplishing the goal of getting sustenance. This frees my brain to go about important tasks like keeping me breathing and helping me picture the woman in 3B topless.

What I’m saying is this; not all of your meals have to be home runs served with a side of sexy, just think of it as function over form. When you have the energy, time and inspiration to make something fun for dinner you should run with it.  Feel free to break out the bird’s beak paring knife to get your tourne on and, when was the last time you used that mandoline?!  Use these moments to carry you through the drudgery of sliced chicken breast with green beans…again.

Even my pretty dishes turn mediocre as tomorrow’s lunch. They are cooked to a near perfect temperature then at lunch you give them three minutes of radar love with the end result the texture of silly putty.  My less pretty dishes are usually eaten alone and in shame but really… I’m just satisfying my appetite, nothing more. I think part of the reason I had/have a weight problem is because I made more out of food than it really was. Now I look at food as something I have to do and at times I can have some fun with…I only wish the same could be said for the woman in 3B. 

Week 10: Total lost is 51 pounds. (23.13kg or a Fiat…pretty sure any model)

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Sure… this is exactly how I eat every night… don’t you!? This is what I consider a success… and a pretty little plate of food.

 

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This is a typical night, slightly overcooked green beans and Haddock that had seen better days and toasted pine nuts… But you know what?! I liked it anyway.