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.