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Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Existential Food Crisis

There are some things in this life that we know for certain. Not much, but some. And about half of those certainties revolve around what we do and do not like to eat. This can, I realize, change over time; certain foods rising or falling in our esteem as our palates mature and evolve.

I would say, though, that the great majority of us reach a certain point in life where our likes and dislikes solidify, like Jell-o around canned pineapple.

All of my adult life, there have been some truths I hold to be self-evident. Among these are hatred of Dijon mustard, dislike of relish and the pursuit of desserts. Now, in my golden years, I--

Okay, wait, "golden years" are retirement-age, right? Am I in my "salad days"? Or is this the "summer of my life"? Man, this stuff is confusing.

Anyway, now that I'm grown up and shit, I'm finding some of these firmly-held beliefs called into question.

The first two beliefs may still be solid, but I'm having doubts. See, I was reading through an issue of Cooks' Illustrated and two articles caught my attention. One was a taste-test of Dijon mustards. They compared several French brands to their American counterparts. Happily, the American mustards did every bit as well as the French. (Suck on that one, froggies!)

Now, this article shouldn't move me one way or another, as I've always preferred honey mustard. But I actually found myself wanting to try these brands. Wanting to spread a little Grey Poupon on my next sandwich. Maybe even eating that sandwich in my limousine.

The relish thing stems from another article in the same magazine. They tested for the best recipe for American-style potato salad. I love potato salad. My grandma Gossiaux made a version that, while simple and unassuming, fully captured the spirit of summer and everything good in the world. I've never had her recipe, so I've never tried making the stuff.

This article, though, as all Cook's Illustrated articles do, tries dozens and dozens of variations until the single, undeniably greatest recipe floats to the surface. The best possible recipe for potato salad? Of course I want to try it. I mean, I'm not a fool!

But their winner has relish in it. Relish! Chewed-up pickles floating in vinegar and evil! Green chunky vomit! But, if I don't include the relish, it's not the greatest recipe, is it? No sir. No, it's not.

The final earthquake in my food beliefs is a little simpler and a little sadder. I love dessert. To me, the single greatest thing about adulthood is that you have the power and ability to make/eat dessert whenever you want and there's no parent to smack it out of your hand. Which would explain why I've reached the weight I've reached.

So I'm now forced to try and shake this habit of mine of eating dessert after every meal except breakfast. I'm going to have to train my mouth that it doesn't need a sugary reward for chewing up all my vegetables. And it's going to hurt.

I look at these heretofore rock-solid food principles and I ask myself: just who the hell am I? (In terms of food. On non-edible identity issues, I'm pretty sound.)

It's very rare to change your opinion of food. Ok, it's very rare of ME to change my opinion of food.

See, it's always about me. But good luck with the dessert thing. You damn quitter.
Cooks Illustrated is a pretty neat magazine. Yes, I said "neat."

I discovered two years ago that I really can't stand shrimp.
Ok, I am not a sweet pickle liker (not really even those books), and neither am I am advocator of the relish, but I make a mean potato salad, and I am sorry. It has relish.

I cook the potatoes just so (and leave on the peels. Red potatoes are better, i think)

When I rinse them (so they don't stay too starchy, I scrape a little peel off, but not much (I draw the line on peeling potatoes).

I add mayo (which is terribly unpc- Nayonaise is yummy), a squirt of mustard (key) and a tad of olive oil and relish, salt, and ample paprika, cumin, and the best, dill. It's not so bad. In fact, it's a hit at potlucks.
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