Rants

Prezzie Plain Jane

You can make the best souffle or whipped mousse ever but if you don’t know how to present it then no one will care.

McDonald’s made a fortune over putting a burger in a cardboard box, presentation matters.

Now everyone loves a good show, it’s the reason Benihana restaurants thrive, but otherwise food presentation ought to be exceedingly simple. Think about it, almost every restaurant serves you on white plates. This is because they create contrast that balances beautifully with the numerous colors you will pile onto the plate. Aside from white dishes, slabs of wood stand in as an excellent presentation base. It is because they harken back to earlier on in your food’s journey (a cutting board) or earlier on in man’s journey to civilization. Not to mention they’re quite chic and again provide contrast against the deep browns and reds of the meat that is served on them.

That “hipster” place you love that serves the food in all different vintage dishes that were handmade and painted? Still pretty simple in presentation. A plain color, that draws the eye in and stands stark against the food held within, and though it doesn’t match its other dishes they all pair nicely. In fact, the most ornate dishes I’ve seen are of the Mediterranean persuasion, and have deep royal blue contrasting with crisp white in swirling patterns with maybe a hint of yellow. The camera loves to pick up this color and contrast and anything green on those plates is sure to stand out. That is as intricate as plate coloring and design in professional restaurants get. Most, wouldn’t even dare for mismatched dishes or color at all (I think it’s kind of cute, distracts you from how little food there is on your plate).

As presentation is almost entirely made up of accenting empty space on a plate, it is important that that space be noted while not becoming the star (I took art in high school I know what I’m talking about). White plates allow for depth and intrigue that other colors often steal away. Think about it, you’re never taken aback by the way the white plate gleams when your food comes, you marvel at how the food stands out and is accentuated. However, you will probably find yourself distracted by a black or heavily painted dish, as it has its own *star power*. White plates also allow the chef to manipulate how much you think you are consuming, and therefore, paying for.

Too much space? Add a dollop of sauce, now the plate looks full

Too little space? (Never a complaint) but one can alway size up the plate and force you to believe that you ought to clean it. Maggiano’s, I’m looking at you.

By playing with size of the plate, concentration of ingredients, and overall how to “paint” the plate, chefs easily convince us that we are full, still hungry, or have just enough room for dessert. All of it comes back to that white plate though, who knew a plain jane could clean up so nice?

Now use your white plates to trick yourself into eating happily, and be good.

Advertisements
Rants

What’s Tea (or Coffee)?

As Fall is now “upon” us and we all fall back into our habits of school, work, or both; traditional morning routines come to mind. For most of us, our morning beverage of choice is often more important than breakfast, one for sure gets skipped more than the other. I’ve always taken a great interest in how people’s personalities inform their tastes in everything, I use to spend hours asking family members which wine they preferred when I was 8 and couldn’t even imagine the flavor. I find choosing your morning beverage to be based on similar structures. So tea or coffee? (Neglecting that juice/water is an option)

I have always been a tea girl. Coffee often makes me sick to my stomach and I only partake on very rare occasions where I need to be awake and soda isn’t an option. I love a good espresso after a hearty meal though, it makes you feel weightless and gives you enough energy to get to bed when the itis is like a koala on your back. My family is very accepting of all breakfast beverage habits, my mother a die-hard coffee drinker, my father incomplete without his three cups of Earl Grey, and my brother a purist hybrid.

This brings me to the topic of purity in breakfast beverages. I have finally made it to the point of adding no sweetener (not even honey) to my tea. The bitter leaves and citrus have become a welcoming elixir to me and unlike most other things in my life, I do not feel the need to shower them in sweetness. When I do take coffee, the story is completely different. I like my coffee to taste like melted coffee ice cream. 1 part coffee to 1 part half & half with enough sugar to turn it into a syrup. My brother embodies minimalism to a shocking level and drinks all of his morning beverages with no sugar or cream. But the spectrum is obviously very wide and we all differ.

I like to think that eating and drinking comes with a greater purpose than just feeling full and fueling your body. Perhaps it is to experience flavor or to bring people together, for many its a way to make money. But purposes muddle when you boil down the subject: if I drink tea the purpose is moreso comfort and tradition than anything else. For coffee, energy and bouts of nausea. For purists in both departments, flavor and greater expertise. No matter the reasoning, I guess deep down you really must enjoy the flavor to drink bitter herbs boiled in water even if you mask the originality in sugar and cream.

 

Cheers to the Fall piggies and to warm caffeinated beverages!

 

Rants

Sweet Grits

Sweet grits are an abomination on God’s green earth and you can quote me on that.

But really on a serious note, sweet grits are horrible.

I find it difficult to fathom why when we’ve been given so many different cereals to enjoy that you would rather destroy one dish with sugar than just enjoy another grain. I told you all I was prone to dramatics, but herein lies my issue with sweet grits: they’re just not made to be enjoyed that way. Oatmeal and Cream of Wheat have better textures and flavor profiles (or flavorless profiles) to combine with sugar than grits. This is because grits, even without any seasoning, lean towards a more savory profile. I will expound on the science behind this later, but first some very basic reasoning.

You see shrimp and grits, not shrimp and oatmeal, not shrimp and cream of wheat. Clearly, chefs and our ancestors did the work for you so that you did not have to expose yourself to these horrors. Furthermore, we are blessed to live in a time when most grains are available to us at our beck and whim so tainting such a good, prime, savory grain as grits is a purposeful form of torture. In fact, Quaker Grits, a cornerstone of the hot breakfast market does not even sell a sweet instant grit variation and this is the company who sells Dinosaur Egg Oatmeal (delicious, more on this later). So if they won’t go there, why should you?

But let’s dive deeper for a moment shall we? If you’ve ever eaten grits you’ve probably seen that the container reads “Enriched Hominy Product”. This means that depending on your vendor of choice they’ve added certain “vitamins and nutrients” to your grits. However, you may be asking yourself, what is hominy? Hominy is corn so fret not my pets, but it is corn that has gone through the process of nixtamalization. This means that dried corn kernels are cooked in an alkaline solution (most often limewater) before going through the processes of grinding and filtering that make hominy into grits. This process does a number of things to the corn, it loosens the hulls of the corn kernels, causes starches to swell, strengthens doughs made from the corn, and makes the protein matrix within the kernel more easily absorbed by the human body. This is quite a bit of unnecessary science, but the process also removes hemicellulose from the cell wall of the corn. In layman’s terms: NIXTAMALIZATION, THE PROCESS THAT CREATES GRITS REMOVES SUGAR FROM SAID GRITS SO DON’T PUT IT BACK. If science doesn’t convince you, the same process is used to create masa, the traditional corn flour used to create tortillas as well as tortilla chips. Now ask yourself this, would you eat a sugared tortilla chip or tortilla? If the answer is no, you shouldn’t be eating sweet grits either, and I rest my case.

Don’t take me too seriously, my mom gladly eats sweet grits all of the time.

 

Eat happily and be good…and avoid sweet grits at all costs.

Rants

Sugar, Sugar How’d You Get So Fly?

What’s the newest food trend we see painted down our timelines and thrust into our arteries?

Sugar.

Sweet, ooey-gooey, processed sugar built in creative ways to be served on a silver platter and ingested ad infinitum by our sugar-whipped taste buds.

You know what I’m talking about, how every new restaurant or food stand seems to be selling a slab of ice cream sandwiched between two 2 pound warm cookie dough balls dipped in chocolate and covered in cotton candy. (The sad thing is I’m trying to be dramatic and I’m not that far off from what is genuinely available).

Now I am an OG sugar junkie through and through. I have put 17 sugars in a large coffee, eaten candy for breakfast in the summer, and as a child mixed sugar into my water when there was no juice in the house for the rush (you think I’m kidding. I’m not). However, in my old age I’ve come to realize the beauty I find in sugar, beyond the inherent energy rush. Sugar is complex; sweetness need not meet your tastebuds the same way twice, and there is a delicate balance to sweet and savory, bitter and sour. My issue with this trend is that it eradicates all of this. These treats are cloyingly sweet with no complexities to their flavor. They are literally sugars, layered over themselves, in an endless loop.

For instance, that Starbucks Unicorn Frappucino (though claiming to be Blue Raspberry flavored aka sour sugar) contained 59g of sugar, primarily from the mixing of different flavored syrups (flavored syrups are already sugared x2 because syrup is sugar and water and the flavorings often contain sweetened add-ins. Read: blue raspberry is not a naturally occurring flavor so in order to achieve it sugar and blue #4 are mixed with sour flavors and raspberries and then thrown in the syrup). So not only is it already a quasi-milkshake, it is then injected with syrups and dusted with “fairy powder” (finishing sugar). While I would like to say this was a one-off leap into the sugar void, it seems as though Starbucks set the industry standard for Unicorn themed items and bakeries across the US. Freakshakes, unicorn burritos, and ice cream sandwiches now abound with different forms of sugar all layered together with very few complexities in flavor. Forget dipping your ice cream cone in chocolate, now you can dip it in marshmallow fluff, roll it in cotton candy, and drizzle it with colored caramel. The reaches of this new sugar trend are long enough to even grab the home chef. I know you’ve seen those videos encouraging you to take a Reese’s cup, sandwich it in an oreo, wrap that whole thing in cookie dough, take multiples of that concoction and layer them on a baking pan, fill the baking pan with brownie batter, bake it, then torch marshmallows on top. My heart literally aches at the thought.

There are wonderful new pop-ups creating new flavor profiles in sugar while not being consumed by it. So hope remains alive. I will simply suggest that you, like them, diversify your sugars.

Be good, and eat complexly.

Rants

Gucci Mane’s Imparted Wisdom

Now I could not have written a french fry recipe and not given a rant on sauces.

But as Gucci Mane said, “if you ain’t got no sauce then you lost, but you can also get lost in the sauce” follow along with Gucci and I here kids.

What I take Gucci to be saying here, at least in relation to french fry sauces is this: do not eat a dry french fry but also do not submit yourself to poor french fries in the pursuance of “sauce”.

Now I believe the breakdown of sauce kingdoms when it comes to fries are ketchup, mayo, and mustard. I am a lady-in-waiting in the houses of all three but not everyone believes in a sharing of sauces. So I’ll break down my thoughts on the sauce and how not to get lost.  

Ketchup. I think people either love or hate ketchup and members on both sides can be quite extreme. In my humble opinion, ketchup is only good on french fries. It is not made to be on anything else but when it comes to fried potatoes it is a match made in heaven. I think it’s the vinegar in ketchup that is reminiscent of the salt or straight up vinegar we all drench our fries in, coupled with its slight sweetness that makes it a perfect match. But ketchup is an American notion and it is not wildly popular in Europe, specifically Belgium (the originator of fries themselves).

This brings us to mayo, but if we’re gonna discuss mayo in Europe we have to call it aioli. Aioli is the original sauce pairing for french fries, the granddaddy sauce if you will, a true OG. Though I think Americans are often put off by the idea of dipping their fries in mayo (probably because Hellmann’s has nothing on homemade aioli). But this pairing is AMAZING. Creamy, sweet, tart, rich just amazing. However, if you are not into the idea of basically dipping your french fry in flavorful fat, I wouldn’t go this route. But keep in mind ketchup is to Americans as aioli is to Europeans.

Mustard. I honestly think I’m the only person who likes this because I’m mustard obsessed but you guys try this. If you regret it I’m sorry but if you like it you’re welcome.

No matter the sauce you choose just keep one thing in mind: do not subject yourself to crappy french fries in order to eat some sauce. Never get lost.

 

Now eat happily and dip good.

Rants

Food Deserts

Food literacy. Perhaps one of the goals of this blog and what I want to get a PhD in (is this possible? I need to know).

Food literacy shows itself in a number of ways from what you eat to how you eat to what you know about what you eat. Approaching the subject of food literacy is tricky as it is vast and most assuredly cannot be done in one rant so I’m going to approach a facet of it: food deserts through the scope of nutritionism.

Nutritionism is an ideology that I have been introduced to through Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, it reduces foods to their nutritional values and markets food based on them. Think of how every cereal now says something along the lines of “100g of whole grain in each serving” and also think that no one cared about whole grain 20 years ago and now its all the rage. Nutritionism has been ruling over the American food psyche since the 18th century with passing trends like carbs, proteins, and trans fats all thrown into the mix. Nutritionism is a dualistic system that requires certain nutrients to be praised and certain nutrients to be damned. The best metaphor is Greek deities: gods of heaven and the underworld, both necessary but no one is supposed to like the gods of the underworld. So, American nutritionism as it stands forces trends of praise and hate. Doesn’t it seem as though every other year there’s a new nutrient we shouldn’t eat? Saturated fats, sodium, trans fats, you name it. This is where food deserts come in. Because in participating in this dualist system, the “market” as we like to call it has created a place for all of those bad nutrients to be relegated: food deserts.

The USDA defines food deserts as, “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas”. To further drive the point home, not only are these areas devoid of fresh food, they are pumped full of bodegas or corner stores that sell foods with “bad nutrients”. Now there is quite a bit of argumentation on what bad nutrients do to our health and whether or not there are things we absolutely have to avoid. In its reductive nature, nutritionism steals many of the choices we ought to have as consumers. For instance: food stamp programs may provide a household with the “necessary” nutrients for survival, but are they actually giving individuals any options to eat food? You can provide your child with formula and they will be perfectly healthy, but will formula ever compare to mother’s milk? The same can be said of bodegas in food desserts. You can buy a protein bar, a slice of cheese, or fruit snacks made with real juice, but will they ever compare to the real thing though they may be nutritionally the same? Will margarine ever compare to butter (hint: no). And yet, food deserts exist across the United States that force consumers to choose nutritionism over food, or simply eating over real food.

It is easier and cheaper to feed a family processed foods that have been processed to contain “nutrients” than to feed them vegetables with the same expectations. Nutritionism is quite pervasive throughout the entire food system in this way, ask yourself the last time you ate a vegetable just cause and not because “it has something good for you in it” (and no not a potato because I consume my weight in French fries all of the time).

As I wrote about in my debut revelation, cooking for yourself is one of the best ways to have a healthier diet and lifestyle simply because you are forced to interact with your food in a more personal way. When I buy swiss chard instead of kale it’s for flavor not because of higher iron content. Cooking for yourself is a way to push back against nutritionism and its grip on the food system. However, cooking for oneself is not an option for many people who have no access to fresh food. We must ask ourselves why would a food system meant to create the “healthiest” people relegate what it sees as unhealthy to entire populations? We must also ask how inundated we have become with this ideology that we don’t blink twice at eating foods processed to contain nutrients we would find in our normal diet with no issue. I’ve been watching American Gods incessantly and it seems as though the old Gods of flavor are coming to a head with the new Gods of nutrition, and it remains to be seen who will come up on top in this battle. I am completely guilty of all of the above so don’t think that I am being stuck up. I just want us all to be more ~woke~ and eat at my farm and restaurant(s) when I open them. That being said, I’m gonna go eat a salad packed full of elusive nutrients.

Ask me questions piggies! And for more information on food deserts (and ways to fight them!) look below!

 

Now eat happily and be good.

Food Is Power’s Page on Food Deserts

Australia’s First Rescued Food Supermarket

 

 

 

 

Rants

Unchecked and Absolute Hatred

Do you all recall that classic scene from 10 Things I Hate About You when Julia Stiles’ character proceeds to tell Heath Ledger (and her entire class) that though she claims she hates him she is actually genuinely in love with him? That scene only begins to encompass my feelings on celery. I am an avid hater of that horrible green stalk from the depths of Hell. It’s flavor – trash, it’s texture – trash, even it’s coloring – trash. In fact, I would be completely alright with celery being wiped from the face of the earth and every history book, but especially every recipe.

Another excerpt comes to mind from The Mighty B! (an excellent show that I would highly recommend but this is a food blog not a tv review),  in which Bessie, the main character, rids the entire west coast of Zucchini (undeserving of this treatment as it is delicious and texturally pleasing, but that is a thought for another time). I was always jealous of Bessie’s cartoon abilities from that episode because if I could rid the East Coast, and preferably the world, of celery I would do it. In. A. Heartbeat. There is no vegetable I have encountered that I dislike as greatly as celery, and I would genuinely love to hate a food more than celery, but we can’t always get what we want right?

My hatred of celery is not completely unfounded though. First and foremost, I genuinely find its flavor disgusting. Just like some people believe cilantro tastes like laundry soap (looking at you Ina Garten) I find the taste of celery to most closely resemble Irish Springs and black licorice.  Texturally it is horrid, a terrible mixture of floss and crisp apple flesh with none of the payoff of either. Nutritionally, it takes more energy to digest celery than it provides you with and it therefore, for me, is absolutely pointless (I realize this is a plus for dieters but to me it just means surviving on celery would slowly strip you of all of your energy, it is a parasite).

Alas, as much as I love to hate celery it is the cornerstone, the Holy Ghost of the Holy Trifecta, the Michelle of Destiny’s Child (always hated on but incredibly necessary). This is because Mireproix, the French name for the flavor base that is one of the most well-known and widely used bases for savory dishes the world over, is made of onions, carrots, and celery; not only allowing but forcing celery onto the mainstage and making it a worthwhile crop.I can sum up my feelings on celery as follows: celery is what happens when a boy band (or band of any sort) breaks up and the solo artist falls flat. You will always hate it for destroying the band and not maintaining a worthwhile solo career, but when that old band music comes on you can’t help but sing along.

 

I still hate celery though.