Revelations

Playing with Your Food

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At my age, and probably far before it, playing with your food is frowned upon. However, there is a massive market for toys that allow you the joy of playing with your food and creating strange concoctions that you can then gleefully partake in. I have to say my participation within this market has always been full of vigor but most often led to disappointment. Though I do believe that these toys are great as stepping stones for kids to get into cooking and to exert power over their own meals (muahaha).

Yes, I had an Easy Bake oven. In fact, I had two. The first I got Christmas morning probably when I was 6 years old. It was the original pink, white, and purple, and I could not wait to open it. So much so, that my brother and I disobeyed our parents orders to wait for them to put it together and decided we knew how to screw in a lightbulb. Or so we thought. We (probably me, I will take the blame) installed the bulb incorrectly and in trying to take it out it shattered. If you know anything about Easy Bake ovens you know the lightbulb is the most important part and that every other piece is just superfluous nonsense. So, in fact, I never used it. Fast forward a few years and I had somehow coerced my parents into buying me an Easy Bake Real Meal oven and I was thrilled. Not only could I bake all the sugary delights my heart desired, but I could also make mac and cheese and pizzas. DELICIOUS. Or so I thought. The dry brittle creations that came out of that oven were so horrid that I don’t think I even finished the food packs that came with it and I turned to my very real oven and made myself a snack.

Though I knew the food that came out of these machines could never compare to what came out of my oven, I had an obsession (shoutout to marketing companies of the late 90’s/early 2000’s, you had me hooked). The presentation always seemed so simple “just add water” “in 90 seconds” “you can do it all on your own” that even as I matured I still found those vintage toys kitschy and sweet. For many people, they were the first to introduction to creating their own food and perhaps one of the most important steps towards becoming an independent adult. I transitioned directly from these toys to the kitchen and a happy life making dry brittle food by my own hands (lol jk its delicious). Often what these toys were able to highlight was the process. You can put a plate of food in front of anyone and often they will not appreciate it as much as the chef, the one who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into your bechamel (haha ew). Think of the home cook who puts a plate in front of their unappreciative spouse or children and is greeted with “ew” and “I don’t like this” or “God can we order takeout?” These are blows to the ego for sure but they result because of a lack of respect for the process. These toys showed so many children across the globe that their caretaker was actually taking care to prepare their meals. I got a Baskin Robbins homemade popsicle set as a gift when I was 5 or 6. The goal was to mix up different flavored powders with cream or water then churn the popsicle molds through ice cold water. My father and I spent at least 3 hours at the kitchen table and still ended up with runny ice cream that wouldn’t adhere to the popsicle stick. However, I don’t think I’ve ever complained about the homemade ice cream my grandmother makes each year, nor the hundreds or thousands of meals my father has made me (except for split pea soup, that is not for me).

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I recall afternoons baking with my younger cousin (a notoriously picky and vocal eater) and seeing his appreciation for food grow before my eyes. Allowing him to prepare his own food gave him respect for the effort and an a treat by the end of the day. As a crowning achievement, I’ve never heard him complain about my food. All of this is to say: yes, the product from these toys will most likely be disgusting. I’ve included pictures of my recent foray into food toys with Kracie Popin Cookin’s Ramen set. Yet I have to say, the product was a flavor I hope to forget, but the way there was pretty fun. It still amuses me to play with my food and I think there is still so much to learn when it comes to cooking, that is ALL in the process and not at all in the end.

Sometimes, you just gotta trust the journey.

And throw up the product.

 

Play well piggies.

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Revelations

Kitchen Tapes: Dessert Course

So I’m not doing a Lunch Course because lunch is either a re-heated leftover or a sandwich and you don’t need a playlist for that. But dessert. Aah dessert. God’s favorite meal. A true delight to the senses. And no matter your opinions on dessert, whether it should be sugary sweet or a mellow bitter build to a slightly sweet finish; I think we can all agree on one thing: sugary sweet pop hits are the soundtrack to every dessert. What better pairing? Sweet music to add to your sweet meal, and you can even throw in some pop songs with hidden meanings if you want that bit of mystery. Check below for my favorite songs to cook dessert to. Feel free to rifle through all of the playlists and send me suggestions to cook to, a good chef is always updating their repertoire of course.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/alvailes/playlist/0wiUg7WME1UUYDEbwHCyyv

Revelations

Kitchen Tapes: Breakfast Course

Contrary to popular belief, breakfast is the time you want slow R&B crooners to help you sway while you scramble your eggs. When voices should wrap around you like cigar smoke while your tea warms you and your bacon stirs you.

I told you, late luxurious breakfasts are my religion, and the hymns of this religion are a necessary form of praise. Breakfast for me begets smoother, richer tones, something soft yet bitter all the same. For dinner, everything is a rush, even when you’re making a fourteen-hour stew EVERYTHING is a rush as you build and make your plate and dine at a decent hour and serve your friends and go to bed. But breakfast, breakfast gives you the time to relax, it gives you the time to have time. Wake up at noon, eat breakfast at 4pm, sip the last of your tea at 5:00 and then go out on the town for dinner (I have just described my perfect day).

Here’s my soundtrack to that perfect “morning” of my perfect day.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/alvailes/playlist/3rWId9Dyx7q3MZWFAQRaW6

 

Revelations

Kitchen Tapes: Dinner Course

Cooking and music go hand in hand, or fork in hand.

My aunt, who is a wonderful chef that I cook with often, once told me, “you can’t cook without music”. This has greatly figured into my personal cooking philosophy and I now hate cooking in silence. Music flavors your food just as much as seasoning or emotion does. So my main suggestion is to cook to music, you’re preference is King and you can play whatever you’d like, but i’ll tell you some of my favorites.

I have strong opinions on what I like to cook to depending on the time of day and the type of meal. For breakfasts I prefer lighter music with a more romantic theme. But this is the dinner course and I really love cooking dinner to heavy, strong bass-ed, thumping music. Dinner and trap music are a match made in heaven in my humble opinion. Heavy flavors of a hearty dinner are affirmed by heavy beats and strong lyrics in the music, not to mention it just makes the ambience in your kitchen so much fun. I find this is directly influenced by your own personality and music tastes, I really enjoy cooking dinner to a strong bass line, an R&B oldie, hip-hop, or just about anything with strong material to bring out my emotions and better the meal (they always say cooking with love is the best, but I think strong emotions period translate directly into the betterment of a meal).

In order to better illustrate my suggestions I have attached a dinner cooking playlist below that you are welcome to follow, though I hope you will soon have your own kitchen playlists up and running. Be warned that most of the songs are quite explicit in nature, so please don’t if you suspect some lyrics will offend you, and don’t fret the breakfast and lunch courses will be much lighter in subject matter.

Cook happily to the beat of your own playlist’s drum, and be good.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/alvailes/playlist/1QAYdEZZQntPlmD4sc8qP8

Revelations

Salt in my Coffee

I don’t drink coffee.

To me it is so much more as a spice than as a beverage.

But I recognize that I am probably the only person who holds that opinion.

I recognize that the economies of many countries have been launched by the coffee trade with many different regions vying for “baddest in the game”. I wish I had the stomach for it, and I do believe coffee, straight, to be one of the most elegant things to consume. So while I avoid coffee as a drink, as a spice or even seasoning it is life-changing.

Yes, I think coffee is like salt.

Just like salt it exemplifies flavors in other ingredients yet is almost too powerful on its own. When I eat coffee and chocolate I feel like Remy from that scene in Ratatouille where the lights dance behind his eyes to that smooth rhythm. You know which one I’m talking about. The way the flavors play off of each other, it begs to be compared to another form of art: music, painting, dancing, anything aesthetically pleasing and beautiful. Where salt is the spinach to the savory world’s Popeye; coffee is the spinach to the sweet world. Where coffee goes, flavor follows. Keep this in mind the next time you bake a cake, whip up a batch of brownies, make homemade cookies, or any other baked good. It serves as the Holy Spirit of the Holy Trinity of baking, along with salt and vanilla. Thus the only way I can see to consume it is this way, or in coffee ice cream.

Or primarily in an espresso after a large dinner, it is itis-deterrent, and I am usually in desperate need of that.

 

Now drink happily and be caffeinatedly-good.

 

Revelations

Grilling As Divine Flavor Purity

I grew up watching probably too much Barbeque University with Steven Raichlen on PBS. But boy it taught me more lessons than Sesame Street (jk love you Grover).

One of the most beautiful things about cooking is that its centered around intensifying flavors. As chefs we are delivered foods with flavor on the precipice of birth, we bear them, raise them, and watch them develop and give life to the next generation. God I can be such a sap. But one of the ways chefs do this is by harnessing heat, most often in the form of fire. While tradition is in many ways meant to be challenged and rewritten, our neanderthal-esque ancestors had one thing right, fire and food go hand in hand. Grilling is a modicum for achieving divine flavor purity.

Many times when we cook something we cook it in something else that shifts or otherwise affects the flavor. Think of cooking any food in a pan in which you add oil so that it doesn’t stick. Even oils claiming to be flavorless (a concept that doesn’t truly exist) add another layer to our recipes. Alas, in order to achieve purity in a dish we cannot cook it in anything. Some will claim that boiling, poaching, steaming, or another of the water arts is then the best way to maintain full flavor in a dish. This however simply leads to the water the food is cooked in becoming flavorful, not the food itself. This is how all stocks are made, because water steals and holds onto flavor quite well, but it does not leave much for the food itself. One could then say that cooking in an oven is the best way to trap flavor in an ingredient, while this in theory is true, there is something about food being licked by the actual flame that changes its flavor composition in ways an oven cannot. This brings us to grilling. You can place any food you so wish on those metal rods and concentrate the flavor so strongly that it is honestly poetic. I recall an episode of Barbeque in which Steven grilled watermelon, seem heinous? It’s all about letting the sugar caramelize and concentrate just like salt can sometimes achieve without heat. By evaporating water without the addition of another liquid and using genuine flames allows grilling to bring each flavor it comes into contact with to its peak. It is a thing of beauty.

There are a couple other methods to achieve full flavor in food. One is sous-vide, which allows you to cook food in water but in a vacuum-sealed package that allows the flavors to build upon themselves. The other is confit, cooking meat in its own fat. Both of these methods prove they are fruitful in their delivery but are quite difficult techniques to master (or purchase). Whereas on any given day you can grill a steak to its medium-rare perfection and enjoy your spoils.

 

Now be good, eat happily, and grill before the summer is out.

Revelations

Ever the Macgyver, Sometimes the Macgruber

Have you been turned off from being a home chef because you feel your kitchen is not properly “outfitted”? Have you been told you need hundreds of dollars worth of equipment to even begin to consider cooking, and that doesn’t even include ingredients? Has most of this information come from infomercials you watched at 4am when you couldn’t sleep? Well have I got news for you!

You don’t need any of that crap.

Well not any of it, but you don’t need most of it. We are often told in all aspects of our lives that consumption leads to better product. Consuming more kitchen goods will make you a better chef, consuming more wine will make you a better drinker, but this is not a completely factual belief. I have come to know that apart from plates/utensils to eat off of, there are only a few items each kitchen utterly needs to survive. They are:

  • A chef’s knife (that can be sharpened so one without “teeth”)
  • A cast-iron
  • A dutch oven
  • A big spoon (I prefer wooden)

Both pots can go from the oven to the stove or vice versa so you’ll be able to bake as you see fit. If your knife ever dulls you can get it sharpened (many kitchen supply outlets will do this for you) and a good sharp knife, with a little finesse, will let you achieve everything you need to do. You’ll be able to peel, chop, julienne, and flex. A big spoon will allow you to serve, stir, test if your oil is ready for frying (if it’s wooden) and makes a pretty good fake microphone. To start as a home chef that’s all you need aside from clean counters.

But being a “Macgyver” in the kitchen is also about approaching every recipe with a bit of confidence that even if you don’t have every single tool or recipe asked for, that you will still be able to achieve your end goal. My freshman year of college I didn’t even have access to a stove but in my rice cooker and hot water heater I managed to make rice (obvi), pasta, steamed veggies, you can bake cakes in rice cookers as well as pies (good ones!) and if you have the heart you can make soup or stew in a hot water heater. My rolling pin for the past 6 years (until I bought one last week) was whatever wine bottle I had on hand. Your hands are excellent strainers. A fork is an excellent whisk. Your fingers and a knife can make and shape any dough, anytime, any place. All I’m saying is while kitchen tools are cute and chic they are in no way necessary. So don’t fret when you need to approach a souffle without a standing mixer, just roll up your sleeves, kiss your biceps, and get into those egg whites.

As always, be good, and eat happily (no matter what you’re eating off of)