Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Food Rules

Anyone with a deep passion has rules concerning that passion.  Love literature?  You know what you love and you have ideas of what constitutes a good book.  Music?  You probably have a sort of band you’ll like and a whole crowd of bands that can’t measure up.  Well, I am passionate about food, and I have some pretty strong opinions about it.  Actually I have some strong, some would say snobby, opinions about books, movies and music too but let’s stay on topic.  Let me share a few…

   1.       Bagels come in plain, poppy seed, sesame seed, egg, salt, garlic, onion, and everything.  They are boiled.  They are chewy, dense and filling.  Asiago cheese, cinnamon crunch, blueberries, chocolate chips….these things do not a bagel make.  They don’t come in whole wheat.  If you like these variations, fine…I actually love asiago cheese.  But these aren’t bagels…they’re round breads with holes and recently hip flavoring.  Call it something else, but keep a bagel a bagel.  Panera does not have bagels.  Brueggers’s does a mostly good job.  

   2.       Cream cheese on a bagel is just that…cream cheese.  It doesn’t come in strawberry and honey walnut.  In fact, cream cheese on a bagel should only be accompanied by capers, lox, and onion.  Ham and cheese…not on a kosher bagel!  That's sacrilegious...literally! 

   3.       Pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza.  Nor does bbq, teriyaki sauce, nuts or chicken.  Authentic Italian pizza can have all sorts of vegetables, cured meats, even a raw egg…but not pineapple.  I know, I know….this has become a beloved pizza topping, particularly for kids…but it’s just not right. Have what you like...but that doesn't make it right. And please don’t put tomato paste in the pizza sauce.  Why must everything get sweetened?  And pizza crust is not a place to insert cheese or sprinkle salt like it’s a pretzel.  Stop with the gimmicks already! 

   4.       Growing up in New England introduced me to great sub-sandwiches, or as I knew them, grinders.  There were certain kinds, just as there are certain Italian pizzas.  I always got the Italian grinder….thin-sliced cured meats, peppers, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and some herbs on crusty bread.  The meat was just thrown on by the handful, piled high…and doused with oil and vinegar.  NO mayo…and I love mayonnaise, but not on my grinder!  Neatly laid out, flat meats – never!  Leaves of lettuce?  No.  And the bread should never have the consistency of white sandwich bread.  The crustiness should challenge me.  Heated or put under a Panini press….for the love of all things holy and good…No (unless it’s a meatball grinder)!   Subway?  No way.  Quizno’s…oh, no nos.  Jimmy John’s Vito…pretty close.  But I miss Worcester’s Jolly Giant.     

   5.       Ice Cream is ice cream…not frozen custard, not frozen yogurt, not soft serve.  Ice cream should be hard, chewy, cold and creamy.  French-style glace…c’est si bon.  Italian gelato…bellissima!  Both of these are traditional variations of the theme.  The Midwestern favorite, frozen custard…a creamy cousin, but it isn’t ice cream.  Soft serve…not even close, but I confess to loving one with the kids sometimes.  Frozen affliction for the health addicted, but I enjoy that too.  But these are not ice cream.  And ice cream isn’t just for dessert…it makes a great breakfast or dinner! 

   6.       Croissants are flaky, buttery, and wonderful warm, plain or with a little dark chocolate inside.  They taste best with a rich, dark cup of coffee or hot chocolate.  They are not to be cut in half and filled with ham, eggs, cheese…croissandwishes are an abomination.    

   7.       The British have a joke…Why do Americans serve their beer ice cold in a frosty mug?  So they don’t have to taste it.  The American beer industry and culture has become the most diverse and highest quality in the world, so the joke doesn’t quite hold water anymore.  But we still produce An-Mill-oors yellow fizzy stuff for the globe.  And it is best served so you don’t have to taste it.  But I have been in far too many places serving some good beers in frosty mugs at artic temps.  Please don’t.  If I order a Mich Ultra, fine…freeze it to numb my taste buds before I let that touch me. In fact, it might be really refreshing as a popsicle. But if I order an $8 craft beer please don’t make me wait half an hour for it to reach a point where I can taste it.     

   8.       Pasta should not be mushy.  Cook it just until it has some firmness left, al dente.  Nor should it be over-sauced.  I don’t want pasta soup.  When I am done I shouldn’t have more than enough sauce for a swipe with my crusty bread.  Think subtle.  That said, some cafeteria spaghetti served via ice cream scoop…that’s some throwback comfort food!  And while I am thinking about pasta, Alfredo is not really Italian…the name doesn’t exist in Italy.  The closest you will see in Italy is pasta tossed with butter and cheese by a mama in a private house.  Alfredo as Americans know it is an American creation.  Yummy…yes, but not really Italian.

   9.       Bread should never be stored in plastic unless it came pre-sliced in a square.  Bread should come in a paper bag.  You should store it in a paper bag.  If you have enough left over that it lasts more than 24 hours and “needs” a plastic bag, you need to eat more bread.  

   10.   Wine should come in one liter bottles.  How many times have you found that you want just one more small glass, but….noooooo….the bottle is empty?  Just a little more…please?  I’m sure there’s a reason for the 750ml bottle and it will likely shoot my complaint down…but what is it?

What are your food hang-ups?  What are your rules?  What trends do you think we should eliminate?  Where am completely wrong?
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