First of all, what in the everloving fuck is this?
I’m all for pushing the culinary envelope but there are just some things you don’t mess with. Even people who like pineapple on pizza (you know who you are; don’t identify yourselves) look at this and think we must join forces to stop it. I don’t think it’s evil, per se, but Peter H. Corn this is bordering on sandwich territory, and a crap one at that, and as far as I’m concerned it should not be taking the name of Pizza in vain.
So, don’t do this.
People are weird about their food. And not just food – food placement. Some people will not eat unless their plate looks perfect, their food arranged like a clock, with protein at 6:00, starch at 2:00, and vegetables at 10:00. OK, I kind of get it, but they’ve made no arrangements for condiments. Where do they go? 4:37? 9:22? And does Daylight Savings Time factor into this at all? I envision this person moving everything on their plate exactly once inch to the left every autumn. And what if, God forbid, the gravy on the 6:00 chicken seeps over to the 10:00 asparagus tips? Do you hit the snooze button? Eating with this person would make me very tense, as they frantically scraped the sauce back to 7:30. Can you imagine being at a dinner party with someone like that? While the Clock Guy is wondering what to do with an extra starchy vegetable (2:00? 10:00? WHERE THE HELL DOES IT GO?), you could have another person arranging everything on the plate alphabetically.
By the way, can you imagine Clock Guy teaching his kid to drive? “Hands at Vegetables and Starch, Johnny.”
How about this dream meal? I don’t know what’s going on here, but it looks like the Mom and Dad mushroom brought the little mushrooms to see what happens when you don’t look both ways before crossing the street.
Even worse, though, is the person who plays a little fast and loose with their food hang-ups, as certain food might touch other food, but ONLY under certain circumstances. The meat loaf may touch the mashed potatoes, but the peas or carrots cannot be touching the meatloaf. Peas and carrots may touch the mashed potatoes, however, but only if the mashed potatoes don’t have gravy. This particular quirk involves a set of variables that would trip up Archimedes, and would definitely bring the dinner conversation to a halt if she has to whip out a protractor just to get through dessert.
Despite my snarkiness, I’m pretty open to trying new things. However, years ago I worked with a woman whose food repertoire was pretty much established by age nine. If she hadn’t eaten it before that age, she wasn’t having any of it. Once, our team went out to lunch at a Thai restaurant, just to see if we could get her to push her boundaries. While the rest of us enjoyed our curry noodles and chicken satay, the poor girl tried to order a hamburger. The waitress looked at her like she was nuts, and we tried to placate her with a bowl of chicken broth with vegetables. I’m sure she went home that night and wept over a fluffernutter sandwich.
And it is watching you.
Look, we all have our food issues. I’ll eat smoked oysters right out of the can, standing over a sink with a copy of Us Weekly on the counter. I’m not proud. We, collectively, and perhaps me, specifically, are overly obsessed with what is on our plate these days. Discussions, articles, and news pieces abound, often delivered with a level of salaciousness normally reserved for stories of sexual perversity. Oh, my God, carbs! Oh, for Heaven’s sake, sodium! Oh, my stars, trans fat! Even the government is getting into the act, with New York’s ban on sodas larger than sixteen ounces. (If you want thirty-two ounces, though, you just have to buy two sixteen-ounce containers. This means that they really don’t give a flying fig about how much sugar you ingest; they’re just going to make you work for it.) I’m currently trying to give up sugar. It’sgoingfinethankyouit’sokohmygodIhateeveryoneright now.
“You know what these bananas need? HAM.”
“Oh, GOD, yes. And put a Goddamn cream sauce on it. I hate food!”
And it comes with a side of grapes. If I was served this I’d probably just start throwing the grapes at people until I was asked to leave. Fucking banana ham.
One food thing I struggle with is the idea of finishing everything on my plate. I have no idea where this came from. My mother never forced me to finish everything, so it’s not some sort of latent guilt trip. My grandmother was big on the Clean Plate Club, and once, years ago, pulled the “starving children in China” routine on me. My mother wasn’t having any of it.
“Finish your meal,” Grandma implored me. “You’re so lucky, living here in America with all that we have. Think of the starving children who would love to have your dinner.”
Mom wasn’t moved. “Mail it to them,” she replied.
I have a theory about guilt. Put two Jewish mothers in a room, and they kind of cancel each other out.
Here’s another vintage recipe picture I found. It’s a put-your-meal-in-gelatin, all-in-one deal. Is that fish with the skin on for the bottom layer? And again with peas? I’m going to assume the top layer is some sort of carrot schmear.
I don’t know what the yellow stuff is. Maybe it’s the antidote.
Everyone and their orthodontist has a cookbook. Gwyneth Paltrow has one, too, and it includes something called “Duck Ragu.” DUCK RAGU. Not only does this recipe call for roasting an entire duck, it also calls for four slices of duck bacon. What the hell is duck bacon? I kind of get the feeling that Gwyneth is messing with us. Even if you manage to procure such a thing, what on earth would you do with the rest of it?
“Hey kids, come downstairs! It’s time for scrambled eggs and duck bacon!”
“Would you like some duck bacon bits on your salad?”
“How about a duck bacon cheeseburger?”
I don’t think it would catch on.
I don’t cook much, either. I tend to get a bit over-involved. I had a brief foray into vegan cooking in the mid 90s, which led to The Great Bean Ball Disaster of 1994. (Not to be confused with the Neil Balle Incident of 1996.) I had some people over once, and I wanted to do a nice vegetable tray, with the vegetables cut in unique and interesting shapes, perhaps reminiscent of Monet’s “Water Lilies.” (You know, as you do.) After a stare-down with the food processor and the realization that I had no idea how to turn a stack of celery sticks into a lily pad, I decided to just arrange them according to carbohydrate count. (P.S. Nobody noticed.) To add to the drama, when someone asked me later where I bought the dip that I spent fifteen minutes carefully blending and seasoning, it almost ended in tears. Costco, people. Just buy a damn tray.
It just looks like sadness.
I think I will stick to a Crock Pot. Dump it, forget about it. Then…soup! And I can eat the soup while watching people who actually know what they’re doing create flambes and souffles and fricassees and any other meals ending the “es” sound. And create homemade BBQ sauce for their Tex-Mex Asian Fusion Haggis Tacos. And something for dessert that includes ganache. I just like saying “ganache.”
Say it with me. Ganache. Ganache. Ganache.
It’s gone a bit weird now, hasn’t it? Ganache.
As I enter this next phase of my life, I think I’m going to set some kitchen goals for myself. More vegetables. Simpler recipes. Basically, creating meals that don’t put a look of fear on my Dad’s face when I announce, “I found a new recipe!”
That means I am never looking at another Martha Stewart magazine again. I can’t deal with the feelings of inadequacy that come from not being able to fold my napkins into interesting shapes, have cute hanging paper decorations that look like chrysanthemums and are made out of recycled Christmas wrap, make a quick (and easy) fondue, or MacGyver a chocolate fountain out of an umbrella and leftover M&Ms. (P.S. I never have leftover M&Ms.) And I’m never, ever, ever making Gwyneth Paltrow’s Duck Ragu recipe. It’s just beyond me. And this is coming from someone who once tried to make tofu nut loaf.
Yes, tofu nut loaf…let’s just say that it did not end well. I’ve mentally repressed the specifics; I do know that the meal ended with antacids, which may be why I shudder slightly whenever I see a TUMS commercial.
That being said, I’m thinking about doing something with kale. You’ve been warned.