The Joy of Feeding People

4 08 2009

As a parent back in the day… and currently as an exhilarated and goofy grandpa (aka Pop Pop)… one of the most rewarding times each day are feeding times. The thing is… time spent feeding the baby humans is njoy-3ot only necessary and nutritious… it’s also bonding and rewarding. You are extending to little… open… baby-bird-like mouths… spoonfuls or bottles of joy and strength. The smile and laughter you get in return is payback in kind… coming right-back-at-you with joy & strength. This joy extends beyond infants however, and can be attained joy-2when feeding an entire family, group of friends, or big dinner party… it works on the same concept. So… this is the main idea of today’s blog… that in feeding people there is joy… at every stage of the process…so here goes;

Over 30 years ago I was thoroughly captivated by the explanation and exploration of the creative process as presented in the book JOY by William Schutz. Initiation of a creative thought… the process of expressing… the perseverance and follow-through… and perhaps the most difficult part of the creative process… the evaluation (both self-evaluation and serious regard for the input of your ‘audience’). I’ve lived my life learning about… and immersing myself in the joys and RISKS of this process. Be it composing, video making, musical performance, reciting poetry [a particularly risky and ill-conceived endeavor (sorry family…continue with your meal please…arghh!) in my case], studio recording, or my all-time favorite… creating & writing recipes and preparing them… the epitome of the Creative Process On-A-Plate.

Making a dish which displays all of the elements of culinary pleasure takes lots of initiative, execution, perseverance, and evaluation. Not only does great food taste good… it looks good… it smells good… it invites… it confirms… and it comforts. joy-1A creative dish considers presentation and proportion and form. This is not a call-to-arms for proponents of haute cuisine or nouvelle cuisine… because big and fancy can be great… small and essential can be great… and just plain simple can also be great. It boils down to (or simmers) care, quality, and balance. A bowl of broth with a hint of parmesan rind can offer the most remarkable taste imaginable… simple in execution and presentation… yet simultaneously complex and subtle on the tongue. On the other side of the spectrum, while complex preparations can be fantastic and memorable… there are also dishes ill-conceived by complexity, over-thought-out, and flavors that are in competition or are undetectable…or… to quote from the movie Amadeus, “…too many notes!”

The creation of an enjoyable and expressive disjoy-4h can thusly be simple… or complex… city vibe or farmhouse spirit… China-plated for the Guggenheim or paper-plated for a backyard barbecue. They key ingredient for the success of any joyous feeding is honesty. Heart-felt & sincere…a lack of self-indulgence… care and pride in the execution and preparation…and the desire to create something that can be shared and enjoyed by yourself and others. Feeding people is shared joy… complete with nutrition, sustenance, and delicious memories.

Feeding my beautiful granddaughter mixed cereal followed by mashed peaches and a formula chaser is a wonderful experience for both of us. Putting a big meal together for a dozen adults for extended family to share in fellowship is not much different. The idea comes first…the meal is prepped and cooked…the audience partakes in the experience of the meal…and, more times than not… the evaluation process is rendered in the smiles of delight & appreciation… and…as a bonus…from a pay-it-forward perspective is equally enjoyable for the person who creates the meal as it is for the recipients of said creative process. It’s the JOY of FEEDING PEOPLE.

The Crying Game: Onion Cutting Solutions Examined

25 03 2009

In a world where we can put a camera, an internet savvy computer, a phone, a GPS device, a calendar, a clock, a filing cabinet, a TV, a video monitor, a dictionary, entire music libraries, and much more … all into a single handheld unit smaller then a deck of cards… something’s not quite right. crying-onion

In a world where we can take a pill to stop sneezing, to stop itching, to stop smoking, to start breathing, to stop aching, to lose weight, to suppress urges, to feel happy, to feel ‘level’, to be ‘lovable’, to be more alert, and much more… something’s not quite right.

Not because a high-end cell phone is not REALLY cool… it is. Not because modern medicine has cures for almost anything… because that’s cool too. What’s not right, is that in a world with such incredible technical & scientific advances, we have such a hard time simply cutting an onion without crying.

In today’s blog I’ll explain why onions make you cry… explore the seemingly endless folk-remedies which supposedly alleviate the tears… and, unfortunately, offer the very few REAL solutions. The list of remedies I’ll put out there today are REAL suggestions… offered by folks who claim success with said advice… left for you to decide. (If you do try any and actually have success with them… PLEASE leave a comment).


Stay with me here, it won’t be too wordy and it’s not rocket science… it’s onion science. When we cut into an onion we break up cells which allow certain enzymes to react with certain amino acids which result in sulphenic acids. These acids, being unstable, create volatile gasses. When the gas reaches the eyes it once again changes states into a somewhat mild form of sulphuric acid which, although mild, can really irritate the sensitive membranes in the eyes. The body then causes your tear ducts to work overtime in an attempt to flush out the invasive irritants.


I’ve broken down the supposed ‘remedies’ into several categories as follows:

  • The Mouth Remedies  scuba-mask
  • The Nose Remedies
  • The Eye Remedies
  • The Water Remedies
  • The Culinary Technique Remedies
  • The Location Remedies
  • The Science Remedies
  • The Wimpy Remedies
  • The Foolproof Remedies

The effectiveness scale of 1 – 10 is 1=totally ineffective & 10=works like a charm

Category Recommended Remedy Effectiveness
MOUTH Hold a tablespoon in your mouth while you cut 1
MOUTH Hang a piece of bread out of your mouth while cutting 1
MOUTH Only breathe with your mouth while cutting 2
MOUTH Clench an unlit wooden match between your teeth while cutting 1
MOUTH Chew gum while cutting   (ineffective and lowers perceived IQ) 1
MOUTH Put a toothpick in mouth (does nothing but you’ll look cooler) 1
MOUTH Keep a slice of lemon in your mouth while cutting 1
MOUTH Suck on a mint lollipop while cutting 1
MOUTH Hold a mouthful of vinegar… cut… then swallow 1
MOUTH Hold a pencil sideways under your tongue while cutting 1
MOUTH Lick the onion first… then cut   (then don’t tell anyone else!) -2 (c’mon)
MOUTH Bite on cardboard (like you’re blotting lipstick) while cutting 1
MOUTH Chew on raw onion while cutting (Then audition for role on 24… you tough-guy) 1
MOUTH Eat sugar cubes while cutting  (brings you closer to dentist) 1
MOUTH Put the ‘sulphur’ end of match in your mouth w/out biting 1
NOSE Breathe red wine vinegar fumes prior to cutting 1
NOSE Shove some tissue paper up each nostril … then cut  (Nice!) 1
NOSE Wrap a damp cloth around mouth & nose while cutting 1
NOSE Hold your breath while cutting… leave room to take new breath 1
NOSE Stick a burnt (cool) match up your nose business end first 1
EYE Wear a scuba mask and breathe through snorkel  (Yeah) 5
EYE Squinting while cutting   (caution is in order on cutting board) 1
EYE Wear good foam sealed swimmer’s goggles while cutting 10
WATER Soak onions in ice water 2 hours before cutting 3
WATER Peel onions under running water before cutting 3
WATER Actually cut the onions under water in large baking dish 3
WATER Boil the onions for 5 minutes… cool… then cut  (nice texture!) 2
WATER Hold your wrists under cold water before cutting  (Huh?) 1
WATER Wash your hands and leave them really wet  (nice knife grip!) 1
CULINARY Use a really sharp knife… a dull knife ‘crushes’ more cells 4
CULINARY Work faster   (improve knife skills & onion cutting technique) 4
CULINARY Remove the ‘bulb’ by cutting out cone shape from root 2 (wasteful)
CULINARY Cut off the root end first, then the top, then peel, then chop 1
CULINARY Don’t cut the root end at all 2
LOCATION Sit down on a chair while cutting the onion 1
LOCATION Stick your head in the freezer every now & then while cutting 2
LOCATION Place cutting board on cold stovetop & turn on exhaust fan 2
LOCATION Cut near a lit candle or lit gas burner so flame will burn gasses 1
LOCATION Cut next to a fan blowing across your cutting board 1
SCIENCE Rub your cutting board w/ white vinegar before cutting 1
SCIENCE Lime juice on the knife blade before cutting 1
SCIENCE Leave a slice of bread near the onions as you cut them 1
SCIENCE Stick a chunk of bread on end of knife while cutting  (clumsy?) 1
WIMPY Have someone else cut the onions earlier in the day 10
WIMPY Purchase onions that are already chopped 8 (restrictive)
FOOLPROOF Contact lenses (just plain soft lenses = ZERO crying) 10
FOOLPROOF Have someone else cut the onions earlier (wimpy but foolproof) 10
FOOLPROOF Wearing tight, foam-sealed swim goggles  (can fog up though) 10


While you may get some relief by employing a few of the tactics listed above… not only will you still be crying… but you could injure yourself as well.contact_lense Keep matches out of your mouth… keep your head out of the freezer… don’t lick onions before prepping them (unless you live alone and only cook for yourself and don’t mind still crying [not from loneliness, but from cutting onions] )…don’t shove tissue up your nose (it looks pathetic)… and don’t use a sharp knife with wet hands. C’MON PEOPLE!!! Here’s the bottom line: There are 3 ways to avoid shedding tears while cutting onions;

  1. Wear contact lenses
  2. Wear tight, foam-sealed swim goggles (they actually make ‘onion’ goggles but they’re just fancy swim goggles and cost twice as much)
  3. Have someone else cut your onions earlier in the day.

Please comment or contradict if you have some more REAL remedies !

Failure to Launch: In the World of Poorly Written Recipes

17 03 2009

You can really get upset when you’ve planned on baking something for a special dessert only to find that you failed to procure baking powder on your trip to the store (while they were still open). Why didn’t you get baking powder? The answer is, at once, simple and aggravating; because the recipe didn’t list baking powder in the ingredient list… it only appears for the first time in step 3: mix in baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. This is a clear infraction of Poorly Written Recipe INFRACTION 2B (to follow).

Fortunately, that particular recipe could be salvaged with 2 parts Cream of Tartar to 1 part Baking Soda (happened to have them in the pantry). That does notblog picture, however, give the publisher of that particular recipe a free pass on the infraction. It could have easily ruined your dessert, wasted your money, and tarnished your SWEET reputation. The biggest problem with poorly written recipes is that they can be really confusing.

Let’s review the list of Poorly Written Recipe INFRACTIONS:

  • 1. How big is an onion? (could be golf ball… could be softball… be specific.)
  • 2A. Appears in Ingredients… does NOT appear in Instructions
  • 2B. Does NOT appear in Ingredients… DOES appear in Instructions
  • 3. Mixed language descriptors (a HANDFUL of flour & 1 1/2 Tablespoons of shortening called for in same recipe… should have been; a HANDFUL of flour and then add SOME flour… to paraphrase… Start Vague=Stay Vague.
  • 4. Blatant PRODUCT PLACEMENT. We’ve all been put-off by not having Lawrie McPerrin’s Seasoned Salt on hand or a bottle of BLAM! All-purpose seasoning… not to mention the specific kind velvety smooth of ‘Government Cheese’ needed for a particular recipe. Just say, “Seasoning Salt” or “processed cheese product” and let us make our own BRAND selection.
  • 5. The over 20 ingredient INFRACTION. C’mon? Get real and scale it back.
  • 6. The ‘What kind of pan?’ & ‘How high a heat?’ INFRACTION. The direction cook for 3 minutes while stirring takes on new meaning at SMOKIN’ HOT than at Simmer.
  • 7. Ingredients that can only be purchased in remote areas of Morocco… and only then if you ‘know someone’. (Hey… rewrite w/ substitutes)
  • 8. Science and/or Math issues. simple infractions being ‘6 teaspoons’ instead of ‘2 Tablespoons’… complicated infractions being ‘liquid measurement/dry measurement’ confusion… catastrophic infractions being cooking times & temps don’t allow recipe to be safely cooked.
  • 9. Recipes written as narratives. (need to be read 15 times to grasp the quantities AND concepts.)
  • 10. Recipes with names that are too embarrassing to tell anyone else: Snickiepoopers, or Hot Doggy Weenie Beanies…etc.

Let’s all start taking notes on other INFRACTIONS we discover as we cook our way through our recipe libraries. If we write recipes let’s commit to consistency. If we don’t care about any of this… well… enjoy your Snickiepoopers.

Being a Grandfather (Pop Pop) Changes Everything!

2 03 2009

Sorry about the blogging sabbatical. Since February 6th things have been a lot different. Enter into the world my first grandchild…LILY. 7 pounds 2 ounces… 1 foot 8 inches tall… of PURE joy. After 17 hours of labor (kinda like makin’ TURDUCKEN but much more painful) she burst onto the planet with a glass- breaking shriek and 30 seconds of a one-breath wail that would wake the dead.

Since then I’ve been cooking-up-a-storm… whenever I’m not taking pictIMG_9995ures of Lily.  Add a trip to the APPCA Chef Summit and CaterSource trade show in Las Vegas (not to worry… I brought lots of Lily pictures on my phone to show anyone I met… YEAH… I’m that guy) and some new ‘cook dates’ and I’ve been delinquent in the blogosphere.

NEXT TOPIC for blog: Could this recipe BE anymore confusing ? or Failure to Launch in the World of Poorly Written Recipes

Recipe Names: 1st Impressions Count !

5 02 2009

This is how it is. In the kitchen, at the workplace, out dancing, on TV… you name it… we judge…and ARE judged by first impressions. Fortunately, we are able to get beyond the initial assessment in many cases… a second chance if you will. With recipe names or entree names we often never get to the ‘2nd chance’ phase… but rather just move on to another more appealing sounding dish.

You may really want the fried cod sandwich from your friendly New England restaurant chains menu, but are somehow put off by having to beefy-roundsorder a ‘Fishamajigger’.  How about flipping through a cookbook and you happen on a recipe for Beefy Rounds & Crustacean Nuggets …  BAM!… immediately to the next page. Had you given it a second chance you would have discovered a wonderful preparation of Surf & Turf w/ Filet Mignon and Chunk Lobster Meat. First impressions matter. Let’s explore some other recipe/entree names that don’t really work.

Poor First Impression Better Name Choice
Fowl Balls Chicken Croquettes
Spicy Pig in Stomach Lining Cajun Style Andouille Sausage
Organ Meat & Fat Spread Foie Gras
Charred Soaked Cow Diaphragm Grilled Marinated Skirt Steak
Minced Sheep w/ Mushy Tubers Shepherds Pie
Fribble Thick Milk Shake

Let’s all make a concerted effort to approach naming our recipes/entrees with appetizing and inviting names… avoiding the disgusting or silly.

If you have any ‘bad recipe names’ to share PLEASE feel free to jump into the comments for today’s blog.

Recipe Review Rules of Engagement

3 02 2009

If you’re like me… you spend lots of time exploring the multitude of recipes that reside on the web. On a continuous quest for the perfect Creole spice mix… or the best way to capture authentic taste of Puerto Rico in an Arroz con Pollo production. Whatever you search for, you can find a seemingly endless amount of postings… on a seemingly endless number of food sites. One of the potentially best features of many of these sites are the ‘recipe reviews’ that we… the ‘willing to try the recipe’ public… post after actually preparing the posted recipes. Unfortunately, this feature has yet to reach its full potential.

Here is the main idea of today’s post; When you review a recipe online… rate it as ‘great’… rate it as ‘hideous’… rate it as ‘pretty good’… but DO NOT rewrite the recipe in the review. I’ll give you an example. Let’s take a hypothetical food site… say… (don’t try to go there!). You find a recipe called: Beginners Vegetable Soup. Let’s say this simple recipe looks like this…

INGREDIENTS:    (please don’t try this recipe… it is for illustration only!)

  • 1 med  yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 med  carrots, diced
  • 2 stalk  celery, diced
  • 1 Tbl    olive oil
  • 4 cups  chicken stock
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  •    salt & pepper to taste


  1. heat oil in pan over medium high heat
  2. add all vegetables and saute until onions are translucent
  3. add chicken stock & bay leaf… bring to boil… reduce to simmer
  4. simmer for 30 minutes… taste… adjust seasoning w/ salt & pepper

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: serve hot in a bowl w/ crackers on the side

What happens next often goes something like this…

You notice that the recipe has received 4 FORKS at attention in the community with 49 reviews. You click on the ‘reviews’ TAB and up comes a column of reviews (or rewrites as the case may be). Here is the 1st review:

4_forks This recipe (Beginners Vegetable Soup) was absolutely fantastic. It was simple to make, yet complex in flavor nuances. I made this with my 8 year old daughter and she enjoyed learning how to make a great soup. I made a few changes that really ‘kicked it up’ too. Instead of yellow onions I used turnips. I eliminated carrots and used sweet potatoes to replace the missing color. Celery doesn’t agree with my husband so I replaced it with zucchini. We’re vegetarian too… so I swapped vegetable broth for the chicken stock. I didn’t have any olive oil ($$$) on hand so I used canola oil (I think it tastes smoother anyway). My daughter thought that adding a leaf to the soup was gross so we used some Lawry’s Seasoned Salt instead. Since we had added the Lawry’s we really didn’t need to adjust the seasonings at all… it was perfect!  I would definitely make this soup again!  (Oh… and It didn’t even repeat on my husband!)

     Margaret214 from the Delaware area    on 2/2/09

I may be exaggerating a bit… but I’m not making this stuff up! It’s a little bizzare don’t you think. I would be annoyed if it didn’t somehow remind me of a twisted version of the Stone Soup story.  The coolest part is that she’ll MAKE IT AGAIN!

(please remember that today’s blog is fiction… and not based on any real people)

Feel free to join the discussion by jumping into the comments.

Isn’t SOUP the Ultimate Comfort Food?

2 02 2009

soup1In observing most polls & lists of Top 10 COMFORT foods, it appears that Mac & Cheese, Ice Cream, Grilled-Cheese Sandwiches, Mashed Potatoes, and Chocolate seem to always be ahead of any SOUP on the list. The highest rated soups (though almost always below the aforementioned comfort foods) seem to be Chicken Noodle, Tomato, and… if I may be so bold… Chili… which, while technically not a soup, finds itself at home under the ‘soup umbrella’ in my book.

Here are the questions;

  • Who among us does not have a primal need for a piping hot bowl of soup on a blustery winter day?
  • Who among us has not been overwhelmed with the need for a bowl of hot chicken soup (noodles or otherwise) when sidelined w/ a cold or flu?
  • Do you not long for soup in the aftermath of dental work?
  • If you’re looking for a lunch that’s not-too-heavy… yet filling… is not the choice obvious?
  • Who doesn’t love those round white cardboard pint containers filled w/ hot soup TO GO… and Split Pea written in Sharpie on the top?

I don’t disagree with many of the standard comfort food choices; spaghetti, tuna-noodle casserole, meatloaf, p,b & j, fried chicken, and (in my case personally) chicken and dumplings. My contention is however… while all these foods are comforting to many of us some of the time… isn’t soup comforting to ALL of us MOST of the time. I contend that SOUP should be at the TOP of the list in all flavors!

Care to jump in to confirm soup’s ULTIMATE status… or to offer some opinion to the contrary? Please feel free to comment… and get the discussion going.

How elaborate should Superbowl food be?

1 02 2009

Your having friends over to watch the BIG GAME. You may, or may not, have any vested interest in either team playing… but it’s an event nevertheless. There’s the gazillion dollar advertisements… many of which are quite memorable and worthy of a celebration. Who doesn’t enjoy infants who can trade stock online… while chatting-up the neighbor babies on their cell phones or spitting-up? This is classic stuff.  So the question is…

Should the food you make for the Superbowl reflect a celebration of LIFE… where no food is off-limits…or be true to the game… and represent classic renditions of gridiron edibles? 

Superbowl FOOD possibilities looked at from both schools of thought:

Celebration of LIFE                             True to the GAME

Blue Corn Crusted Scrod                         Hot Wings w/ Blue Cheese & celery

Duck Confit w/ Avocado Foam                DeepDish Pizza w/ Pepperoni

Steak Tartare w/ Poached Egg                Bratwurst on a roll w/ Deli mustard

Blood Orange Mimosa Cocktails               something w/ Drinkability

duck-confit          bratwurst

For me it’s an easy call… TRUE to the GAME. That doesn’t mean you can’t work up a high-end Wing recipe… homemade blue cheese dressing… or fly in the nation’s best Brats from Wisconsin to treat your friends to.  Make your own deep dish pizza w/ imported pepperoni. That still honors tradition… it’s still football food . While there’s lots of fun in fancy food… your Superbowl party is not the right time. To which side of this debate do you lean? Just how elaborate is TOO elaborate? Please share your comments.

Shrimp Crusted Baked Haddock to share…

29 01 2009

Everyone’s being told to eat more fish these days. The health benefits seem clear, however, not everyone really likes fish all that much. They turn their noses at the ‘fishy’ smell of stronger fish and tend to avoid ordering it out or buying it fresh at the market.  I know lots of folks who ‘don’t like fish’ but somehow enjoy fish & chips. Granted crispy fried beer batter can make cardboard taste pretty good… dip that in tartar sauce (or malt vinegar for the purist) and you’re not complaining about eating fish. In fact, the batter and sauce dominates the really mild taste of the beautiful cod or haddock inside. Let me share a recipe for SHRIMP CRUSTED BAKED HADDOCK that gets even non-fish-eaters wanting more. They’re not challenged by a ‘fishy’ fish… but rather presented w/ a tender, white, meaty fish with a delicious shrimp sauce and flavorful panko crump crust. Let me know if you try this recipe. I’ve attached a video of the preparation of this recipe, as well as the actual recipe. Enjoy.



Shrimp Crusted Baked Haddock

Shrimp Crusted Baked Haddock


28 01 2009


I thought I would get some discussion started with a few quotes about soup and dining. Please share your thoughts and any favorite food quotes as you see fit.

“Good soup is like a comfortable pair of shoes… You say “AHHHH!” when you experience both.”
2009 Chef Robert Seibert SUPPERMAN Personal Chef Service

“…it is the duty of every housekeeper to learn the art of soup making.”
1918 Fannie Farmer The Boston Cooking School Cookbook

“…but in eating soup he must dip his spoon away from him—turning the outer rim of the bowl down as he does so—fill the bowl not more than three-quarters full and sip it, without noise, out of the side (not the end) of the bowl.”
1922 Emily Post The Kindergarten of Etiquette

“Well, dinner would have been splendid…if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the Duchess.”
Sir Winston Churchill

“I went on a diet, swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in 14 days I lost two weeks.”
Joe E. Lewis American Comic 1902-1971