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.

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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… epicourteous.com. (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

METHOD:

  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 epicourteous.com 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.





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.

RECIPE

RECIPE

Shrimp Crusted Baked Haddock

Shrimp Crusted Baked Haddock