Bear with me, I promise this post is — eventually (and usefully) — about food.
Because I am a crazy person, for years I have hauled a ridiculously large, rather lame collection of magazines circa early this millennium. From multiple Maui houses, to climate-controlled storage during the years I lived on the mainland, to the trunk of my car, these magazines have done little more than collect cat hair and other egregious allergens. Even the waiting rooms of third world hospitals would deem these periodicals too outdated (never mind question my taste), yet I can’t bear to simply recycle them after the pains taken to keep them this long.
But, while perusing this evening (appositely, while eating leftovers), I happened upon a foodie-related article I thought useful enough to transcribe for you, dear reader.
It’s from the September 2004 issue of Real Simple, titled “Reading Between the Lines,” in which “masters from some very different contexts describe how to read more effectively by identifying what is and is not important — and even revealing the secret meaning in the words themselves.”
Anthony Bourdain, executive chef at Les Halles, in New York City, and author of Kitchen Confidential
Watch out for a menu that is too big, with too many dishes,or is trying to do too many things. It makes me ask, what are they good at? Or one that mixes in foreign words and phrases. If you can’t sell the monkfish, give it a French name (lotte) and jack up the price. When a menu points out that something is “house made,” it’s just pretentious. Whether you make it or somebody else really good makes it, I don’t care. The word fresh also rings a warning bell. I’m assuming it’s fresh. Why lay it on so thick? Smacks of a guilty conscience. If the same ingredient pops up in various guises on the menu, it’s often a sign of hard times. And when you see gimmicky big lavish leather bound menus with a lot of scrollwork., it’s like seeing a guy in his 50s driving a spanking new Porsche–you know he’s having erectile dysfunction. Give me a plain piece of white paper with information on it.
A WINE LABEL
Oliver Flosse, sommelier, Cafe Boulud, New York City
The grape, the winemaker, and the vintage are the most important pieces of information on a wine label — the grape because you can immediately decide whether it’s the type of wine you want to drink, the winemaker because some are good and some are not, and the vintage because some years are better than others. (I always check to see that the vintage I’m served is the one I ordered — others may be more expensive or not as good.) Words like “reserve” and “private selection” basically mean nothing; they’re just marketing. Same for bin or bottle numbers. “Table wine,” in any language, is a blend of different grapes from different vintages; that doesn’t mean it’s not good. “California wine” can mean a blend of grapes from anywhere in the state, not just where they grow best. If a wine’s from Napa or Sonoma, it will say so. Country-specific quality classifications may be given. France’s best, for example, is labeled “AOC.”
Nigella Lawson, cooking-show host and author of Feast: Food to Celebrate Life
Sit down with a new recipe and read it a couple times over a cup of tea, then ask yourself: How long is this going to take? Do I understand what I’m being told to do? Figure out everything you’ll need, including tools. If the ingredient list is too long, I know I’m going to be buying things I’ll need one tablespoon of and never use again. But don’t be deceived that a short recipe is a simple recipe — you want as much description of the method as possible. Generally, if a recipe says something like “combine,” it won’t matter too much if everything is stirred for ages or not,m but it’s more helpful if it says, “Listen, this will be very lumpy at this stage. Don’t worry — it will get smoother alter.” And when you glance at a cookbook and know deep down that’s not your sort of food, accept it. Don’t force yourself to become someone you’re not.
P.S. Other “Reading Between the Lines” categories included “A Newspaper,” “A Real Estate Ad,” “A Credit-Card Agreement,” A Contract,” “A Map,” “A Repair Manual,” and — my favorite –“A Gossip Column.” From latter-most (by Jeannette Walls, gossip columnist, MSNBC), I learned that “‘Gal pal’ is often a euphemism for lesbian lover,” thus illuminating that my naivete and love of silly rhymes (in the public forum of Facebook and Twitter, no less) has been the cause a few friendships turned awkward. And from the former-most, discovered the root of the newspaper’s decline (in “advice” given by Alberto Ibarguen, publisher, The Miami Herald) with, “When you’re short on time… (r)ead the first two paragraphs. If you’ve gotten enough, move on.” Ouch. (So, if you’ve made it this far, thank you.)
Ooh, and further foodie fun from the same issue (Real Simple, September 2004) …
DOUBLE-DUTY HOUSEHOLD FINDS
Original Use: Rinsing berries.
Aha! Use: Crumbling eggs into small pieces for salads and garnishes. Boil an egg, then push it through the mesh grooves.
Reward: Restaurant-worthy greens.
THE SPICE IS RIGHT
(Cilantro) contains an antibacterial compound that kills salmonella, according to a preliminary study done at the University of California, Berkely. Since salsa’s main ingredients include tomato, which is high in vitamin C and potassium, and onion, which has anitmicrobial properties, pairing them with fresh cilantro makes for an extra-healthy, bacteria-fighting dip…