Making a pecan pie can be a trying experience. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: August 2010
Restaurant criticism leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Continue reading
Overambitious plans make for half-baked dinners. As a kid in the kitchen, I plotted baroque feasts that required hours of labor. Nearly 20 now, I finally understand economy of effort. Last Thursday, I avoided culinary disaster by accepting simplicity as the solution to an unapproachable recipe.
A few days ago my Mom requested a chocolate pie for her birthday. I had only ever baked fruit pies before, so I felt apprehensive about making the filling, a pudding or custard. Since my Mom only has her birthday once a year, I decided to tackle this daunting task, and bake that chocolate pie. I found a recipe and made the crust first. The recipe called for a graham cracker crust, and following the recipe, the crust turned out swimmingly. I crushed the graham crackers, mixed in the dry ingredients and moistened the mixture with melted butter. I felt like a champion, especially after the crust issues with some of my fruit pies.
Cooking chili requires restraint. Although a culture of “chiliheads” exists, a group of heat enthusiasts with a serious capsaicin fetish, most Americans prefer balance between peppery fire, salt, and acid. In typical Midwestern style concoctions, tomatoes and ground beef help mute requisite chili powder and hot sauce additions. Indeed, Steak ‘n Shake’s maroon version tastes more like stew than spice, a paradigmatic representation of the Missouri preference for meat over heat. Even in St. Louis barbecue, sauces tend towards sweet rather than spicy, allowing the protein’s character to soliloquize uninterrupted. Therefore, chili cookoffs at home involve a game of spice roulette: how much seasoning to add to bring the dish just to the border of acceptable piquancy?
The term “mystery meat” evokes traumatic images of cafeteria meat loaf and sausages with bizarre textures. Yet, I do happen to enjoy one specific mystery meat: braunschweiger. This spreadable meat product primarily consists of liver (pork, calf, veal, beef, etc.) and pork jowl. As a result, I never can be absolutely sure what I am eating. Despite this product’s dubious composition, I find myself wanting to eat more, especially on a sandwich.
Editing is more difficult than writing. Every decent story includes tantalizing details that don’t fit, and since the author functions as a mother figure, each phrase on the chopping block looks like a son about to be sacrificed to the gods of brevity. Just like Agamemnon, knocking off Iphigenia in order to appease Artemis, I bow before some higher, writerly authority by (somewhat) constricting my focal depth. In my previous travelogues, various noteworthy bites were ignominiously deleted: a snack here, an entire meal there, all a bit too tedious or misfitted for inclusion in a regular piece. Hopefully, this crime against completeness doesn’t result in my wife eventually killing me, my son’s revenge on her, and then his trial. (See the Oresteia for more details.)
Three particular morsels deserve additional attention, either for their greater thematic importance in relation to my previous and relatively mundane observations, a profound deliciousness, human interest, or pure oddity. Where appropriate, I’ve linked to prior posts for clarification and further elucidation. Continue reading