30 October 2012

Cultural Connectionz: Hungarian Pig Roast

You can be sure that somewhere, deep in the Hungarian wild, a pig roast is going on right now. And you’re not invited. Presumably the Hungarians have developed some secret technique to roast a pig of their own invention and are not willing to share it with the rest of the world--just like their secret Mangalitsa pig, which has only recently been unearthed by the New York Times.
No wonder the Magyars wanted to keep this ludicrous sheep-pig to themselves.

No foreigner has ever attended a Hungarian pig roast (at least I haven't, so I assume no one else has either), so we can't be totally sure what goes on, but I am going to guess that a pig is roasted, consumed, and then everyone puts on their vest embroidered with gold braiding and performs a festive jig.

But quite frankly, I'm glad I've never been invited. One time we had a Christmas ham that was from an actual pig, and it tasted so totally foreign from the processed Schneider's ham nuggets that I'm used to and tasted so totally like a ham that I did not enjoy it at all.


It turns out you are invited for the nominal fee of 35€. And although now is as good a place as any to discuss the urban bourgeoisie's fetishism of the lower (and typically rural) classes, I'm not going to because it makes me too angry.

Sound the alarm! Grab your gold-braided vest!
Double the horses, therefore double the pace:
Why shouldn't one man ride two horses abreast?
The irrefutable logic of the Hungarian race

Three more for each man, there's no time to waste!
The pig roast has started! It's already begun!
All 'cross the puszta, we must go post-haste!
If we don't get there soon it will already be done!

But the pig roast was over; it came and it went:
Just one more thing for the Hungarian to lament

29 October 2012

The Pickle

One time an incorruptible-Huxtable  babysitter chased me into the basement and threatened to force me to eat a pickle. To this day I don’t know if she was merely exercising her authority over me or if she thought that pickles are so good that it would be criminal to let me live another day without trying one myself.

But I was triumphant, and to this day, I have never tried a pickle.
This is what I imagine the outcome would be if I ever tried a pickle.
It wasn’t until 2008 that I figured out what a pickle is. I remember this moment very clearly. I was working on an organic vegetable farm for the summer because I like to be close to the earth and I respect the welfare of our planet. I was directed to gather some cucumbers and some pickling cucumbers. As I repeated “pickling cucumbers” over and over to myself while looking at the pickling cucumbers, it suddenly dawned on me that cucumbers are pickles--just pickled. And I thought to myself that I better keep this little insight to myself because it was 2008 and about 17 years too late to make this connection.

I don’t want to suggest that I was totally unaware of the pickling process or that the final pickled product must have pre-existed in a non-pickled state; of course I knew these things. But pickles have always been so far from my mind that I never really thought about it. And I certainly never considered that this was an activity that everyday people engaged in. I assumed that pickles just appeared on the shelves of our grocery stores, fresh from a container from China. And besides, even though we all (now) know that pickling is a process to preserve food, “pickles” are always referred to as just “pickles,” whereas “pickled asparagus” is never referred to as just asparagus or just pickles, or “pickled beets” as just beets or just pickles. I think as a society we have accepted pickles as a food unto themselves with no important connection to cucumbers in a way that we have not done so for other foods that can be pickled. As a result, I don’t think my late in life discovery of the nature of pickles is all that embarrassing. 

It is my understanding that a pickle can be either crisp or soft, and come in a variety of flavours, like sweet or... I don’t know, sour? Bitter? Are these even flavours? Maybe you can put some other food in the jar with the pickles and it flavours them? Oh, dill obviously. Dill pickles. I know that because you can get everything in dill pickle flavouring. I don’t know how these things work, and it doesn’t matter because I would not be more inclined to try one flavour of pickle over another flavour of pickle. However, the varying texture does interest me somewhat. I find nothing immediately offensive about biting into a crispy substance because I think it would be similar to biting into a carrot, which is a sensation that I enjoy. Similarly, a soft pickle might have a similar texture to a banana. Except in both cases I expect that a pickle is much more slimy than a carrot or a banana, so why would I bother? I can’t imagine that that pickles taste very good and I also can’t imagine how my life might be improved if they became a part of my diet. Pickles are almost always served a as a side dish and are therefore easily avoided. Plus, I can’t get it out of my head that pickles are just scientific specimens of syphilitic penises stored in jars. I also don’t know how the flavour of the cucumber interacts with the brine, and as of yet I have not been convinced that a cucumber marinated in brine for an unspecified period of time would taste any different from a syphilitic penis sample that has undergone the same process.
Are these animal penises preserved in jars or various tubers marinating brine?
I'll never tell...
When does the cucumber cease to be and the pickle to became?
Is there no change in substance and merely change of a name?
What is the exact moment of transition?
We shall place all our faith in the powers of human cognition.
Let us test our hypothesis; grab a jar from the shelf.
For the purpose of science we shall sacrifice the self.
It doesn’t matter which one you pick--
I’m certain they all taste like a pickled syphilitic dick

26 October 2012

Potato Update

The other day I bought a bag of frozen hash browns and consumed it in an embarrassingly short period of time. I took several pictures to commemorate the occasion, but I am only posting a few because I worry that the only thing more embarrassing than eating that many frozen hash browns that quickly is taking 15 pictures of myself doing so and posting them on the internet.
This is the first picture I took. I look pretty at peace with the situation. I now
regret that I didn't take a series of pictures of myself struggling under the
burden of shame that was the inevitable result of this potato feast.

And then I found out that you can take a series of four pictures in sequence,
so of course I took 13 more.
I meant for this post to be a warning to anyone who has ever idealized a certain food from their past, as I have with McCain's frozen hash browns. I was going to write about how sometimes you remember something being so delicious, but when you revisit it, you're kind of disappointed. I was going to write about how it's easy to conflate these foods with past emotional states, and why it's wrong to think that eating a food from your childhood--a time in your life that you typically associate with happiness--will ever be able to fill that void that has been steadily growing since those first tinges of adulthood. But now that I am looking at this mound of hash browns, I kind of just want to go out and do the whole thing over again.

21 October 2012


Had I never agreed to discover America with my sista in 2008, I would still be happily ensconced in the idea that grits were an especially greasy form of breakfast potatoes. But when I started to do some more research into the Grit Belt--where we would be spending a large portion of our time and where my sister would now be living--I realised that grits were not the refried deepfried greased-up heavenly hashbrown dish I had always dreamed of. When I found out that grits are actually just some disgusting porridgey dish made out of ground corn, I realised that the world would never be as beautiful as I once hoped it would be, and I gave up all hope for the future. The world is a cold, hard place, you guys.

Here’s a terrible article about just how far America has fallen.

Sometimes learning new things is a difficult and lonely experience.
Fun Footnote: Evidently there is a Christian rap duo known as GRITS ( = Grammatical Revolution In The Spirit, obvs). But I feel like if I was part of a rap duo, I would not name it GRITS. Because every time someone might try to search for the group on the internet, they're going to wind up with a bunch of pictures and stories about grits (the food, not the grammatical revolution).

When I discovered the true nature of the grit,
My world began to crumble, bit by bit.

The Tomato

Tomatoes on the brain.
In grade 12 English I was given a one page creative assignment in which I had to describe the most important experience of my life; something that made me who I am today (or was, on that day). I wrote about getting my period and was immediately withdrawn from the class and placed in a remedial English program.* In hindsight, my regret is not that I chose to write about my period, but that I didn’t write about the time I stood up to my mum and refused to eat a fresh tomato.

My eating habits have, on and off, been a point of contention between me and my mother. Sometimes she seemed to accept that I just would not eat certain (read: nearly all) foods, but other times she would attempt to force me to broaden my culinary horizons. The latter almost always proved disastrous for both of us (see the posts on salmon pie and squash, which are surely to come in the near future). By the time I reached high school, I thought we were beyond playing this game, but then one day she placed a plate of sliced up tomato and cucumber in front of me and expected me to eat it. I refused, and she insisted. After several minutes had passed, I agreed to try a slice of cucumber. I immediately regretted my weak nature and was horrified by the taste. I said I would eat no more. She said I just had to try a slice of tomato and then it would all be over; I didn’t have to clean my plate, just try one slice of tomato.

But I wouldn’t, and I honestly can’t understand who would. Is there anything more hellish than a tomato? The cross-section of a tomato is horrifying and thinking of biting down on that soft red flesh makes me shiver. It is so moist that it can’t even hold its shape. The seeds slip out of the body of the tomato, and yet are still held there--trapped in the thick, gummy liquid--and the branches of tomato flesh collapse onto themselves. The tomato has a sort of synesthesic quality, in which just looking at it translates into  terrible taste in my mouth. I don’t need to try a tomato to know that I hate it and I can’t imagine what form of hell would have awaited me if I had backed down and second time and placed that slice of tomato on my tongue.

That was the day that I said no, not only to my mother, but to tomatoes. There comes a point in every person’s life when they realise that they are in control of themselves and that they--and they alone--determine their own destiny. And so it wasn’t when I got my period that I grew up, became a woman, and took charge of my own life; it’s when I rejected the tomato and realised that I have the power to determine my own menu.

But I will tell you one thing: I kind of like the idea of tomatoes growing. When tomato plants start to flower and tomatoes start to grow, I feel like summer has really arrived. I have harvested them several times throughout my life, and there is something quite satisfying about plucking a ripe tomato off of the vine. It makes me feel like I should be in one of those "Good Things Grow in Ontario" commercials.

*For the record, the remedial English program at GFSS is infinitely better than regular English classes. Especially when your English teacher happens to be a Vespa bitch. I had to read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, which is a lot better than watching Josh Groban videos on loop. Just sayin’.

Allow me to show you a horrifying tableau:
A white plate presenting a sliced up tomato.
Sliced into nine to represent Dante’s circles of Hell
And to eat of it is to become one of Satan’s new clientele.

Circle One is Limbo, for those not baptized when they were alive,
The ones who ate a tomato just merely to survive.
And these unfortunate souls we must no further chastise.

Circle Two is for Lust, that overwhelming passion,
Those who devoured the tomato in an unseemly fashion.
And for these revolting sinners we must show no compassion.

Circle Three for the glutton, who ate all the tomatoes without restraint.
For their service to mankind, let us canonize them a saint.
And for these filthy creatures I have no complaint.

Circle Four for the greedy, hoarding tomatoes like treasure.
Leaving none for the rest, but to eat at their leisure.
And I regard these misguided souls with nothing but pleasure.

Circle Five for the angry, but should they be blamed?
I’m angry, too, to live in a world where the tomato is acclaimed.
They have a right to be angry, but no right to be devoured by flame. 

Circle Six for the heretic who claimed that tomatoes are good,
Who would have you eat tomatoes if only they could.
Let them burn in hell, for burn in Hell they should.

Circle Seven is for the violent, who would have you eat a tomato by force
Who ignore all your No’s until your voice becomes hoarse.
For this assault on your freedom, the punishment we must steadily enforce.

Circle Eight is reserved for those who told you a lie,
Trying to slip a tomato past your eagle-eye.
And for those awaits endless torture after they die.

Circle Nine is for the traitors you trusted the most,
Who present you a tomato as if it were toast,
And whose betrayal has bought them an endless roast.

So take a lesson from Dante and avoid the tomato
After all, this isn’t Ireland--there’s always the potato.

19 October 2012

Frozen Peas

If you’re anything like me when it comes to food (and there are pretty good chances that you’re not), there’s nothing worse than having to go a dinner party. But do not despair, fellow foodphobics: those that care about you will ensure that there is at least one thing that you will eat, and if they don’t, then you can sit and sulk quietly in front of an empty plate and they’ll learn for next time. One of the easiest ways to please a person who won’t eat any of the regular trappings of a communal meal is to serve them a bowl of frozen peas--everyone has them in their freezer and they make for a delicious snack.
There's something really special about eating peas--fresh or frozen--and I think it has something to do with being able to hold several in your mouth at one time without them losing their singular identity until you crush them between your teeth. Sometimes the inevitable clumping in a bag of frozen peas can prove to be a problem, but usually breaking up these
clumps--squeezing them so hard that they just fall apart in your hand--is half the fun.
At first you might think that dipping your claws into a small bowl of frozen peas is more shameful than pretending you’re engaged in the conversation while staring at an empty plate. But the one thing that I’ve learned about shame is that showing shame is actually shameless, so you can look at me and think to yourself I’m so ashamed for/of you, but at least I’m not the one eating a salad right now.

In hindsight, eating frozen peas is pretty disgusting. The only food that should be eaten frozen is either food that was designed to be eaten frozen (i.e. ice cream) or frozen green grapes or blueberries, but not vegetables. And despite my unaccountable love for frozen peas, I would never consider eating a frozen bean, carrot, or corn niblet. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I've been eating frozen peas forever, and even though I know it’s wrong, old habits die hard (or don’t die at all), and I still spend most of my nights tucking into a bag of President’s Choice small sweet peas (seriously, best frozen peas on the market. Forget the Green Giant).

A note of caution: eating frozen peas will make your hands smell disgusting and fungus-infested, but I think it’s a pretty fair tradeoff.

Peas, peas, peas, peas--
Frozen in a bowl!*

*This song, quoted here in its entirety, was written for me by my sister's friend, ca. '97/'98.

09 October 2012

The Taco

I ended my tour of Central America with a three-week sojourn in Mexico, the majority of which was spent in Mexico City. Determined to get to the root of Mexican culture (see: The Function of Food at the Present Time), I set myself to the task of eating a taco, and if you’re a dumb white girl with nothing to go on but your guide book, the only place to do this is Plaza Garibaldi. I was certain that if I just tried one taco, all of my failure to even try local cuisine (with the notable exception of the copious amount of rice that I consumed throughout Central America*) would be forgiven.

It was Swine Flu season: everyone was canceling their trips to Mexico, the hostel was practically empty, and the streets--considering the population of Mexico City--were more or less deserted. But I had recently received a (probably illegal and definitely ineffective) flu vaccine in the wilds of rural Colombia, so I had nothing to worry about. I had also recently picked up a sassy swatch of Kuna fabric in a sketchy underground shop where everyone had handguns in Panama City, which I wore from time to time as a face mask. And I felt like this was my time to push myself to the absolute limit: the city had been abandoned, and now it was mine.

There’s a strange adrenalin that accompanies certainty; a kind of energy that carries you through as you hurtle towards the inevitable. And this is what I felt as I prepared to leave the hostel, as I approached Plaza Garibaldi, and as I stood by the cart waiting for my chorizo taco (the ordering of which was a total blur). I was so fully committed to eating this taco and getting the whole thing over with, that it never even crossed my mind that I could back out of the agreement I had made with myself.

I have spent a lot of time wondering why it is that I am totally incapable of trying new foods or why I’m unwilling to give foods I have tried a second chance. The main reason is because I am adamant that certain textures or flavours or even colours should not go together. This is why I won’t eat sandwiches or salads, and is best left to future posts. But the other reason is because I made peace with my diet long ago, and I have no desire to change it or add to it, and I don’t believe that I am missing out on any crucial life experiences by having an extremely limited selection of food that I will actually eat. I know that it’s possible for me to travel to any of the places in the world that I am at all interested in and maintain more or less the same diet I have at home. And yet curiosity seized me, clutched at my heart, and would not let me go. Somewhere within myself I knew that I could not leave Mexico without trying a taco--even if I hated it and even if I knew I would never try one again (...or would I? More to come). So I told myself that this is something I was going to do and I did not entertain the possibility of not following through on it.

I had spent a lot of time observing people eating tacos, and I knew exactly what I was in for. I had studied the size, the texture, and the amount of time it would take me to eat one. There are a lot of different kinds of tacos with different kinds of toppings, but I was going to go for the plain chorizo in the small soft shell, and with that knowledge I knew I was setting myself a goal that I could reach. When the man gave me the taco, I walked over to one of the patio tables and sat down as if this was the most normal thing in the world for me to be doing. I didn’t hesitate or question whether or not this was something I really wanted to do; I just ate it like I would eat anything else. And you know what? It was delicious. That night I went to bed with a feeling of self-satisfaction and elation that I have rarely experienced.

In case any of you might doubt that I actually tried a taco, here's proof of me doing so. You can also tell that I had a blast on
my trip because I'm tanned and have two wrist bands. Maybe you think I went to some sweet festivals, but actually one was
for the hostel and the other was from Torre latinoamericana. So... there you go.
Every time I recount this story, I am asked the exact same thing: if I tried this and liked it, then why don’t I try other things because maybe I will like them too? But that’s not the point. I know that there are other foods in this world that I have never tried and would surely enjoy, but I’m still not going to try them. If reading Candide has taught me anything it’s that we can travel the world searching for new experiences and ways to make ourselves happier, but if you can’t be happy in the space that you already occupy and by all the things that make that space your space, then you’re going to be miserable and you’ll probably get syphilis in the process. Of course we must cultivate our garden, but we must cultivate it as we see fit. I don’t have room in my garden for green peppers or tomatoes or tacos; my garden contains peas, potatoes, rice, and pasta, and I don’t cultivate it myself because I am western and entitled and I can pay someone to do that for me.

Two final notes: I actually did try another taco while I was in Mexico City. Shortly after my experience at Plaza Garibaldi, I left the hostel in favour of couch surfing, and our hosts (for I was traveling with a girl that I had met at the hostel) took us to some fancy taco restaurant. I’m not sure what exactly I was thinking. I don’t know if I just felt too much pressure to fit in or if I genuinely believed that because I had already had one, tacos were suddenly a new part of my diet. But whatever the reason, I ended up ordering three chorizo tacos in small soft shells. They were served with pineapple and cilantro and I was horrified. I can’t even remember what they tasted like. I just remember stuffing them into my mouth as quickly as possible and swallowing them without chewing as hot tears of shame streamed down my face.

I also tried natural carbonated water from a spring in Catemalco. It was okay, but slightly flat and not nearly as good as what can now be bought in a store. I had therefore determined once and for all that nature is rudimentary at best, perfected only by man (holler at your girl, Beerbohm).

*I arrived in Guatemala knowing only Hola, Gracias, Por Favor, and crucially, Arroz. Si, solo arroz. I quickly armed myself with ¿Tiene un cenicero? and a brief explanation that I don’t like my food to touch other food.

Porque en el pasado yo como un taco naturel
Entonces ahora, yo no quiero Taco Bell 
En realidad, no más tacos para
Pero lo comí? Sí, claro que sí.

03 October 2012

The Potato

When I first heard about the Irish Potato Famine I was shocked. Not because I felt bad for all the Irish that had starved to death, but because I believed that it referred to a time in Irish history when all they had to eat were potatoes. It’s not that I didn’t know the definition of the word “famine,” it’s just that potatoes have always played such a major role in my culinary adventures that I couldn’t possibly conceive of a world in which potatoes were not present. I thought that there was no other food available in Ireland except potatoes, so naturally I was angry that that Irish were whining about only being able to eat potatoes--a dream come true, for some of us. And I’m still angry about the Irish Potato Famine, although I have since switched my focus away from the Irish and towards agricultural injustice. I believe this is also the time when I stopped believing in the infinite goodness of Mother Nature--the only religious upbringing I had ever had*--and started to hate this cruel world we live in.

I was similarly shocked to learn that the potato was not native to Europe and that somehow Europe managed to not only exist, but thrive as a colonial and military force, prior to the introduction of the potato. Naturally, Sir Walter Raleigh is my hero; partially for writing the most beautiful examples of Elizabethan verse but primarily for the central role in played in getting all of Europe addicted to and dependent on tobacco and potatoes. (Incidentally, Raleigh busied himself with searching for El Dorado--which he found in the potato, and is probably why we called the most delicious potato of them all the Yukon Gold. Or else it has something to do with the gold rush. Or something else entirely. I can’t be bothered to do the research**)

I can’t stress enough just how important potatoes are to me and how much I love them. As someone who once ate over 30 potatoes in less than 24 hours, it would be impossible to cover all of the subtle nuances of my passion in one blanket post, so I have opted instead to divide it up into several categories which will cover my favourite ways to prepare a potato and my favourite kinds of potatoes. This post will inevitably fail and communicating my undying affection for the Über Tuber, but here it goes:

Boiled Potatoes:

Boiled potatoes are probably my least favourite potato dish, but I would never turn them down. The only excuse for boiling potatoes instead of mashing, frying, or baking them is if you have managed to get your hands on some perfect little baby-nugs, which are sweet enough on their own that they don’t require further seasoning or attention. It can be a good ideal to boil several in advance and then store them in the fridge for one of those rainy days when you’re desperate for fried potatoes but can be bothered to put in the time. Pre-cooked potatoes (and this goes for baked potatoes as well) fry up so much more quickly and so much more nicely than un-cooked potatoes.

Baked Potatoes:

Again, not my first choice for a potato dinner, but sometimes a pleasant surprise. One of the best things to do with a baked potato is immediately cut a slit in the top and slip in a generous pad of butter and then seal it up again so that it not only butters up the inside, but the butter will inevitably melt and drizzle down the skin as well. Tearing off the tinfoil is like unwrapping a precious present that you already know you’re going to enjoy, even before it’s out of its packaging.

Potato Squashers:

My sister discovered this recipe in a vegan cookbook, but if you’re as violently opposed to a vegan lifestyle and all that implies as I am, you can easily rectify its flawed vegan nature by adding copious amounts of butter to these already well-oiled treasures. They differ little from a baked potato except that you slather them in oil and salt and, once they are partially cooked, you take them out of the oven and squash them down in to little cakes.

Hash Browns: 

There are various different kinds of hash browns, and I will try to do justice to them all below:
This plate of shredded hash browns (courtesy
of Washington state) was the first of many
enjoyed at the hospitable road-side diners
that dot the American countryside. I know I
said in the introduction to this blog that it's
really stupid to assume that by eating a
particular culture's food, you are somehow
injecting yourself into that culture and gathering
a greater appreciation for that culture than you
otherwise would, but I am pretty sure that this
is the one exception: eating at American road-
side diners really does give you a greater under-
standing of that culture.

    Shredded Hash Browns: 

These are the kinds of hash browns you will typically get at roadside diners when on an elaborate road trip with your sister to the southern US or after a night of crinking at Denny’s. They don’t really taste or resemble a potato in any way, and sometimes I suspect they are nothing more than solidified oil. If you add enough salt to them, they will taste just like oil and salt. So why don’t I just drink a bowl of oil and salt, you might be asking yourself. Because I want the substance of the potato to back it up.

    McCain’s Frozen Diced Hash Browns: 

Ever since discovering you can buy frozen fries for $2 and justify eating them for dinner, I haven’t really indulged in diced hash browns as much as I used to. But now that I have just reminded myself about them, I might go out and get them for breakfast tomorrow. And for lunch. And also for dinner. Because they are delicious. A few years ago it was not uncommon for me to devour a whole bag in one day.

    McCain’s Frozen Hash Brown Patties: 

For the business woman on the go, these make a perfect breakfast snack. But as I am neither a business woman nor do I ever have anywhere to go, I never eat these. I always forget that McDonalds makes a hash brown slab. Perhaps I should investigate further. Tomorrow.

    Left-Overs from Last Night’s Baked Potatoes: 

These are the best hash browns you can get in your own house. What makes baked potato hash browns so much better than boiled potato hash browns is that with the baked potato variety, the flesh pulls away from the skin a lot more and therefore has the opportunity to fry as well. Sometimes I will pull the skin off of the flesh and eat it as a crispy accompaniment to the main dish and sometimes I will put the whole round in my mouth as one and revel in the two complementary consistencies.

    Home Fries: 

Because I adhere to such a strict diet, I typically
only ever order side-dishes when I go out for
breakfast, and usually those sides are
disappointingly small. But this Victoria eatery
really understood and catered to my specific
needs with this massive plate of delicious
home-fried potatoes.
Technically you could make these in your home, but I would never use the term “home fries” to refer to hash browns I cooked myself. Now that I think of it, would never refer to home-made potatoes as “hash browns,” but rather as “pan-fried potatoes.” Huh. Anyway, if you see these listed on a menu along with hash browns, always go for the home fries. While restaurant hash browns will often be frozen and from a bag, home fries refers specifically to partially pre-cooked potatoes, and so they tend to be much more rewarding. Although they probably are also frozen and come from a bag.

Pan-Fried Potatoes: 

It seems unnecessary to mention that this is my favourite kind of potato, because anyone whose favourite way to prepare a potato isn’t pan-fried is a culinarily-inept clod with an unrefined palate.  While I have always loved pan-fried potatoes, I only recently started enjoying them with onion and garlic, and thanks to a particularly intrepid culinary adventurer, kolbasz.

Mashed Potatoes: 

Once I saw my mum make mashed potatoes and I nearly threw up in my mouth. I initially refused to eat them after I found out that there is so much milk in there, but I soon lost heart once they were put in front of me. Interestingly, mashed potatoes is one of the few dishes that, while I know how it’s made and don’t approve of it, I will eat regardless because it is so overwhelmingly delicious. There are several foods that I have been tricked into eating in the past, only to discover later that there is a certain ingredient or a certain way of preparing it that I am strongly opposed to, and I will no longer eat it even though I previously enjoyed it in a state of Eden-esque ignorance. A good example of this is the time that my sister made muffins with carrots or cauliflower or zucchini--or some other ridiculous ingredient that has no place in a muffin--and even though I gobbled up several of them and enjoyed them immensely, I was no longer able to eat them once I found out what had gone into them. One time someone made a large portion of mashed potatoes with garlic (and maybe green onion?) and they were delicious.


One of the rules in Michael Pollan's grossly unhelpful Food Rules is that you should not eat what you are not willing to make at home, and cites fries as an example. First of all, Michael Pollan, I make approximately 1kg of fries per day (admittedly these come from a bag. Julienne style is the best, and while I do like McCain's, I actually prefer the No-Name brand fries because they're greasier), and still I am fat and still I am unhealthy. And secondly, no person in their right mind has the time or patience to actually make fries from scratch. Fries are best enjoyed either in a restaurant (in a pinch, from McDonalds) or from the fry truck that I can now only ever find at the Rock Creek Fall Fair (even though you used to be able to find it parked in front of what used to be Badger Books in downtown Grand Forks), with a healthy dosing of malt vinegar and salt. I can't even talk about this anymore because it's 20:30, and I know that if I got on a bus right now I could be eating fries within the hour.

Scalloped Potatoes: 

I don’t know what scalloped potatoes are, but I do know I won’t eat them.

B-Pupp dinner. Please note how the two different foods are
not touching each other--even though I love both of them--
and that I have inadvertently arranged my potatoes
by colour and size.

Types of Potatoes: 


Nugget Potatoes:

Is there anything you can't do with a nugget potato?! Whether boiling, baking, or pan frying, nugget potatoes are always your best bet. Because mashed potatoes are flavoured with milk and butter and, uhh, mashed, it would not be wise to shell out for nugget potatoes in this instance.
I have had two particularly pleasurable encounters with nugget potatoes which stand out in my mind. The first was in Arles, France. They were roasted beneath rotisserie chickens and all the grease from the meat dripped down onto the potatoes. I don't like chicken, I don't like chicken grease, and I would never knowingly order potatoes saturated in chicken grease ever again, but I am glad that I got to experience this at least once in my life. The second memorable instance was in Medellin, Colombia. Otherwise an unpleasant city, Medellin was crawling with nugget potato venders on the streets. For less than $1, you could buy yourself a little bag of heaven.

Yukon Gold:

A few years ago I would have said that Yukon Golds are the best potatoes on the market, but recently I have been kind of let down. I don't know if the Quebecois just can't grow a good potato or if the Yukon Gold is better as a baked potato (which I never make myself) rather than pan-fried. I typically only go for the white and thin-skinned potatoes now.

Russet Potatoes:

Russet potatoes are only acceptable when there are no other potatoes to be found. And since it seems unlikely that you would not be able to pick up some Yukon Gold, some out of season nugs, or, God help you, even red skinned potatoes, there is no reason to ever go for the russet.

Purple Potatoes:

There are two different kinds of purple potatoes. One is the potato with purple skin but white/yellow flesh and can usually be found in a mixed pack (along with white and red) from Costco, and they are as delicious as they are beautiful. The other kind is the potato with purple skin and purple flesh. I have never eaten these, because the one time my mum did buy them (after seeing them featured on Martha Strewart), and their subsequent boiling gave me such an insufferable headache that I could not bring myself to try them. But also, I don't think that food should be purple--this goes for carrots, too. Once you have become accustomed to how a certain food looks, it is unfair to be forcefully confronted with the same food but with a different appearance.

Finger Potatoes:

Finger potatoes, while as delicious as nugs, are longer and usually can't be consumed in one bite. One of the principle pleasures of nugget potatoes is that you can pop the whole thing in your mouth.

* When asked about God and if we believed in God, my mother always responded, no, we do not believe in God; we believe in Mother Nature. 

** I was bothered to do the research after all. It might shock you to learn that the Yukon Gold variety was not developed until the 1960s. It might further shock you, but probably won’t, that it was not named for Raleigh’s search for El Dorado, but for the Yukon River.
Come live with my and by my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
Of the hills and valleys, dale and field,
And of the yearly potato yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks,
And gaze upon our unflagging potato crops,
The tuber we will always have on hand
(Unless we live in Ireland).

There I will make thee potatoes by the pan

--The favoured food of the Enlightened Man--

Or sometimes we will eat them mashed

By the bucket-full, and unabashed

A plate full of the finest nugs
(If we can ward off the potato bugs)
We’ll breakfast solely on hash brown,
So delicious to be worthy of the Crown

On lazy days, potatoes boiled
For our appetite is never spoiled
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

In honour of Sir Walter Raleigh
We’ll name our home “Potato Valley”
Baked potatoes in a buttery sea
Prepared each day for thee and me

The potato each day our table adorning
For thy delight, night, noon, and morning
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and by my love.

02 October 2012


Remember how in The Edible Woman Marian isn’t able to eat anything because all the food is alive and squirming around and it makes her sick? Well, that’s how I would feel if I would ever put myself in the position in which quinoa was a viable option for me (of course I would never punish myself like that. We must learn to love and nurture ourselves). I’m just waiting for someone to make a haggis-style quinoa dish that, when you slice into the stomach, quinoa bursts forth like the clumps of tiny flesh-eating maggots squirming around that I know it to be.

Here is some quinoa. The picture on the left was taken with a regular camera; the picture on the right was taken with a
super-duper microscope.

Look at this quinoa. What do you see?
A simple pseudo-cereal
Or writhing maggots on a binging spree?
The Bolivians ate it first? That's immaterial.
Maybe they produce it, but it's ours to take--
It's a process called "the Culinary Imperial"
Now they can't afford it? Then let them eat cake!

The Cabbage

When Adam asked God, What is beauty? God extended his hand and said, Behold, my son. Upon His palm danced swirls of gaseous purples, reds, greens, and ribbons of white. As each colour separated itself from the others, it became entangled in the ribbons until several orbs were formed, each more wondrous than the last. God delicately placed the orbs upon the ground and wrapped them in leaves of the gentlest green so that they might be protected from harm.

Here is a picture of an arrangement of cabbages on display in
Vienna. They are so beautiful that only a monster could eat them.
God directed Adam to look upon these--His most perfect creations--whenever Adam might question the infinite grace of his maker. But he was not to eat them, because to eat them would be to destroy beauty. For seven days and seven nights, Adam gazed upon the magnificent spheres, unable to avert his eyes from such radiant beauty. But as Adam’s admiration for the cabbages grew, so did his discontent with his own physical form. He reasoned that if he were to ingest the cabbages, he too would become as beautiful as they were.

After gobbling up the last of the cabbages, Adam muttered, Das gut! No sooner than the words had escaped his lips, his belly began to bloat and ache: the dance that had formed the beauteous spheres was now being undone inside himself. He felt the colours pull apart, swelling and swirling as they danced themselves back to their gaseous state.

And for seven more days and seven more nights, Adam was in the throes of agony, writhing in pain and trying to expel all of the heinous gas from his delicate human system. The only thing more horrible than the painful bloating of his digestive tract was the intense shame he now felt in front of Eve; an emotion that had hitherto never been experienced before by man.

As was his custom, God doled out punishment for man’s insolent and disobedient consumption of food that ought not be consumed: Thou shalt feel shame and the burn of crimson upon thine cheek for all thine bodily functions in the company of thine partner.

Cabbage angels.
And that is why you should never eat a cabbage: beautiful to behold, but deadly to ingest. Well, that and because it tastes and smells like the effects that it will inevitably have on your body. (An exception can be made for borscht, but that will be covered in an up-coming post.)

And for anyone interested in my thoughts on sauerkraut, here’s a query: How do you make a bad thing worse?

Answer: Ferment it.

If considering the consumption of a cabbage,
Remember this, a timeless French adage:
'Mange-le si tu veux
Mais tu ne seras plus mon chou-chou.'*
That is to say: lucky in cabbage, unlucky in love.

*French authorities have insisted that “veux” and “chou” do not, in fact, rhyme. But I maintain that eux is an impossible sound and can only be pronounced in the exact same way as ou.