26 February 2014

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Peer Pressure & Shrimp Shells

This week's (?) edition of Dear Food Thoughtz counters unsolicited advice on how to eat shrimp with solicited advice on what to do with those garbage bags full of shrimp shells you have laying around.  If you have garbage bags full of shrimp shells, please don't send them to me.  But if you have a food-related concern, do not hesitate to write in to food.thoughtz@gmail.com
Hello there,

I know you are not a seafood person, but I have to ask this question to someone who cares about food, and the different ways in which it can be eaten.
What are your thoughts on eating shrimp with the shell ON? I did not even realise this was something people did until recently when a friend tried to coax me to eat it this way as the seasoning was on the shell. He argued that if I removed the shell the flavour would be lost. I am not a fussy eater, but I have to tell you, I was appalled! When I tried to put that shelled shrimp in my mouth I finally understood what some people mean when they say they are fussy about the 'textures' of different foods. Even though I doubt that you enjoy shrimp, can you see the 'leaving the shell on' side of the argument? They are crazy to eat it this way, right? If not, please explain this to me because it freaks me out?!


(Freaking Out About Shelled Shrimp)


Let me begin by admitting that I do not know what you’re talking about.  I have never eaten shrimp myself, and if I am in the presence of someone eating shrimp, I always avert my gaze because it is so gruesome and revolting.  Is this the shrimp where you have to suck the meat out, and then pile up the little exoskeletons (or peel the exoskeletons? I don’t know how to eat shrimp)?  Is that the shell?  Isn’t that the only way to eat shrimp?  I don’t understand.  I am reading a New York Times article about shrimp-shell soup stock (apparently a solution to the shell debate), and they’re talking about the difference between either removing the shell before your prepare the shrimp, or leaving the shell on during the cooking process and then removing the shell before you eat it.  Is that what you’re talking about? Or are you talking about never removing the shell and actually eating it with the shrimp meat?

At any rate, some cursory googling has indeed revealed that if you’re eating shrimps without their shells, you’re doing it wrong.  But when it comes to food and personal preference, I don’t think that you can “do it wrong” (unless you’re putting it in a different orifice, in which case you’re doing it wrong).  I mean, maybe a large portion of the global population can agree that shrimp tastes better when it’s in its shell (or maybe these people are just the most vocal—who knows), but I can guarantee that it definitely doesn’t taste better if the thought of eating shrimp that way makes you vomit.  Then it just tastes like vomit.  I hate people who say that there’s a best way to eat something.  The best way to eat something is the way you most enjoy eating it.  Maybe you could strike a deal with this so-called "friend:"  In exchange for not telling you how to eat your own food, you could give him a bag of gently sucked-on shrimp shells.  Anyone who uses the food itself (or a part of the food) as a vessel for that food is a disgusting monster.  It's like eating oysters or a person's brain out of their own skull or haggis.
I saw this weird display at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.  This is what eating shrimp out of their
shells is like.  It's proto-human.  That's what the museum taught me.

In closing, your name—Freaking Out About Shelled Shrimp—seems to simultaneously suggest freaking out about shrimp that has a shell but also the shrimp that has already been shelled.  Is it possible that you’re just freaking out about shrimp as a food?  I know I am.  I would recommend abstaining from it.

23 February 2014

The Turnip

You know that annoying trend of striving for authenticity?  It has something to do with artisanal axes, mason jars, rugged work boots, leatherwork, Herschel backpacks, and a commitment to a simpler life and farmer’s markets?  But you know how there’s also nothing there?  How none of these things are authentic, but are actually totally artificial, contrived, and empty?  That’s what a turnip is. Almost.  It doesn’t quite work as a theory, but I think that if I just force it hard enough, I might be able to come up with something that almost comes close to resembling something or other (or not).

Bizarrely, turnips might simultaneously be the most authentic thing in the world, but also the most meaningless and vapid.  Does that make them art?  I don’t know.  Probably not, because turnips are not artificial or contrived; unfortunately they are all too real.  They are probably also the next big thing in the relentless search for authentic living.  Nothing is as rugged or as simple as a turnip, and turnips are so disgusting that the only way someone could actually eat one is ironically.  Turnips are important for an authentic lifestyle because they signify poverty, desperation, and a sallow, Irish complexion.

Given the latter signification, it should come as no surprise that Samuel Beckett employed them in Waiting for Godot as one of many absurdities within a desolate and meaningless wasteland: of course as you spend the rest of your miserable and absurd life waiting for something that is never going to come (is it God?!) amidst an apocalyptic landscape it will be a turnip that you pull out of your pocket.  This association might be a quality of root vegetables in general because I believe Vladimir also retrieves a carrot and a radish from his pocket (and in all fairness, tonight I had garden carrots from this summer that had been properly stored in a root cellar, and they were delicious—root vegetables truly are a thing of magic).*  All of this is to say is that I have never been given the impression that people eat a turnip because they choose to.
This turnip ... this turnip ...  tiny little thing ... out into this ... what? No!... yes ... tiny little thing ... tiny little thing ...
tiny little turnip ... where! over there! staring, staring ... stop and stare ... where? over there! Gaaaawd ...

…Which makes the fact that we used to have to eat a revolting mashed up mixture of turnips and corn for Thanksgiving dinner extremely confusing. I get that there are certain foods that I think are gross, like salad or baked mushroom caps, that other people think are delicious. But surely no one actually thinks that puréed turnips mixed with puréed corn is good, right?  And let me tell you something: it wasn't the corn that was disgusting (although puréed corn is also obviously disgusting), it was the turnip.  Because there is something distinctly unpleasant about a turnip.  I’m not sure how to describe the taste, but the closest comparison I can think of is as if you accidentally ate one of those big chunks of crumbly rot on a potato.  Like, how if you expect something to taste a certain way, but when you bite into it there's an unexpected piece of rot, and so it kind of tastes a bit sweet (but in a bad, rotting way) and maybe also a bit bitter?  Who knows.  It's been a long time since I've eaten a turnip.

There's a famous Russian folktale about a giant turnip that presumably we all know.  I guess the moral of the story is something about how even the smallest and most overlooked members of society are important and needed for accomplishing goals, or that we need to work together, or whatever.  But all I ever got from this story is that humanity is made up of a bunch of dullards, and that those on top are just as stupid as those on the bottom.  Who would ever invest that much time and expel that much energy on getting their hands on a turnip? The moral also doesn't really hold water because the grandfather probably lost more strength throughout the process than the mouse was ultimately able to contribute.  Had he just enlisted the help of the grandmother, the granddaughter, the cat, and the dog from the very beginning when he saw that there was a giant turnip in his garden that was larger than him it probably would have been fine.  It's also unclear what exactly the family intends to do with this giant turnip once it's out of the ground.  Probably share it, but if I was that dog, cat, or mouse, I don’t think I would be too happy if my reward for helping out two old people and their granddaughter was a piece of turnip.

Turnips definitely don't disgust me like some other foods do.  Some foods inspire in me a state of extreme panic or fear (egg salad sandwich, haggis, spaghetti squash are just three examples among hundreds of thousands), but turnips seem more like an unpleasant chore than anything else, and the easiest way to get through it is just to remind yourself that once it's behind you, you won't have to deal with it for another year.  Even easier would be to not eat them at all because we're all adults and don't have to.

Turnips just don't have a role to play in my life. What could I possibly use one of these things for that I couldn't substitute it for a potato or a carrot or some other edible ground vegetable?  Aren't turnips used for, like, apple juice?  Aren't they so bland that they are capable of just providing a substance with no essence?  Huh.  I guess we kind of inadvertently came full circle on this, because people who are a substance without essence are precisely the kind of people I expect to adopt the turnip any day now as an authentic and meaningful culinary experience.  But there's no meaning in eating a food by choice that has only ever been eaten by necessity throughout history. 

If it doesn’t wet your appetite, what can you do with a turnip?
1. You could build a pyre and burn it.
2. You could give it the cold shoulder and spurn it.
3. If you’re my mum, you could mix it with corn and churn it.
4. And if pulled it from the ground, you could dig a hole and return it. 

*I double-checked that Vladimir did indeed pull out a turnip from his pocket in Waiting for Godot, was surprised to find that the Wikipedia article states that in Act II, "[w]ith no carrots left, Vladimir offers Estragon the pointless choice between a turnip and a radish."  I'm sorry, "the pointless choice"?  Neither option is ideal, but it's hardly a pointless choice.  Having never tried a raw turnip or a radish in any state, it still seems fair to assume that a radish is probably much nicer to eat raw than a turnip is.  I'm basing this on the observation that radishes are indeed often served raw on vegetable plates or in salads, whereas I don't think I have ever seen a turnip served raw or on its own.  On one hand the turnip would be the better choice because it would likely be substantially larger, but on the other hand the radish, although smaller, would probably be much more enjoyable.  I would hardly call that a "pointless choice."  One choice is more likely to sustain you longer in a life of agony, whereas the other offers the potential to bring enough joy to your life to remind you why you might want to extend that miserable life in the first place.

19 February 2014

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Decisions, Decisions

This edition of Dear Food Thoughtz features a flow chart.  If you want to see more flow charts in future posts, then by all means write in to food.thoughtz@gmail.com.
Dear Food Thoughtz,

My two favourite foods are spaghetti and kimchi ramen.  I recently came home after a long day of work craving both but knowing full well from past experience that I cannot have both in one sitting.  Do you have any steadfast rule for prioritizing these two equally delicious meals? Is there a hierarchy or flow chart I should follow?

Please help.

The Spag Fag

PS> I am hoping for an answer that does not involve metaphysics.

Dear Spag Fag,

Thank you so much for your question.  This is a problem that I often struggle with myself.  Usually decisions are made for me because there are so few things I will eat, but every once in a while I am presented with two options that I love equally and it is maddening.  Not to diminish your experience or anything, but it's probably a lot harder for me because it's so rare. 

I actually do have a flow chart ready to go because I took a business class once, and these were typically the kind of exercises we had to do.
I hope you found that as helpful as I always do.  It actually is pretty helpful because if you let yourself fall into panic-mode, you will make a decision without realizing you're making it, and then voilà, problem solved!

But if you didn't find it helpful, I think there are a few questions you could ask yourself the next time you're in this situation.  The most important one is how much energy you're willing to invest in preparing food right now, and which option is going to require the least amount of energy.  Do you really feel like cooking right now, or do you just want to kick back with some food and enjoy Dallas?  Another question you might want to consider is how much of either option you have on hand, and what it will take to procure more.  For example, if you only have one serving of spaghetti sauce left, you might want to ask yourself whether or not you would enjoy it more a different time.  If you only have one ramen left but a few servings of spaghetti sauce, you might consider the time it takes you to make spaghetti sauce versus the time it takes you to pick up another ramen from the store.

This is a really tough spot for anyone to be in.  It seems so simple: if you love both, why not just close your eyes and pick at random?  But the worst part is that no matter what you choose, you might find yourself regretting having not chosen the other option, and then you won't even be able to enjoy the meal that you would typically have really relished.  Sometimes I take these tough decisions as an opportunity to pick a third option that I hadn't even considered in the first place and that I probably find less appetizing, but is perhaps a more nutritious.  Just remember: when God closes a door, he opens a window ;)

18 February 2014

Onion Salad

This onion salad enrages me.  I hate it.  I hate it so much, and my mum seems to make it about once a month.  I know it shouldn’t bother me because I don’t have to eat it or interact with it beyond having to look at it (and sometimes smell it), but it makes me so angry that this is even a thing that a person would eat.  It has absolutely nothing going for it, like absolutely zero redeemable features:
Later I will compare this to tapeworms covered in sperm, but it also kind of looks like fettuccine alfredo.  I guess if
forced, I would eat the fettuccine alfredo first, then probably the tapeworms covered in sperm, and then I would
kill myself before I had to ingest this disgusting mixture.
  1. It’s a salad. Okay, I will let this one go because I know that most people eat salad in one form or another and that it’s pretty normal. But still, gross.
  2. With the exception of the sauce/topping/dressing, it’s actually just onions.  Raw onions.  In a bowl.
  3. Saying that they’re “raw” onions might have been a bit deceiving because they’re actually pickled onions.  They have been soaking in vinegar!  It’s disgusting.
  4. There are other things involved in this salad that I don’t even know about.  Is it mayonnaise?  Is it sour cream?  Who knows!  But whatever it is, it’s white and creamy and I can guarantee that it doesn’t go with onions and I can almost guarantee that it’s probably mayonnaise (maybe).
Revolting.  Let me say it again, but this time like this: Re-volting. Revolting. This salad is revolting.

God, I hate this salad so much.  In addition to how disgusting it actually is, I always have to endure the inevitable conversation of how good it is, and how no one can believe how good it is because it looks like the aftermath of taking your cat to the vet because her body is riddled with tape worms. Did anyone else watch that episode of the Tyra Banks Show?  The one about girls who give themselves tapeworms to lose weight?  Because those tapeworms are almost exactly what this onion salad looks like, if you collected them all in a bowl and then stored them in your fridge.  I would include a picture of a tapeworm for reference, but I think it would be too stressful for me.  Tapeworms are very overwhelming for me.  Much like this disgusting salad.
Maybe once you get up close to it you can tell it's onions, but it really doesn't make it any more appetizing.
Should I have included this in the more general salad post?  Perhaps.  Did I?  I can't remember.  But in any case I am posting it here now because I am back in Grand Forks for reading break and I had to encounter this salad and it made me really upset.

Both the subject of onions and the poor quality of the poem that you're about to read reminds me of one of my earliest posts on the shallot, from all the way back in September 2012. 

Here's something that makes me puke in my mind:
Pickled onions in a bowl like a tangle of so many tapeworms
And if that isn't the word "revolting" defined,
Then imagine if those onions were coated in billions of sperms.

17 February 2014

Potato Update (4)

These ovenroasted squashed nugget potatoes have helped make this year's reading break the best reading break ever! So far I've eaten them three times in as many days.
These are all leftovers from a dinner party!
It's hard to even articulate what potatoes like these mean to me. Everything about them is absolutely perfect and has everything I'm looking for in a good potato meal: they're nugget potatoes, which are always the best kind of potato; they're oven-roasted, which is one of the most consistently delicious methods of preparing potatoes; and there's a perfect balance between grease, crispiness, and seasoning.
And here's about one-third of the leftovers. Perfect lunch.

If nothing else, these potatoes have made the long trip home for reading break worth it.

16 February 2014

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Too Much Care

Today's Dear Food Thoughtz deals with an ungrateful daughter.  If you are ungrateful for any food you have received, please write in to food.thoughtz@gmail.com
Dear Food Thoughtz

My mum is the best. I don't have to tell you that. She is always sending care packages that really are full of so much care! Socks, Lindt chocolate, angry letters from Canada Revenue, you name it. I remember once on my birthday she sent me a cake mix, 1/3 cup of oil, and an egg - everything I needed to make my own birthday cake. She even included a container of icing and a spatula! But this time she went too far. I picked up a package from her almost 2 weeks ago, and along with the usual things (mostly all the things I had left at her house over Christmas, like my daughter's party dress and the timer for my new percolator), she included a cake. Like, a fully baked cake, with some sort of raspberry filling. And a tub of homemade icing. Her argument was that it was a Valentine's cake, and I mean, sure. It's shaped like a heart. But her instructions were to put it in the freezer and save it until Valentine's day. 

I'm serious.

She wanted me to put the cake and the icing in the freezer, and let it sit there for 2 full weeks. Adding to the absurdity, she then suggested I should share it with my grandparents. 

So what I want to know is...what was she THINKING?! And more importantly, is she mad at me for something? Because why else would she send me an entire cake in the mail and then instruct me NOT to eat it?

Help me!
Crushed by the burden of cake

Dear CbtBoC

A few days have passed since Valentine's Day.  Is it too late to Loomis me that cake?

09 February 2014

Valentine's Candy Roundup

If grocery store aisles are any indication (they are), Valentine’s Day has been upon us for quite some time.  But now it’s really upon us, so I thought I would do a Valentine’s Day candy/treats roundup.  I had to take all of these pictures when I was in Loblaws and it was really embarrassing.  It’s probably too late this year, but hopefully this guide will give you a good idea of what to give me next year.  If you can’t be bothered to get through the entire post, the short answer is sugar cookies.

Hershey's chocolate is actually pretty terrible, but I have always loved Hershey's Kisses.  I used to always love their advertisements, probably because almost all of them featured an animated Kiss and I always thought that was cute (and maybe kind of rare?  I can't really think of any other candy advertisements like that).  But they were also a lot of fun to unwrap because you typically only had to pull the paper string to pull the foil off.  They were also the perfect size to pop in your mouth and let melt.  The pointed tip was a fun feature because you could feel it become more and more dull in your mouth until it disappeared all together.

I have never had a chocolate rose, but I love this idea.  The ones in the middle look slightly better than the Toblerones, but probably aren't because they're a cheap unbranded chocolate.  I think Lindt make chocolate roses that more closely resemble the ones in the middle. I just feel like the Toberlone roses really suffer from the cardboard packaging.  I don't know if they're shaped like a rose inside (probably not), but if you're going to market your chocolate this way, it really should look like a rose.

I love Cinnamon Hearts.  They have always been my favourite Valentine's Day candy.  I love stuffing a handful in my mouth at once, sucking on them for a while, and then starting to chew, but because there's so many of them, they form one giant ball and then you just suck the sugar out by filtering your saliva through the candy.  It's amazing.  I also suspect that all of my dental problems can probably be traced back to the first time I was introduced to these candies, but I have no regrets.

By no means do I hate these cheap, generic chocolates that always seem to come in this plastic netting, but it seems like everyone gets this chocolate at every holiday, and it's always the chocolate you put aside and forget about because there's way better candy to eat.  And then a while later you discover it again and resign yourself to eating it because you've already gone through everything else.  And you know what?  It's actually kind of good.

Ferrero Rocher wins every time. Goddamn, these are so good. SO GOOD.  I tend to prefer packaging that you unwrap rather than tear open, and these are perfect because every chocolate is like a little present (and a gift from God).  I also love how easy it is to cut them in half with your teeth, and then to keep one half in your mouth and examine the cross-section of the other half.

I typically like every Lindt product, so I guess these chocolates are fine.  I mean, the chocolates themselves are really good, but one of the best things about Lindt as a company is that they're pretty inventive with their holiday chocolates.  They put out those chocolate bunnies wrapped in gold and those adorable chocolate carrots wrapped in orange, so I always got the impression that this was just left-over chocolate that they didn't know what to do with.

This is a terrible picture, but someone was standing right next to me and I was too embarrassed to reposition the Smarties to get a proper picture.  Anyway, they're just regular Smarties, but they're only red and pink (or would be if Smarties hadn't gotten rid of their artificial colours).  Like the Lindt chocolates above, I've always found this kind of holiday candy to be pretty lazy.  Smarties does a much better job with their heart-shaped boxes, shown below.

Way better, right? There's probably less Smarties in here and it probably costs more, but I like that Nestle made the effort to come out with a Valentine's Day product.  Even though it seems pretty uninspired, I actually really like it because a heart-shaped box full of chocolates is such a traditional Valentine's Day gift.  I also like that they include the e To and From options.  Unfortunately the product itself is no longer edible, so don't get me this please.

Did anyone know that these were called Golden Buds?  I always assumed they were just Rosettes.  Weird.  Anyway, I never really liked these chocolates.  They remind me of the kind of chocolate you might find at Fields.  Probably because the only time I've ever had these, I bought them at Fields.  I've never liked Nielson as a company, and I don't care who knows it.

Okay, so here Lindt is getting a bit more interesting with the small bear and the 4 hearts.  But this, first of all, is tiny, and second of all, really pales in comparison to what they offer at Easter (the chocolate for which, by the way, is also available in stores now).  I wouldn't like to get this for Valentine's Day because it would make me think that whoever gave it to me was not ready to fully commit to our relationship.  Obviously I would still eat it, but I would question their devotion to me.

Okay, here's Lindt upping their game once again.  The one on the left looks pretty interesting, but unfortunately I didn't examine it closer when I was in the store, so who knows what's inside.  It looks like the white box just contains those round balls, which are delicious, so that's great.  But jeeze louise, $10.99?  Here's a hot tip: those Lindt balls are always really cheap at the Dollarama, and they often go on sale at Shopper's Drug Mart.

Nice try, Loblaws, but these President's Choice Mini Chocolate Cupcakes are not even Valentine's Day-specific.  I would guess that they're having a hard time selling these things because they look so disgusting, so they slipped them in here hoping that some fool would buy them.  Ugh.  Who would buy these?  Why wouldn't you get the 2-bite brownies? They're probably so much better than these.  Sometimes PC really drops the ball.

Okay, I know I said that I like Hershey's Kisses, but I would hate it if anyone got this for me.  I think I already mentioned that Hershey's chocolate is pretty bad, but look at this pathetic packaging.  It looks like this was produced by a generic no-name company that decided to try their hand at chocolate and have no idea what their doing or by a company that is losing its edge and is in rapid decline.  I mean, it looks like it could be either, but the truth is that it's the latter.  Tacky, tacky, tacky.

I don't like Reese anything, but I appreciate the effort here.  I can see how someone who really likes Reese would be happy with this.  I guess my only complaint is that unlike the Smarties box, this one is too... I don't know, obviously just a chocolate bar re-purposed for Valentine's Day.  Does that many any sense?  The Smarties box was at least a heart-shaped box, with a lid that you lift off, but this is just, what?  A heart-shaped something-or-other inside of a box?  I don't like the packaging here.

Kinder Surprise is doing a better job with packaging here than Reese, but still a pretty pathetic offering.  I really think that companies should re-imagine their products for holidays, not just put two Kinder Surprise eggs inside of a cardboard heart.  I would hope that at the very least the toys would be Valentine's related, but I bet they're not.  It just shows a lack of dedication.

At first I thought these were those awful chalky hearts in a cardboard box, but they're actually some sort of chocolate.  I say "some sort" because I doubt they're actually chocolate.  They probably are very similar in quality to those fifteen discount advent calendars that I got from my sister for Christmas. The only other thing I have to say about these is that I really hate it when emoticons are used in unnecessary ways.  And "happy v-day"? I hate it. I hate everything about it.

Loblaws didn't actually carry these, and good for them because I hate these chalk-hearts and always have.  I was also always really frustrated by the pathetic messages on them.  "Love You" is fine, but sometimes the messages are so fine.  I think that these days they actually say things like "Text Me."  Text you what?  Text you and tell you that a disgusting chalk-heart told me so but that I was too afraid to eat it because they all look so dirty and old even when their messages are as contemporary as "Text Me"? 

All I want to say as a closing note is that Valentine's is a big chocolate holiday, so I really can't stand it when companies are lazy with their products--mostly because I know that the idiots who buy those products are also lazy with their significant others.  Look, we can't all bake our loved ones a cake and send it to them in the mail, but we can make an effort to buy the most relevant-themed chocolate that is available and to hold these companies to higher standards.

06 February 2014

New Year, New Me: Cheerios with Milk

Today I tried Cheerios with my for the first time in my entire life.  I always swore that no matter how successful my past cereal and milk experience had been, Cheerios with milk was a line I was never willing to cross.  Until last night.  Verdict?  Delicious.

02 February 2014

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Potato Metaphysics

Welcome to a very special edition of Dear Food Thoughtz.  This question was submitted by a valued reader over a month ago, but because the question demanded a more rigorous examination than I am capable of, I enlisted the help of my personal metaphysician, Midge Deak (pronounced deek).  Midge is a graduate student in philosophy, specializing in Stoic metaphysics.  She has recently solved the problem of identity and is very fond of buns.  As always, please direct all future inquiries to food.thoughtz@gmail.com.  If you require Midge's profound philosophical insights, please put "Philosophy Alert" or "Philosopher Needed" in the subject line. 

Dear Food Thoughtz,

These potatoes were baked, but are they really "baked potatoes"?

Dear Avid Reader, 

First of all, thank you for writing us and for showing an unprecedented interest in the metaphysics of (baked) potatoes. A wise (post-)hellenistic philosopher once said: "Man cannot live by bread alone." And it seems that you, dear reader, cannot live by the substance of potatoes alone; you are hungry for the Baked Potato, or in all probability, pure and unmixed Bakedness.

In order to establish whether a potato that has been baked is a "baked potato", the entity's potatohood and bakedness both ought to be thoroughly investigated. However, putting my own metaphysical interests aside, I will try to focus on your question instead. Namely, what makes a potato a baked potato? Whether any potato that has been baked is a "baked potato" or does "baked potato"-ness consist in something else than going through a structural transformation in an oven.

The question is especially interesting because we actually know of potato dishes that are prepared with the method of baking, but which are not called a (or several) baked potatoes. Examples of such a kind of a dish are "potato squashers", oven-fried potatoes, stuffed potatoes and potato casseroles such as the delicious Hungarian "rakott krumpli" or the less delicious French "tartiflette". 

In my opinion there are two factors that are crucial in a potato-dish naming process (or dish-naming processes in general). First, the different sources that a potato-dish can acquire its name from: (A) non-potato ingredients, e.g. cheesy potatoes (B) other processes of preparation, e.g. stuffed potatoes, (C) some random fantasy name, e.g. tartiflette. And second, the preferences of the potato-dish-baptist. The Baptist could choose a name based on either A, B or C depending on which characteristic of the potato dish she thinks to be the most relevant. If she thinks that the most essential part of a potato dish is that the dish in question has been stuffed, then she will name it a stuffed potato. She may have made this choice because she thinks that the ingredients constituting the stuffing are either made mostly of potato, or that they are not very interesting, at least not more interesting than the gracious act of stuffing. However, if the Baptist feels that the ancillary ingredients have a more crucial importance in defining the essence of the potato-dish in question than the method of preparation, she will name the potato dish with reference to the process involved in preparation. 

It has to be noted that the name-giving preparatory process also has to be chosen from all the different processes involved in the preparation. Baked potatoes are also often washed and scrubbed beforehand, nevertheless they are not called "washed potatoes" or "scrubbed potatoes" or "washed and scrubbed potatoes", or " washed and scrubbed then baked potatoes" even though this last one would be the most accurate description of the potato dish in question. A similar case can be made for naming based on ingredients. Prima facie, these characteristics of potato-dish-naming processes seem to suggest that the christening of a steaming plateful of solanum tuberosum is governed by the whimsical fancies of fallible humans, who just choose whatever name comes to their mind upon the consideration of the material components of the potato dish and its history. This suspicion is also confirmed by the existence of random fantasy names like tartiflette

Personally, I find this account of potato-dish naming highly unsatisfactory. Although most humans are stupid and easily influenced, with the attention span of a tired mosquito, I find it unbelievable that all human actions are dictated by the music of chance. I would like to believe that humans are the most evolved among all animals, and as such have a keen insight into the true nature of things. They see the very essence of things and conceives of them accordingly. Names given to entities reflect this acumen humans have into the nature of things. They aim to grasp the most essential feature of the entities they apply to. To give an example, oranges are called "oranges", because their most essential feature is their colour, which is orange, and tables are called "tables", because their most essential function is to function as a table. If we apply this reasoning to dish naming, we can see that the names of dishes also aim to reflect their true essence. A cheeseburger is essentially cheesy, a Caesar salad is essentially a salad, and a carrot cake is essentially constituted by carrots. In all cases the name reflects the true inner nature.

Based on these considerations, we can conclude that if a potato dish is called "baked potato" it must be a potato dish to which the process of preparation, i.e. baking, is essential. Thus, dear reader, if you ever find yourself asking whether a potato that you have eaten was a "baked potato" close your outer eyes, and focus the eye of your very soul (i.e. your intellect) on the true essential nature of the tuber you have just ingested. Soon you will find an answer.

More tuber musings can be found here.