28 January 2015

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Why Are Kiwis Hairy Fruits?

This installment of Dear Food Thoughtz comes from a four year-old. She is also my niece.

Dear Food Thoughtz/Auntie Sally,

Why are kiwis hairy fruits?


Dear Eleanor,

Kiwis are hairy in order to test our resolve and commitment to the fruit. Nothing in this world is free. You have to work if you want to gain access to that sweet, sweet kiwi flesh. Also, you have to actually pay for the kiwis first. And also, you should know that kiwis are not really that good.

But at least kiwis are hairy on the outside. So are we. Why should fruits be any different than us? And like us, a kiwi’s skin can be removed—if you so choose—before you eat the fruit. A better question to ask would have been: “why are mangoes hairy?” Because those fruits are hairy on the inside, and that really doesn’t make any sense at all.

Please write in again. Your question is better than most others. 

24 January 2015

The Grapefruit

If I was a committed reader of this blog, I might be inclined to believe that the writer of this blog probably hates grapefruit based on an earlier post on oranges. But I would be wrong. Because grapefruits are amazing and delicious. They suffer from many of the same shortcomings that oranges do: they have a thick skin that can be difficult to peel and they’re covered in the same gross layer of pith, and at the end of the day, they just might not be worth the effort. But where grapefruits really depart from oranges is that they don’t taste gross like oranges. They’re also called pamplemousse in French (pronounced: pample-moose).

It’s true: grapefruits are a frustrating and fickle fruit, but that’s why the loving women in your life prepare them for you. One time, as Christmas holidays were coming to a close, my mum cut up and peeled (including every single trace of pith) four grapefruits for me to take back to Montreal. I foolishly left them in my carry-on luggage, and a particularly harsh airport security person tried to take them away from me. I can only imagine that this security guard had a complex because she was a woman working in a man’s world. Thankfully, a more level-headed male security guard stepped in and appealed to the woman’s internal mothering instinct, and argued that my poor mother had probably spent hours slaving over these grapefruits, and wouldn’t it be a crime if I couldn’t take them home with me? The harpy relented and I boarded the plane, grapefruits in tow. 

One of the weird things about grapefruits is that they’re simultaneously one of the most beautiful and one of the most vile and repulsive foods on this planet. There’s something about the colour and those little moist globes of flesh that appeals to my sense of aesthetics. But on the other hand, those beautiful little globes of flesh also kind of look like literal human flesh (that has possibly been boiled or is for some other reason blistered?) or maggots or maggots that have eaten so much human flesh that they’ve turned a pinkish colour because they are engorged with blood. Sometimes I really like to push myself and actually try to hold that disgusting image in my head as I eat grapefruit, but it doesn’t even matter because it tastes so good that the thought of stinking, rotting corpses animated by so many swarming maggots doesn’t even put me off. 

I also used to really like Western Family Pamplemousse pop, and then I thought that Western Family stopped being a thing. I recently found out that is still very much a thing, but I don't think they're still producing the pop. Or else they are. I don't have access to Western Family in Ontario because Ontario is probably the very worst province in all of Canada. 

A pinwheel of globular drops of dew
Tinted a beautiful salmon hue?
Or a frenzied maggot feast,
Glutted on the recently deceased?  

18 January 2015

Greasy Breakfast-For-Dinner Dinner

On my last day in B.C.—which I spent in Kelowna, by the way—my sister prepared an outrageous ultra-greasy breakfast style dinner to celebrate me meeting her boyfriend, who has a similarly  highly evolved palate (devoted readers will know him better as the person who just can't get enough of my invaluable food advice). Anyway, the point is that she threw together this delicious meal that best represents where our tastes overlap (represented below by a Venn diagram).

This breakfast-for-dinner had everything that I could ever want in a breakfast/breakfast-for-dinner: greasy fried potatoes, properly-cooked high-quality bacon, and little sausages that are so small they could probably be described as nugs. My sister was initially going to serve broccoli as well, but I told her that would be disgusting and misguided and would probably ruin the entire meal. She acquiesced and proposed a plate of sliced pears instead—which I approved—but none arrived. I guess one complaint I have about this meal is that no coffee was served. I know that it was dinner and everything, but I like to drink coffee at all times, and it would have gone really well with this meal.

I know what you're all probably thinking: how could anything possibly have gone wrong? But it did. Just when I thought that I had finally made contact with the one person in this world capable of understanding me and my diet, Ben ruined everything by stuffing all of his bacon into a makeshift sandwich  and it was disgusting. It wasn't even the most disgusting sandwich I could imagine, but I really couldn't understand the motivation behind this decision. Bacon is so good on its own. Why would you want to take away its charm by smothering it in bread? Don't get me wrong, I like bread, but there honestly are not that very many situations in which bread actually improves a food. So, for instance, I love eating borscht with bread. In that case, the bread doesn't take anything away from the borscht—it just improves the bread. But when you actually envelope bacon inside of a baguette, you're drastically altering how you experience that bacon, and I can only imagine that it's for the worst.

The moral of this story is to never trust anyone because they will always find a way to disappoint you.

And finally, to round this post out, here's a picture of me and my dad. I'm making a really weird and unfortunate face.

11 January 2015

Phoenix Mountain Pizza Bun

I don’t know exactly how many of my readers are familiar with Phoenix Ski Hill Pizza Buns (probably all of them because I am fairly certain that I am my only reader), but they are the best thing. They are also somewhat of a scientific anomaly because they cannot be reproduced outside of the Phoenix kitchen. I’m not exactly sure what that means for science, but I do know what that means for me, and that is that approximately once a year I get to feast on one of the most delicious foods ever concocted.

Here's the pizza bun that I made for myself on January 4, 2015. It was delicious. The only way it could have been
improved is if it had been prepared on double bun bottoms, instead of a top and a bottom. Every pizza bun
aficionado knows that the best pizza buns come on a double bottom.

Pizza buns are literally just buns with pizza sauce and melted cheddar cheese on top. Back when I first started eating pizza buns, the cheese was just plain orange cheddar, but now it's Tex-Mex shredded cheese, which has really served to improve their quality and appearance. They are typically served with two round pickles, but I learned early on to order mine without, and when I was old enough to work in the Phoenix kitchen and make my own pizza buns, I obviously omitted them.

I also made, what I believe to be, a few crucial improvements to the traditional pizza bun when making one for myself. First, and most importantly, I usually try to make them on two bottom bun halves, rather than a top half and a bottom half. I find that the toppings-to-bun ratio is slightly off with the top half, and that the bottom half is always much more satisfying. Secondly, although not evident in the above photograph, I try to leave them in the toaster oven slightly longer than usual because I like to get a nice browning effect on the top.

Here's the more traditional pizza bun with the pickles. Unfortunately it is
accompanied by a disgusting dish of loaded nachos with pizza sauce
ON THE NACHOS. I made those too.

I don't know a single person who has skied Phoenix since they were little who did not consistently order a pizza bun for lunch. I didn't even know there was anything else on the menu until much later. I've worked in the Phoenix kitchen for the past 11 years—at least one or two days a year—and the most striking change is the sharp decline in pizza bun orders. Presumably there is no correlation between my time working there and their unpopularity, but what are these kids thinking? There is nothing on the menu (anywhere, not just Phoenix) that is better and more satisfying than a pizza bun.

Pro Tip: Try to order them later in the day when the toaster oven is so full of grease that grease actually gets baked into the bun. Delicious.

Kids these days don't know what they've shunned:
There's nothing better than a Phoenix pizza bun.
Just a bun and some sauce and some melted cheese—
The Phoenix pizza bun will never displease.

08 January 2015

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Gothic Diets

Dear Food Thoughtz,

I am quickly and steadily approaching a mid-life crisis. So I was looking at my life, contemplating whether there was anyhting I should have done otherwise or any things I feel like I have missed out on. After having thought about it carefully, while listening to my favourite Sisters of Mercy album, I have concluded that I really regret that I never had a "goth" period in my life. Whereas my other terrible life-decision cannot be remedied, I feel like I can still become a goth (even though my wife thinks I am too old for it). Anyways, I was wondering whether you have any food suggestions for the gothic lifestyle? Should I eat at all? Should I become a vampire? Should I just lurk around Hungarian pig slaughters? All suggestions are welcome.

Thanks in advance.

Trentagenarian Trent (Reznor)

Dear TT(R),

First of all, your wife is right: you are too old for it. There is no age in which you are not already too old to go through a goth period.

As for the food, is it weird if I recommend pomegranate seeds? They look kind of gruesome and bloody with the benefit of only being one of those things. I guess if you were really going to commit to a gothic lifestyle, maybe I would recommend drinking a bit of blood. I don't know the first things about goths or what they do with themselves or whether they have any interest in blood at all, but as someone who suffered from routine bloody noses as a child, I can say with confidence that blood doesn't taste all that bad. I can't imagine why I would ever try the blood of another person or animal, but when you accidentally swallow some of it or when your nose is bleeding so furiously and you can't get to a kleenex and all you can do is tilt your head back and let it dribble down your throat... yeah, it's not all that bad.

Still. My recommendation is pomegranate seeds.

I don't know what goth or gothic means, so I just put this pomegranate
inside of a gothic hallway.

06 January 2015

The Burger

It’s January, 2009. I’ve arrived in Nashville after eating my entire box of Purdy’s hedgehog chocolates and half of the box intended for my sister (and then demanding that she share the remaining chocolates with me). Days later we were on our way to Atlanta, and during the drive I was haunted by a single thought: that I really, really wanted to eat a burger. Before this time, I don’t think I had ever actually eaten a proper burger. I had definitely just had a plain beef patty, possibly with melted cheese, but I don’t think I had ever had it inside of a bun. And so we did it. We found a burger place in the Little Five Points neighbourhood, and to this day, it remains the best burger I have ever tasted.

Here it is: the infamous Atlanta burger. The fries weren't much to look at, but goddamn was that ever a good burger.

After that first Atlanta burger, I was hooked. Six years later, I just can’t stop eating burgers. I eat them every chance I get and I eat them everywhere. I’ve eaten them all across Canada. I’ve eaten them in Spokane and, more importantly Colville.* I’ve eaten them throughout Europe (usually a pretty disappointing experience) and in various airports. I just got home from eating a burger for dinner, and all I could think about afterwards is when and where I would eat my next burger. In short, burgers are always my number one go-to choice in any restaurant. It should go without saying that I always get my burgers without any dressing: just a plain patty with cheddar cheese and the bun. Sometimes I wonder if the chef gets annoyed with my order. They probably do, but I always hope that they don't because I am never asking for weird additional items, just that most of the ingredients be left off the burger. At the end of the day I guess I don't care all that much about how the cook feels because going out to eat is all about being selfish and treating yourself, and not caring about the people who are catering to your whims.

I've been eating at Hero Burger a lot this year, mostly because it's so convenient, but also because it's
decent enough. My only complaint with Hero Burger, and the other burger chains like it (of which 5 Guys is
hands-down the best option) is that they're way too expensive for what you actually get. For the same price, you
can almost always find a much better burger, with the added bonus of better seating and service.

I was recently asked why it is I’m okay with eating burgers, but not sandwiches. After all, aren’t they the same thing? Doesn’t a burger meet the most basic requirements of being a sandwich? I guess they do, if your definition of “sandwich” is as basic and simplistic as just an item placed between two bread-objects. In that sense, sure, a burger is just a sandwich. But in that case, should it follow that just because I love spaghetti bolognese I should like fettuccine alfredo? They are both, when it comes down to it, just pasta and sauce. Does it make sense that because I like apple pie, I should necessarily also eat some gross meat pie? Don’t they meet the same basic requirements? I mean, they’re both pies. They’re both composed of some filling inside of a closed pastry.

Maybe these seem like unfair comparisons. “Pasta and sauce” isn’t really a category of food in the same way that sandwiches are, and there’s of course a marked difference between a sweet dessert pie and a disgusting savoury pie (although I would also like to note that I don’t really like very many other sweet pies, with the exception of strawberry-rhubarb, and even then, I would always go with an apple pie if the option is available to me). Another issue is that I have already voiced a strong opposition to sandwiches, but given my love for and devotion to burgers, maybe I ought to reconsider this. But should I? No. That would be ridiculous. You would have to be a mad man to consider a burger a sandwich just because its mode of delivery is a bread product.

This year in Toronto has been an especially good burger year for me, but I have yet to find a burger in this city that even comes close to that original Atlanta burger. The second best burger I've ever had was in Montreal, at Burger Ville (actually Burger de Ville), which is a weird chain restaurant in Quebec that serves truly delicious and truly affordable burgers. The only downside is that the interior is not very nice, and it's not a place where you would like to sit and truly savour your burger. There are other places in Montreal that are great, but their burgers aren't quite as good. I especially like Patati Patata, which serves mini burgers (I always get two and a basket of fries). In a lot of ways the burgers aren't actually that good. They're thin and kind of dry and there's too much of a bun-to-burger ratio (to be fair, this might be fixed with more fixings), but overall it's a great little restaurant with adequate burgers.

Here's me eating the first of two baby burgers at Patati
Patata in Montreal. This picture was taken during
my sister's visit. For some reason this was a
really ugly time for me. Not, like, emotionally trying. I
just looked really ugly that week for some reason.

There's honestly not a whole lot I have to say about burgers. In a lot of ways, they're the perfect food: they're fast, they're portable, they're delicious, and they're filling. But it should be mentioned that burger quality is never assured. I have eaten some terrible burgers in my life. As a general rule, I hate seeing anything in the burger other than plain ground beef (such as chopped onions or seasoning), even if I like additional flavours (such as chopped onions or seasoning). I don't like to see any red meat. One time I ate a treacherously undercooked burger and it was traumatizing. But when they're good, they're great.

Here are some different burgers I have eaten.

Here are more burgers that I have eaten.

*Important because as everyone should know, even though Rancho Chico’s is also in Spokane, it is generally considered by all to be the only place to eat in Colville, whereas Spokane also has The Onion, which has pretty decent burgers. So imagine my surprise when Rancho Chico’s in Colville was actually closed on Independence Day and we were forced to go to that weird … what is it? Ronnie D’s? Sandy’s? That weird drive-in fast-food place in Colville. It was great! It was so American!

A burg is enough when my hunger needs sating
And my tum has no voice but the voice of complaining
So many tastes for my tongue to discover
Ground beef, melted cheese--marinating thereunder 
Some burgers I've tasted, some still a wonder
Some were delicious, others better pass'd over
Yet my hands shall not tremble, my bite shall not falter,
My hunger shall not weary, my tastes shall not alter
Those buns and these lips of the loved and the lover.