Life, the Universe, and Everything
Post about whatever comes to our mind and are not easily categorized
I was just watching some cooking and wine shows on TV and noticed that some of us in the food and wine business definitely take ourselves too seriously. I have to confess that I have a tendency to do the same thing myself at times, but it seems that the older I get the less I take myself seriously. By nature, being somewhat shy, I normally cover up the shyness by turning into a pompous bastard in social situations. I’m trying to control it more and more as I do not like myself when I do that, but it is difficult at time when the audience tends to be on the pompous side too. When I have to talk about subjects that are close to my heart and that I totally enjoy, be it food, wine, technology, or something else, I try to be less on the pontification side and more on the entertaining and preaching about my love of the subject side, as long as I do not get carried away too much.
I noticed that the cooking and wine shows I like the best are the ones where the hosts really like their subjects and seem to be enjoying themselves while presenting it. Enthusiasm tends to be contagious and if the host is truly enjoying himself, then you feel it and like to share this enthusiasm for the subject at hand. At the other end of the spectrum, the hosts that take the superior approach and sound like they are talking about a very serious subject as if they were in church, should remember that it is only food, and only fermented grape juice in case of wine, and that they are all destined to be eaten and drunk in the end. You know that happens a while after that part, do you?
I normally dislike the type of shows filmed in front of audiences, as they often time rely on gimmicks from the host, and tend to get repetitive after a while. The same is true of hosts who heavily rely on gimmicks of all sorts, often for shock value or just to cover the fact that they have nothing new to add to the genre, except for the gimmick.
I was also wondering what is it with all of those shows where the host cooks on a rickety table in the middle of a field or at the edge of the sea, with wind blowing things away, and flies all over the place? Is there a reason why those shows are done like that, besides looking at the nice scenery? Most of the time the host looks so uncomfortable, and seems to miss his real kitchen a lot.
While I’m on a roll, I really appreciate shows by hosts who knows how to cook well, but I cannot believe that some of those supposedly professional chefs, at least from the publicity surrounding them, barely seem to know basic preparation techniques, or at times seem to not have enough coordination to prepare a sandwich without injuring themselves, or even worse are not using a sharp knife, one of my pet peeves… There nothing more laughable that seeing a cooking show host who does not seem to know how to hold a knife, and that cannot cut something that should cut very easily with a sharp knife. I tend to lose confidence quickly in those cases.
Another thing, what is it with the Napoleon complex? Napoleon is a French dessert that is composed of layers of cookies and filling pile up high on a plate. Now it seems, especially amongst younger chefs, that food requires height, and they pile up stuff, Napoleon style, on the plate until they have a shaky sculpture that reaches the roof of the restaurant. It might look mighty nice on the close-up shot at the end of the show, but has any of those ‘Chefs’ tried to eat one of their creations? There is no way to eat one of these monstrosities without first disassembling it, and then eating the bits and pieces. That is if you are lucky that it can be transported to your table without collapsing into a singularity.
Yet another thing, when they prepare their pile-o-food that is sky high, why do they paint only about 1 tsp of that very complex beautiful sauce that they are so proud of, in the bottom of the plate where it is impossible to taste it? I know that I am of French extraction, and that my genes are programmed to love my sauces to excess, but can we get more than 1 tsp of sauce so that we can actually enjoy and taste them?
I am just rambling on now, so I will try to cut it short. First, to all the cooking show hosts out there, try to look like you are enjoying yourselves while preparing the food and that you really enjoy eating the food that you cook. Second, try to not be too repetitive and please do not rely only on gimmicks. Third and most important of all, stop taking yourselves too seriously as it is only food and wine, not a bloody cure to all that ails the world that you are talking about.
Great, now I go it off my chest…
Yesterday we went shopping in one of those huge mega-stores that are increasingly common here in the city and becoming the plague of most North-American cities. It is a grueling experience just from the huge size of the store. We ended up exhausted from walking from one end of the place to the other and back, since we had forgotten to pickup some dental floss when we had entered the store. We have been there a few times recently as the food is around 15-20% cheaper than at our local small supermarket, especially for the household items we cannot get at the tianguis. The only drawback is that some items I like to cook with are not available as the neighborhood is different than ours and they have less foreigners living there. I normally end up walking to the local store during the week to get whatever we could not find at the mega-store.
We were looking at the fruits and vegetables available there, and were very disappointed of what was available, and even so more at the prices. Luckily we had picked up most of what we needed at the tianguis early Sunday morning. The fruits and veggies there are always much fresher, of higher quality, and very cheap compared to any store. Since there are over 100 merchants, you are always assured of finding what you want. There are also specialists that only sell one produce like limes, papayas, or bananas and they are normally better than the more general stands. They have more to lose if they have bad products on display. Even though we have only been living in this ‘colonia’ for around 6 months, we have been regular customers of some of these merchants for a few years. Since the tianguis is an itinerant street market that appears on a regular schedule on different days in different neighborhoods, we knew some of the merchants in our old neighborhood in the tianguis we had there on Mondays.
Both Normita and I love the street market atmosphere of the tianguis. You can find anything including fruits, vegetables, chicken, beef and pork, seafood, spices, and dry goods in the food stalls that make up about 40% of this particular one. The rest is divided between clothes, hardware, utensils, jewels, incense, pirated CDs and DVDs, toys, decorations, plants, etc., and of course prepared food of all kinds from ‘barbacoa’ to ‘carnitas’, from ‘mariscos’ to tacos and ‘huaraches’, and a huge variety of other food, one more appetizing than another. If you really want you can go around the tianguis and sample fresh fruits and food all morning and have a huge free breakfast or lunch that way. It really beats the reheated frozen food samples that are typically available in the mega-stores. We normally have a solid late breakfast of lamb consommÃ© with rice and garbanzos, followed by some soft tacos of juicy lamb ‘barbacoa’ or golden fried tacos. They are served with a variety of spicy sauces (green, red, and ‘borracha’) and accompaniments like chopped onions, cilantro, lime, and ‘nopalitos’ with chipotle. With a tall glass of cool and refreshing ‘agua de jamaica’ it makes for a solid breakfast that permits you to explore the tianguis on a full stomach.
We just got up from the table after a late breakfast and something dawned on me. Where did the taste go in most commercial food products? Recently I bemoaned the lack of taste in high production commercial cheeses that tastes more of plastic than of milk products, but why is this happening with most mass-market food products? I know that according to modern corporate practices and the search for the holy bottom line, large corporations tend to homogenize their products and go for the least common denominator, but is there a universal ingredient called ‘flavor’ that is so expensive in the future market that most corporations shy away from using it in their products? This morning we opened a new package of margarine, as well as new packages of ‘spreadable’ cream cheese and peanut butter. All were supposedly ‘new and improved’ and were definitely more ‘spreadable’ than older formulations, but all were lacking taste. In the quest for ‘spreadability’ the core of the product flavor was forgotten. The margarine was bland and tasted of nothing, the cream cheese could have been bland thick cream as there was no hint of the slight sourness that is normally associated with the product, and you would have been confronted with a difficult task in trying to decide what was put in your mouth if you had tasted the peanut butter blind. The peanut taste was so light that you had to double the normal amount used to get any hint of it. Maybe that’s what they are trying to make happen… All of those products were not ‘light’ versions of the regular brand, so that was not the problem. I looked into it a bit and found out that all the brands we had opened this morning were brands from the same mega-food conglomerate, so this might be a problem that is more specific to them, but I have noticed the trend in recent years in a variety of other brands. Has anybody out there found the same thing recently? Come on big food conglomerates; let’s put the taste back in your products…
I had a long day working straight since early this morning, and by this time I can barely keep my eyes open due to the inordinate amount of pollution in town the last few days, compounded by a bad cold I have been dragging since last week. I was trying to come up with a great subject for today’s post, and came up empty as my mind feels blank, and I am too lazy right now to write a recipe post. This would actually entail some actual work and thoughts and this would be too much for my poor addled brain.
I decided to fire up the text editor and see if I could get some stream of consciousness post going, but staring at the blinking cursor on a blank screen did not stimulate my mind enough. I then thought at recycling some old stuff I wrote ages ago and the digging through the archives was way too much like real work for my lazy mood to tolerate, so I guess you will have to read this short note about my writer’s block to satisfy yourself today. Hopefully when tomorrow rolls in my brain will come back to it’s usual self and I will find the energy to post something coherent and sticking to the topic of this blog. This reminds me to ask yet again the Padrino and Normita to write a few posts, as they promised many times, that I will be able to use on days like these in the future. Until then…