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ramblings « Foodie and the Everyman

Posts Tagged ‘ramblings’

Back, Back, The Bitch Is Back!

Hope you’re ready, because I know I am…

Until next time…

It’s Not You…

It’s me!

No, seriously though.

I’m sorry it’s been so long between updates, really I am!  Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Since I signed off in early July, a few small but significant things have happened.

1) I finally started to drive (and before I turned 30, too!)

2) I have gone back to school (albeit part time)

The ability to do one was precipitated by the other of course, but knowing that I would be going back to school in the fall, I wanted to take the time off this summer to enjoy myself a little, before my whole world as I knew it went sideways.

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See You (In September?)

Paradise

Hello, gentle readers of the internest!

As the primary contributor to Foodie and the Everyman, I wanted to inform you that I will be taking some much needed time off this summer to focus on gardening, reading and other things unrelated to either writing or food, and also just to generally try and sharpen my focus.

Occasional updates may still occur, but they likely won’t happen nearly as often as you’ve become accustomed to.  But trust me, when I have things to share, they will be good, I promise.

I might only be off for a few weeks, or I might hold out until the beginning of September.  Either way, just know that I will be coming back to check in on all of you soon.

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Lost In Paradise

Purple Toes

Today I had intended to regale you with stories about all of the fun the Everyman and I have been having (and noshing) while in Aruba during the past week.

However, because the charter company that flew us down to Aruba went out of business while we’ve been away, we were put onto another, later flight and are travelling today instead of yesterday.  I can hardly complain about an extra, mix-up imposed day in paradise though, can I?

Thus, I will leave you with a photo taken from my lounger.

It’s nice here, isn’t it?

Until next time…

Nobody Is Perfect All Of The Time

Crappy Upside Down Cake

It’s a fact of life that sometimes what we do (make, are, etc) is mediocre.

Not everything can be fireworks, after all.  If it were, imagine how jacked up on adrenaline or excitement your body would constantly be.

Of course, that statement can apply to the act of cooking, too.

Though I don’t spend much time blogging about my kitchen failures, believe me, even I occasionally have them.  I’ve decided I should make an effort to talk about them a little more, if only to illustrate that it’s ok to be wrong sometimes.  When something goes sideways in the kitchen, I don’t think of it as a problem, I look at it as an opportunity to improve my methods and technique for next time.

It amazes me how often people choose not to cook because they are afraid to fail.  But really, that’s just a self defeating attitude.  If you never try, you’ll never grow and gain the experience necessary to make yourself a better cook.  You don’t need fancy tools, artisanal ingredients or an expensive culinary education to make great food (though having quality products to start does improve the end result).  Thomas Keller is arguably one of the best chefs in America, and he never went to cooking school.  In fact, he’s been known to say that he believes practice is one of the fundamentals for making a good cook.  If the end result is at least edible, you’ve won half the battle right there.  Only if your mistake is really really really bad (which is pretty rare) you won’t be able to eat it.  At that point, you just need to dust yourself off, analyze the situation to determine what went wrong and consider how you can do better the next time.

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The Lexicon Of Food Snobbery

Ah, eating.

Aside from the simple act of breathing, there isn’t really any other consumptive requirement that equalizes society more (because we all have to do it or else we die).  So, it seems only logical to me that as a species we should be more than a little preoccupied with the W5H of our food.  If essentially (we’re talking extremely drilled down here) nourishment boils down to a matter of life or death (do I have food enough to eat or will I go hungry?) why wouldn’t you want to concern yourself with it to the nth degree?  If you were to ignore the question of food for long enough, it’s possible that your own survival would be at stake as your body began to starve.  Yet for some odd reason the people who do consider these things aren’t the norm, and instead are labelled foodies; an insipid little word which inspires disdain even amongst those who would fall into such a category.  As such, foodies have become culinary outliers, a fact easily proven by watching the eyes of non-foodies glaze over whenever someone who appreciates food discusses the intricacies of their favourite edible creation in their vicinity.

There’s an inordinate number of people in the world who would consider me to be something of a food snob based primarily on the fact that I am very selective about what foods I will allow into my body.  But I’m not a snob; far from it, actually.  It’s simple, really.  If it doesn’t taste good, it’s not coming in, that’s all there is to it. Why is it that having passion for any subject has become synonymous with snobbery? I’m not as big a hater of the word foodie as most people either (obviously), but I generally try not to frame myself through definitions of character or personality.  I grew up in a house, in a place, in a family that professionally and socially cooked and placed a high value on food and kitchen table camaraderie.  Subsequently, I was nurtured and engaged in food myself, and to this day not only do I love to cook but I relish eating, too (surprisingly, I don’t love to eat nearly as much as I love to cook, though).  To me that’s normal and not something I regard as smacking with even the slightest bit of pretension.  Rather, I think of food and cooking and eating as elemental, because it unites us with our forebears via its commonality.

While I may not eat some foods because I don’t think they taste good (the vast majority of processed foods would be a perfect example) I don’t believe that being discerning is sufficient grounds for being labelled snobbish.  My brand of food fascination is a blend of a quest for authenticity over watered down fare, tempered by occasional bouts of obsessive compulsive behaviour.  Case in point; I can be just as easily satiated by a $4.50 baby cow sandwich from Commisso Bros. as I have been with the $275 a head tasting menu at Eigensinn Farm – it really just depends on the situation.  The cost of food is irrelevant when you consider the rich tableau of atmosphere, companions and occasions that formidable memories are born of.  For instance, in Chicago I desperately wanted to visit Alinea, but it was something that time just wouldn’t allow.  It would have been a meal costing several hundreds of dollars I’m sure, but the cheap and dirty food from Fat Willy’s Rib Shack that formed our last taste before getting back on a plane was just as appreciated as Alinea would have been because it too was prepared with passion.  In that respect I’d say I’m closer to a culinary egalitarian, really.  Put simply, I enjoy good food.  Whether I cook it for myself, or I pay someone else to cook it for me, taste integrity is unanimously the mitigating factor in what I choose to eat.  Though realistically, as much as I’ve come to enjoy restaurant food, 99 times out of 100 I’d much rather cook something for myself because only I understand precisely how I want that something to taste.

In fact, I personally believe that people who choose not to cook are the true snobs, because paying someone else to do something you don’t want to do reeks of superiority.  At some point during the 1950′s, cooking went from being perceived as a nurturing part of a decent home life to being painted as an intolerable chore.  Cue the montage of ads about liberating women from the drudgery of their kitchens by replacing home cooked foods with frozen dinners and ready meals to make my point for me.  Or this quote from a recent article in The Toronto Star For me in recent years, cooking has been a bit like dentistry: I hear there are people who still do it themselves but it just makes me shake my head sadly.” (I know it comes from an article about the Slap Chop, but I find such a sentiment disheartening still). I’m not going to disagree with the fact that cooking and preparing food from scratch is hard work.  You’re reading the website of a girl who cooks her own food, bakes her own bread, cures her own meat, preserves her own jams and churns her own butter, so believe me when I say I do understand.  But look instead at what’s been lost.  Society has become so far removed from the taste of real food that manufacturers can layer on salt and fat and sweet and chemicals just to make their food seem palatable because most people are unfamiliar with how delicious unadulterated food can be.

Paying someone else to prepare your food (either via restaurant or the shelves of the supermarket) is rife with undertones of servitude.  With the obvious exception of celebrity chefs, cooking is still considered one of the humblest professions out there, staffed mostly by uneducated masses.  And before you start to disagree with me, consider for a moment what other profession requires you to work 80 or more hours per week on your feet for such meagre and thankless pay?  Or think on the fact that many of the unsung heroes in a kitchen are immigrants who are just thankful to be gainfully employed, even without the benefit of sick days, vacations, etc.  Cheffing is hard, brutal work that many attempt but few prevail at, and it certainly is not an industry for the weak.  Yet, why don’t we acknowledge their legitimacy when we’re basically putting ourselves into their hands by outsourcing our food to them more and more each day?  Again, it sounds like snobbery to me.  The clincher for me is that more often than not, the people who cook mid to high end food do not make enough money to even patronize the places they work at themselves.  How’s that for irony?

At a time when The Food Network feels it needs to add a whole other channel to accommodate a demand for additional programming, it would seem that what we eat should be a more important topic than ever.  Instead, it’s been shown that more people love to watch food television than actually cook anymore, with the backlash of artisanally-minded people like me still somewhat in its infancy.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Taking food into your own hands is not an indicator of snobbery, it’s an opportunity to exert a modicum of control over what you want to eat instead of letting Big Food (or anyone, really) decide that for you.

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Go For The Gold(en Arches, That Is)

The Golden Arches

During the last few weeks it seemed like you couldn’t swing a cat without being subjected to the Vancouver Olympics in some way, shape or form.

As someone who is generally not a huge fan of sports in any respect, I’m sure you can imagine how exasperating I found the 24/7 coverage, especially when you stop and consider how much time, effort and money goes into what amounts to a glorified international pissing contest.  However, the Everyman is a huge lover of sports, so there was a fair amount being viewed in our household during those 16 days.

One food-related topic that received quite a bit of press during and after the games was the validity of having McDonald’s as a prominent corporate sponsor.  Many have chimed in and been rather vocal about this, including those who wished that we’d showcased uniquely Canadian cuisine, instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator.  GFR even had some random 12 year old write a (rather unedited) rant about the whole affair, the gist of which boiled down to shame on us.

Far be it from me to be a shit disturber, but with the exception of the whole First Nations/Burgergate saga I’d have to say I respectfully disagree and might even (sort of) be on the same side as McD’s(!) for once.

I know.  You’re all shocked and dismayed about how that could ever be possible.  Well, it goes a little something like this…

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Silencing My Inner Critic

I grew up in a restaurant family.

While other kids got to have play dates and scheduled outings with their moms and dads, I enjoyed an absentee relationship with mine; 2 of 3 being terminally addicted to their kitchens.  In the years that my parents were together I barely saw my mom because she’d leave for work while I was still at pre-school and not return until 2 or 3 in the morning.  After my parents separated, my mom and stepdad were too busy chasing their restaurant dreams to worry about things like family all that much, so I lived with my dad and only saw them a couple times a year.

Despite many wonderful things I learned and was inspired by during my time in their restaurants, the one thing that continues to irk me to this day is the overly critical nature that they’ve imbued in me.  It was never more evident in them than on the rare occasions when we would go out to eat as a family.  Rather than enjoying the brief time we had together, they would categorically pick apart whatever we were eating, regardless of whether it was a cheap trattoria or a fancy French bistro.  They’d then move on to analyzing whether they could make a particular dish better, and consequently discuss how to do so.

It drove me nuts.  Had I been older it probably would have driven me to drink, but at that young age all I could muster was a withering roll of the eyes.  I didn’t see them often, so all I wanted was to make the most of our time, but they never let up.  For years I vowed I would never be like them, determined to be happy with whatever was set before me, instead.

But, over the last few years I’ve found their somewhat unsavoury trait rearing its ugly head more and more in my demeanour.

Between working in their kitchens and stints at culinary school I’ve had plenty of time to develop an overly picky palate.  In a lot of ways it’s been for the best; I’ve gained a certain level of disdain for junk, fast and pre-packaged food-like substances in favour of slow (or what I like to call real) food.  On the flip side, it also makes friends and lovers (unnecessarily) nervous wrecks when feeding me, and coworkers assume I’m some sort of snob because I choose not to eat their hydrogenated oil filled crap or corn syrup laden goodies.  Even though I’m relatively quiet about my beliefs and standpoints on food (preferring to internalize rather than proselytize) most people assume I’m some sort of elitist crank or cow hugging moon maiden, anyhow.  That I don’t care what anyone thinks of me or my habits seems to stymie them all the more.

I often try to rationalize that I’ve only taken on the best parts of this annoying habit from my parents.  Instead of critiquing things for how bad they might be, I strive to only indulge in tastes of ridiculously good food because I think it satisfies your body, soul and cravings more.  Of course, that’s a mantra that’s easier said than done…

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Penny For Your Thoughts

Occasionally, PR people have taken to contacting me when they have things they would like reviewed.

In some instances, they’ve invited me to free dinners, or asked me to cover things like Conviction Kitchen, or even the launch of a new chef cookbook.

Recently I even had the wonderful people representing Pom Wonderful send me an envelope of coupons in order to sample their new line of juices.

Just the other day a representative for a company called Pop Chips asked if she could send me a few samples bags to try.  The irony here, which I made her well aware of at the time is that I don’t typically enjoy salty snacks all that much.  However, she was fairly confident that her product would be the one to change my mind, so she sent them anyway.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I will occasionally be giving my 2 cents on products; but only if I like them.  Things that I don’t care for are never going to see the light of day here, which is why you’ve never seen me covering the opening of the latest chain restaurant like so many other Toronto bloggers (also because I would rather throw up than eat at a chain restaurant, but that goes without saying).

I know there are a lot of people who think that the PR business is this big, dirty machine, and in some ways, I suppose it does come off as a little sleazy.  Let me reconcile that by saying that I have never been the kind of person who is swayed by anyone else’s opinion.  It’s great if someone has an opinion (and everybody does) but it’s not going to make up my mind for me about anything, in the same way that other people might look to restaurant, movie or product reviews.  That being said, my opinions should never be the deciding factor in making your own decisions, either, because just because I like something doesn’t mean that you will.  If anything, I hope that if I find something that’s worth sharing, it will do nothing more than to highlight its existence, which will allow you to draw your own conclusions.

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The Self-Correcting, Sliding Scale Of Deliciousness

Imposter

Taste is a funny thing.

Have you ever noticed how you loved a certain premade food until you tried its homemade counterpart?

I find this happens to me all the time.  So much so that I sometimes make a concerted effort not to eat something in its homemade form that I already love just so I can continue to enjoy it.  The best examples I can draw on for this would be chocolate bars.  Even though I don’t eat much in the way of mass-market chocolate anymore, I still enjoy the occasional 3 Musketeers or Crunchie, and have no intention of learning how to make the various components by hand (purely for the sake of time and my lack of it) thus the reason I shy away from most handmade candy bars and choose to focus more on pure chocolate instead.

Certain simpler tastes from childhood, like Kraft Dinner (which I rarely, if ever consume anymore, preferring Annie’s Homegrown if we’re talking packaged) or a yellow can of Habitant pea soup no longer satisfy for no reason other than that any homemade version is leaps and bounds better.  In that regard, I often choose to go without until I’m in the mood to prepare something, rather than settle for an inferior product that’s not going to cut it.

Most recently I had this “aha” moment with a Jos Louis.  Ever since I was a child, Jos Louis’ were the sweet of choice when I happened to be granted a special treat.  And again, though I don’t eat them as often as back then, I still occasionally nibble them (usually when I’m sick and in need of childlike comforting).  The only difference was this time after one bite of the chocolate-coated cakey pastry, I’d lost that lovin’ feeling.  You see, the week prior I’d made homemade whoopie pies for the first time, and having that fantastic taste memory so near to the top of my consciousness made the store-bought cake pale in comparison.

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Confessions Of A Corporate Drone

Pasta, Wine And Cheese - The Dinner Of Champions

Work has been brutally kicking my ass lately, which is one of several reasons why I haven’t been updating as often as I’d like to.

It’s literally been so busy that it hurts; to the point that I’ve found it’s exacerbating an ulcer I’ve had on and off for nearly 10 years.  For the past few months I’ve been working on a huge project that takes up all of my time (and then some) and I live the project, eat the project and sleep the project.  It’s kind of exhausting.  Every couple of days I’ll be at my office and some coworker or other will tell me how I look like shit lately.  Well, duh!  Of course I do!!  I’m running myself ragged and not sleeping because of how worried I am over whether it will all get done.  And the funniest thing about it is I’m not even working as a project manager anymore, so I’m really not accountable for the success of what we’re doing, but I just can’t turn it off, per se.

Of course, after a tough day at the office the last thing I want to do is stand around and cook for an extended period of time, but since the Everyman doesn’t really cook, that doesn’t leave too many options, otherwise.  Especially when I’m trying not to do takeout or delivery more than once or twice a month.

So, what’s a mentally drained peon to do?  Come home and whip up a sriracha-laced, crumb-topped, roux-thickened cup ‘o mac and cheese, of course.

And, it wouldn’t be complete without a sweet, refreshing glass of Gerwurtztraminer on the side, either.

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The Foodie 13 – 13 Things You Didn’t Know About This Foodie

Beet-or and Fun-ion

I know, I know, I know.

It’s been like forever and a day since I last posted a Foodie 13.  The funny thing about it is I actually have one that’s completely written that I’d prepared back in August for while we were on vacation, but I just haven’t felt like publishing it since then.

Between work, Taste T.O. and various other ongoing stuff, I haven’t really had much of a chance to devote to this medium.  I heartily apologize.

Since I’ve been running this website for nearly 2 years now, I suppose it’s about time that I tell you all a little more about who I am and what makes me tick.

So, without further adieu, let’s take this opportunity to get a better acquainted, shall we?

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That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles

I have a lot on my mind and my plate right now, so I hope you’ll understand when I say that I need to take some time to myself to weigh my options, decisions, priorities, etc.

Until I sort a few things out, Foodie and the Everyman will be on an indefinite hiatus.

Thank you so much for your continued support and willingness to stop by and check out my tiny corner of the internest.  Your comments and interest have always been greatly appreciated.

Until next time…