Posts Tagged ‘Tastespotting’

The Pervasiveness Of Food Porn

Nom

Years ago, the term food porn primarily referred to those glossy spreads of salaciously styled meals in culinary magazines or chef-authored cookbooks.

The food itself almost seemed to take a back seat to the implications that one could not possibly enjoy a meal unless it was as artfully arranged as that displayed between the covers.  As entertaining as it might be to flippantly peruse the pages of the latest foodie publications, all of this imposed perfection has the detrimental effect of discouraging home cooks from actually cooking anything, by setting them up for failure.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought twice about trying a recipe (on the rare occasion I use one) because the accompanying photographs left me with an uneasy sense of dread, knowing that whatever I made would never look like this.  To that end, I don’t subscribe to many foodie magazines anymore, whereas at one time I couldn’t move around my tiny apartment without tripping over a stack of Gourmet, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, etc.  Now I tend to focus on magazines with a purpose that is more substantial than superficial or skin deep, like Edible Toronto.

Plus, now I have the internet when I need a fix of some food porn…

First there were sites like FoodPorn, then came Tastespotting, Foodgawker, Photograzing, and countless others.  The community-driven visual potluck (as Tastespotting calls itself) is page upon page of softly lit, flawlessly portioned food, each photo portraying fare that is more preciously unattainable than the last.  On several occasions I’ve submitted content to Tastespotting and Foodgawker, only to have the editors inform me that my food is not appealing enough.  While I suppose that charcuterie’s heyday has not yet hit its apex of popularity, I still think that my photos had some merit.  It’s nice to know that society’s consistent across the board now in judging food solely on it’s looks, as we do with just about everything (and everyone) else (sic).  Though I still keep tabs on a few of these sites today, I find that instead of being a place to share all manner of food photography, they’ve become an exercise in unrealistic one-upsmanship.

They say that you eat with your eyes first, and to a certain extent I agree.  However, throughout history there have been many dishes and even whole cuisines whose appeal goes far beyond their rustically plebian presentations.  One dish in particular that comes to mind is the Italian dessert brutti ma buoni, which roughly translates to ugly, but good.  The meringue-like cookies, which are typically chock full of pinenuts, hazelnuts, almonds and orange zest, might not have the visual fireworks of a New York Black And White, but they are quietly tasteful, and still pretty darn good.  And truly, if we only concerned ourselves with ingesting “pretty” food, we wouldn’t have sludge like Taco Bell, now would we?  As with people and all things in nature, just because something isn’t beautiful, doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.  A well-prepared veal cutlet on a bun is a delicious treat, but in most cases is nothing to look at.  There’s no reason that visual blahness should invalidate its culinary significance.  At the end of the day, taste should be the overriding priniciple that we are striving to achieve.

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There’s A First Time For Everything

A Flaky Slice Of Heaven

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Browsing through the foodporn-ish content on Foodgawker and Tastespotting last month, I came across submissions from a cadre of bloggers who belonged to The Daring Bakers.  At the time I didn’t think too much of it, but as I delved further into the archives, I began to see a common theme; recurring weekly or monthly challenges.  It turns out that the weekly challenges are hosted by another web group called Tuesdays With Dorie, who concentrate on preparing one recipe a week from Dorie Greenspan’s delectable cookbook.  The Daring Bakers (and Cooks) by contrast choose one recipe per month (per group) and then mass-post the results online on a pre-set date.

I was initially drawn to Tuesdays With Dorie (mostly because their photography was so enticing) but when I tried to register I learned that membership was closed for the time being.  I then investigated The Daring Bakers, and was intrigued by their dual challenge options, featuring both sweet and savoury iterations.  Erring on the side of caution for once in my life, I decided to only register as a baker at first, in order to test out the waters and complexity of their challenges.  Unfortunately, by that time the April challenge had already been announced and was in progress, so I had to wait until May to join in the fun.

On May 1st I logged in to the covert challenge section of their site, and there it was… my very first Daring challenge!  When I initially read the recipe I was a little let down, if only because I’m not an apple strudel fan.  It turns out that the Everyman is though, so I jumped in wholeheartedly and decided to try my hand at it that weekend.  At worst it would be a chance to improve my craptastic pastry skills and leave me with plenty of time for a do-over if I failed, and at best, it meant I’d have dessert for a few days.

Ingredients

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He Gets Too Hungry For Dinner At 8

Gyoza Stuffing

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these last few days, and consequently have spent less time messing around in the kitchen than I would have liked this weekend.

Since reading about my first Daring Bakers project on Friday, I’d been pondering the likelihood of accomplishing the task at hand.  From what I understand, the modus operandi is to constantly challenge yourself and work outside your limits.  I joined mostly because I think my baking skills are much poorer than my cooking technique, and I thought this would be a neat way to improve them (and also prove useful for monthly blog fodder).  Their website also hosts a monthly cooking challenge called Daring Cooks, and once I get a few of the baking challenges under my belt, I might just sign up for that one too, just for fun.  I can’t share with you the content of this month’s challenge right now (but please check back on May 27th to read all about it) but I can definitely say that had I not signed up for this, I never would have bothered to attempt the recipe at home.  I spent the better part of my afternoon today preparing it, and ever since, the Everyman has been rather greedily enjoying the spoils.

And since I was unable to gather all of the materials I needed to make my various cured meats this weekend (though an extremely generous offfer of supplies and help did come my way), I needed to find something else to occupy my time.  While Tastespotting from my sickbed yesterday I came across a photo posted by my favorite America’s Test Kitchen guru, Kenji Alt.  It was a beautiful picture of a homemade gyoza, one of my most favorite Asian delicacies.  Better still, it was a pork and ramp dumpling, and I just so happened to have a small container of sauteed ramp leaves left over from my previous tart-making adventure.  The only snag was that the Everyman pretty much wholeheartedly dislikes all Asian cuisine (which is why you never see any reviews of Asian restaurants on here) with the exception of his affinity for sweet and sour chicken balls.  I knew that if I wanted to make gyoza for dinner (and I did), I’d have to tweak the recipe a little bit, to account for his somewhat fussier tastes.

Starting by slicing up the sauteed ramps, I chopped in some leftover sweet and sour shallot confit I found hanging out in the fridge, along with a few of my recently pickled ramp stems (which turned out deliciously, by the way).  I sauteed a bit of ground pork in a pan with a splash of sesame oil, some oyster sauce and a tiny bit of nam pla.  Once cooked through, I stirred in the ramps and shallot confit, and a glug of homemade chicken stock to loosen everything up.  This was reduced down until the whole mixture was smooth and slightly sticky, then allowed to cool.  Once the stuffing could be handled, it got bundled into a plethora of wonton skins (35 in all) and I even got a bit fancy with it and turned them into pope’s caps (which is the English translation of a form of Italian stuffed pasta).

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National Grilled Cheese Month, You Say?

Sweavoury Sammy

News has been flying all over the interwebs lately that April is National Grilled Cheese Month.

By all over, I mean on foodie blogs, Tastespotting, Photograzing, Foodgawker et al.

It was first brought to my attention via a post round-up over at Taste T.O. - one that this blog coincidentally happened to be mentioned in…

Over at Closet Cooking, blogger Kevin opined on his combination of grilled cheese with a newly prepared mango cardamom jam.  More than anything, the comments left on his blog were what surprised me.  People seemed astounded to consider the marriage of the two, but I posit this; do you not enjoy Brie-like cheeses with tangy fruit compote, or a figgy jam with a platter of cheese and crackers?  The evolution of grilled cheese to include some form of fruit is pretty natural, and one I would consider borderline mundane.  It’s a pretty close relative to bagels with cream (cheese) and jam, after all.

His post did call to mind a peculiar habit I used to have of slathering my cheeseburger buns with strawberry jam, though.  I’ve often been one for somewhat off the wall flavour combinations; as a child I eschewed ketchup and preferred to dip my french fries in the chocolate shake.  When I moved out on my own, it wasn’t uncommon to find me slurping up a cone of ice cream doused with sriracha before bed or chowing down on a pork and peanut butter sandwich for breakfast.  After our lunch at Mercat Ala Planxa last year, I’m constantly dreaming about garlic dulce du leche every time I eat charcuterie, and the list could go on and on.

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