So last weekend, I hung out with two of my cousins, neither of whom can cook. And neither of whom are in the lower-income category, nor are parents, or living in rural or urban food deserts. In fact, they both are highly educated, very successful media people, one in documentary film producing, and one a national-level news anchor. Both live very comfortably, can afford the highest quality food, and live in Brooklyn/ Los Angeles and Washington DC, and had nice middle-class upbringings. Did I mention, neither of them can cook? Like really not at all…
I’ve looked in their cabinets of their respective houses, and its Foodiness, Foodiness, Foodiness! Trader Joe’s packaged instant Indian food, (which isn’t terrible on the foodiness meter, but bad enough) gluten free snacks of all sorts (for the fiancée with Celiac’s disease) and other bits and pieces of Foodiness that make up the modern American household pantry. Those bachelors didn’t learn a thing about cooking from their moms, who are both PhD’s and one’s an MD too, so they were kinda too busy…and one has an ex-wife who wears a size zero and served spa food at her wedding. They both live on Foodiness, takeout, and restaurants.
So my Brooklyn/LA cousin, aware of the detriment of his non-cooking life and recently engaged, proposed that we get DC cousin up to NY for a weekend, during which we could hang-out, catch-up, and I could teach them how to cook. So on Saturday, we headed off to the farmers market at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn to shop for dinner. When I asked them what they wanted to learn, they both kind of shrugged and said, “you know, the basics?”. DC added, ”maybe something green?” So I decided it would be an excellent teachable moment in seasonality vs Foodiness, and took the matter into my own hands. I bought a bunch of different stuff, very specifically late summer/early fall produce. A few bunches of mixed color heirloom carrots, some red swiss chard that sparkled, it was so fresh, some sweet mixed baby tomatoes, a fat little kabocha squash, and for the protein, a some fresh fluke, caught hours earlier off of Montauk. Really real-food stuff, lucky urban food-smugster food. Brooklyn and Berkeley food. Or is it? maybe its just food, the way food was before Foodiness jacked it?
We took it all back to Brooklyn/LA’s apt, and I showed them really simple ways to cook it all. Mostly roasting, the carrots, tomatoes, squash, they all just gor a little toss of olive oil and some salt, and a nap in a hot oven until everything caramelized and got all soft and creamy. The chard got a good bath in the sink then a sauté in olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic. Just cook it until all the water in the pan is gone, that’s how it tastes best. And fluke filets? we gave them a dusting of salt and flour, threw them into a hot sauté pan with some canola oil, and cooked them until they were golden. Then the roasted baby tomatoes went on top as a quickie sauce. It was easy, it was pretty quick, and it was all in season at that moment. Even the fish.
And all of it could have been bought in the supermarket too. Nothing was unusual or exotic, And everything was delicious, like really freaking delicious, and that’s what REAL food is about. Taste. Real tastes better. Once you get the foodiness taste out of your mouth and wake up the buds in there. It just tastes better. And isn’t that what we want from our food? Conveniently, seasonal food tends to taste better too, and that’s what this week’s show is about.
On an historical Foodiness note, the inventor of the Dorito just died. Arch West was 97 years old, and invented the Dorito after seeing fried tortilla chips at a stall in Southern California while on vacation. His family has said that they will sprinkle Doritos on his casket at the burial.
Doritos may be one of the seminal Foodiness foods ever invented. You take a basic, staple food for millions of Mexicans, the corn tortilla. Corn tortillas are made of cornmeal, lard and water. Food. cut them up and fry them in oil, still technically food. You take a major American snack-food company, take the corn tortilla, reproduce it in a factory using a slurry of salted, sweetened cornmeal and flavored powders and colors, extrude it from a giant machine and seal it up in bags, Foodiness.
Its funny, I just looked up the ingredients for “Toasted Corn” flavor Doritos, the original flavor. Ingredients? Corn, oil and salt. Hmmm, almost food. These were considered junk food when I was a kid.
Then I looked up the ingredients for “Late-Night All-Nighter Cheeseburger Flavor”, and it had 19 ingredients, including 5 different artificial colors. ‘Nuff said.