Archive for July, 2015

Episode: 136

Fear No Food!


I gotta wrap up the summer early this year. I’ll be pretty busy with a restaurant consulting project through Labor Day, thus my need to end the summer shows with this episode. But who knows? If things go swimmingly well, I may be able to squeeze in a show in August, we’ll just have to see.

Anyway, to wrap it up, think back to last week’s show, and you’ll remember my discourse on Doneness Spectrum Disorder (DSD)

Remember? This is a newly discovered and named (by me) mental disorder in which people feel the compulsive need to overcook proteins and undercook vegetables. It’s pervasive, insidious, and may be undermining our food culture as we know it. It’s right up there with Orthorexia, which I think I have, as the two biggest dangers facing us today. But the good news is, It’s highly treatable, and curable. In fact, the cure rate is 100%! And, it’s totally covered by Obamacare, to boot. Thanks, Obama! All you need to do, to treat DSD, as I call it, is learn to be a better cook. You can take classes, watch videos, hire me to teach you privately, so easy! And yet, it’s still so pervasive…

And I think I know why. I think it all boils down to fear. The pathological fear of food that we Americans have, because we live in a food culture that is so overwhelmingly processed and manufactured. Packaged means safety. Raw food, loose food, actual food, food pulled warm from the earth or icy from the sea or dripping with blood or dirt is a little too real for us. Too 19th century. Too primal. Too close to the literal bone. We want clean, tidy, safe, to keep our fears of blood, death, decay, and contamination far from our minds and consciences. We live in mortal fear of our food, fear of it sickening us, fear of it making us fat, fear of not getting the right nutrients, fear of the cultural signifiers that our choices reveal in us; our class, income level, sophistication level or lack of it. It drives us, this fear. Which is really too bad, because it’s just food. Well, if you eat actual, real food, it’s just food. everything else, is #Foodiness, or just basic crap. So tune in today, as I finish up the season, go berry picking, and get angry. (So what else is new…)

Episode: 135

Suffering from Doneness Spectrum Disorder? There’s new drug for that.


This is a Public Service Announcement. Today’s episode of LGR will be 100% Foodiness™ free for your protection. This is a special edition of LGR, harkening back to the days of Why We Cook, my first HRN show. You’ve been warned.

If you listened to last week’s show, “Tales of Foodiness™ Fishiness”, you heard the story of my young years, and summers spent fishing on Long Island for bluefish, flounder, porgies, and other species found in Long Island sound. And as I think mentioned, in the way that time distorts memory, it seemed as if we caught and ate bluefish every single weekend of my life, from approx. 1969-1981, which was probably not quite the case, but nonetheless….childhood exaggerates memory. A lot of bluefish was consumed.

And…it was probably overcooked, because that’s how people ate fish back then, overcooked. My parents discovered some recipe for bluefish called “Greek style” which involved baking it whole, covered in thinly sliced onions, tomatoes and green peppers, and liberally sprinkled with dried oregano. They were not terrible cooks, but it was the 70’s…enough said, amirite? So in making Greek-style bluefish, in order to not turn the fish to dust by totally overcooking it, you had to take it out before The aforementioned topping vegetables ever really cooked enough, so you had kind of semi-overcooked, dryish fish, with thinly sliced onions, green peppers and tomatoes that were just kind of halfway cooked, steamy and soft. A raw onion, pepper or tomato is fine, and a properly cooked any of the above is great…but anywhere in between?…Just thinking about it now is making me kind of depressed, and I may have to go lie down for awhile after the show.

Food are cooked along a spectrum of doneness, and I’ve realized, that along with all the other spectrum disorders, this is a real, very serious, but highly treatable problem. So today, we evaluate, diagnose, and address, Doneness Spectrum Disorder.

Episode: 134

Tales of Foodiness Fishiness


My niece, Soph, is spending the week with her friend “down the shawa” as they say in New Jersey. Lucky Soph! See, my sister was right; send your kid to an expensive private school, so they get a superior education, meet the right people, and then they’ll get to spend their vacations with rich friends in nice places! She’so smart.

So Soph is down the shawa, and she texts me the other day and said, “I ate the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten last night!” Wow, I thought, this must be something really special because Soph ate her first year of solid foods in Rome, and has traveled and eaten all over the place and has ME as her aunt, and has the best palate of any kid I know, so I thought, wow. Wonder what it was? She’s down the shawa, maybe someone caught a gorgeous striper or fluke and grilled it over oak wood and seaweed on the beach and it was so perfect and pristine and they ate it with flaky sea salt and the best olive oil and tiny sweet clams and local corn and tomatoes in some kind of food-and-wine magazine seaside summer orgy food wet dream…I got really excited, as you can see. So I texted back, “wow, what?” And Soph, oh Soph, I had such high hopes for you, texts back “It was tilapia stuffed with crabmeat and spinach!”
Well, I would have cried onto my Iphone if it was waterproof. Tilapia. King of the farmed, Foodiness™ fish. The free-range chicken nugget of the sea, the soy chip, the whole wheat Poptart, of the sea. Tilapia is the shittiest, nastiest, blandest, crappiest garbage farmed fish on the planet. And yet, it’s become the default fish on nearly every menu and in every seafood counter. It’s everywhere, in everything. It’s mainly farmed in China and Costa Rica, is filled with antibiotics, fungicides, fertilizer and pesticides, and is fed corn, grains, and fish meal. It’s garbage fish, fed garbage. And yet, it’s everywhere. It’s the boneless, skinless chicken breast of fish, but even worse. Do people not see that?

So there’s poor Soph, well not really, I mean she’s living it up on Cape May, amirite? But there’s Soph, out to dinner at some overpriced, Jersey shore fish-house, all done up in decorative nets and glass buoys, (the restaurant, not Soph) with brass rails and nautical theme tchotchkas, sitting down to dinner with Nora’s family. And what’s on the menu? Oh let’s take a guess…Salmon? Farmed salmon from Chile, most likely. But the menu will say Atlantic salmon, because you can say whatever you want, on a menu. And probably grilled swordfish, possibly locally caught, but more likely not, and tuna, of course, wouldn’t be a suburban restaurant without the ubiquitous block of seared rare tuna, probably illegally caught in the Philippines by Chinese boats, in defiance of all international restrictions on tuna fishing, flash frozen at sea and sent over to be carved up and sold by Sysco, let’s see, what else looks good on today’s catch, shrimp? Broiled, scampi, fried? Farmed, farmed and farmed. In Thailand, again with the antibiotics, the chemicals, pesticides, pollution…

Oh wait, there’s a flounder special! Flounder is local to NJ, let’s have that! Quickly sautéed in butter ‘til the edges are crisp, mmm, I love flounder. What? How is it made? Broiled? With paprika? Yuck, what year is this? Ok, maybe that’s a little harsh, I’ll give them the B of the D, but then what about the effing tilapia? And who let my niece eat that? Tilapia is fish for non-fish people. People who’ve never been exposed to a perfectly sautéed flounder filet or grilled mackerel, who grew up in Iowa and hate fish for a reason, they’ve never really EATEN fish, good fish, fresh and not broiled with margarine and paprika until it crumbles to dust. And I can’t even ADDRESS the “stuffed with crabmeat and spinach” business, because A: again, what year is it? And B: Really? Crabmeat? More like processed crabstix, with an X on the end, because real, fresh crabmeat is up to $25/lb so I ‘m sure Cap’n Fred’s Seafood Bar and Grille isn’t using the real deal, and C: Just yuck. Ok, ok, before you all start with the hate mail, telling me I’m an elitist, just stop. I am, but for good reason. It’s not about me, it’s about the fish, the poor, overfished fish. And our fantasy island way of still insisting on eating it, when we’re by the sea, or anywhere else.

Just because I’m at a shore resort, where historically, or traditionally, you’d get to eat the local catch, hauled in off the docks and sold right to the kitchens, in some Steinbeckian, Cannery row fantasy collective memory, doesn’t mean that that’s how we should keep on eating. I went to cannery row last summer, which is now basically an amusement park-seedy Disney recreation of Steinbeck’s pier, and what was being served? TILAPIA!!!!! I need a break. Off to the shelter, fire up the grill!

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