Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
May 9, 2010
11:01 AMSmall Dishes
My Pet Peeves
This rant is all about me; all about those food-related things that annoy me. Lily Tomlin says “Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.” I guess that’s why I write: I have a lot to complain about. I once read that complaining was like trying to sweep up feathers: a lot of agitation with little effect. Regardless it’s a good way to channel anger and frustration—and though tempting— more judicious than the alternative.
“Easy Open” or “Resealable” when it isn’t.
“New and Improved.” The only conclusion I can draw is that stuff they were selling before must have been crap, so why should I believe them now?
Processing for the sake of processing. Pringle’s Potato Chips is a perfect example. They begin with fresh, whole potatoes. Peel, pulverize and dehydrate them. Tturn right around and add water, rice flour, wheat starch, maltodextrin, salt and dextrose. Then, after forming the mess into fake chips, they’re fried and stacked up in cute little containers with plastic lids.
Instant anything. Whether it’s oatmeal, mashed potatoes or iced tea, if it’s worth enjoying, it’s worth waiting for.
Miracle Whip. A manufactured food that started us down a path that indeed became the proverbial slippery slope. It was invented during the Great Depression as a cheap substitute for mayonnaise and it still is.
Margarine. Another food industry conspiracy, a butter substitute sold with the pretext that it was better for us only to be told years later it was loaded with tans fat and deadly. Hey, didn’t anyone ever read the ingredients? For instance, that all-American favorite, Parkay: partially hydrogenated soybean oil, whey, water (?), salt (lots of it), mono and diglycerides (yum), soy lecithin, sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, artificial flavor and color.
Cool Whip. Okay. Is it really that complicated to whip cream? Its ingredients suggest it would be healthier smeared on your face as a moisturizer rather than put in your mouth.
Sliced American cheese. Cheese by nature is assertive and funky; it shouldn’t be made to look and taste like plastic.
Stale raised glazed donuts. What are they good for? Nothin’! I love yeast donuts but they have to be fresh—still warm better yet. Hermetically sealed under shrink wrap, wet on the bottom with a texture akin to old socks, they have no redeeming value.
Gin and Tonics made in an old fashioned glass. Like a Tom Collins, or a Campari and soda, a G&T is a tall drink and should be made in a tall glass. There’s a trend at restaurants—especially in Wisconsin—to be served any mixed drink on the rocks in an oversized short tumbler.
Calling a drink a martini that is not. A martini is made with vodka or gin, perhaps vermouth, served up in a cocktail glass, garnished with an olive or two or a lemon twist.
Wine goblets more suitable for goldfish. My how quickly things change. During the 1980s many restaurants used wine glasses that were so small as to be silly. Today, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme.
Paper plates and plastic forks. Ecology aside, they are guaranteed to make good food taste bad and turn any occasion into something less than special.
Ice made in the home freezer. Looks bad, tastes bad and leaves dandruff in the bottom of your drink.
Putting little stickers on fruits and vegetables. It can be very tedious taking them off, hazardous to your finger nails and worse yet if you eat one.
People in the grocery store with a big box of coupons and a calculator. Inevitably they like to park their cart in the center of the aisle.
Product downsizing. A pint is a pint—16 fluid ounces, right? If you buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, “yes;” a pint of Häagen-Dazs, “no”—it’s only 14 ounces. And, I have bushels of recipes that call for a 16-ounce can of tomatoes. Try and find one. The can size now is 15 ounces if you’re luck; more likely, 14.5 ounces.
In a restaurant, when the server comes over and asks, “Are you still workin’ on it?”
Being told to keep my fork.
People who have their share of the tab already figured out to the penny and in their hand even before the bill arrives.
Menu language. All sorts of gobbledygook, meaningless phrases and random outbursts of foreign words that do little to describe how the dish is made or what it will taste like. Worse yet, are misspellings and erroneous punctuation.
Dissolving wasabi in soy sauce. This is as American as dipping French fries in ketchup, but unfortunately, the bite of wassabi is oil-soluble so mixing it with soy sauce kills the flavor.
All-you-can-eat buffets. If I want to be titillated by a pornographic spread of food, I’ll look at pictures in a magazine. “More is not better,” should be the mantra of all cooks. No matter how fancy, I still see myself standing in the grade school cafeteria line: “Cream-style corn any one?”
Vegetarian ham, turkey, burgers, hot dogs, etc. If you choose not to eat meat but seemingly can't live without it, you’ve made a bad decision.
Picky eaters. If you are one, your mother was probably deficient in your upbringing. Go ahead and try it! You might like it.
Paula Deen. She’s great entertainment, but a rotten cook. “We need more butter” and canned mushroom soup are not the secrets to good food. The worse Paul Deen recipe ever … Deep Fried Lasagna!
The notion that just because your mother made it, that makes it good.