On the unfortunate occasion of my 20s slipping irreversibly into the past, welcome to my single most self-indulgent blog post yet! 30 Food Observations From 30 Years of Eating… read on, and please do feel free to think me an insufferable arse and an irredeemable food-snob.
But then forgive me straightaway, too. Because a) it’s my birthday! and b) I was going to write something even more pretentious – 30 Life Lessons Learned, or some such… (I realized just in time: even to approximate wisdom you have to be at least one-quarter wise.)
Anyhow, enough preamble. Off we go. As ever, your comments/objections blushingly more than welcome….
*1* The best person to learn to cook from is always mum.
*2* A world without herbs – coriander, basil, and thyme, most of all – would be one immeasurably less flavorsome and lovely.
*3* A caesar salad done right is sublime; otherwise, it’s prone to being awful.
*4* A full English breakfast absolutely is one of those times when the reality matches the myth – especially whenever Irish bangers and black pudding are involved. If there’s a better meal to start the day with, I’m yet to have the pleasure (though a perfect huevos rancheros would surely make it interesting).
*5* Jamie Oliver doesn’t deserve the bad wrap he often gets and nor does Gordon Ramsey: both are tailor-made for television and great at talking food.
*6* Yes, we definitely should care about the providence of our meat… but veganism is so far in the other direction, it’s just weird and pointless.
*7* If you like food, you should move your arms about a lot when you talk about it.
*8* The best amount of melted cheese on something is the smallest amount that leaves you wanting just a bit more of it.
*9* Hunger might well be the best sauce, but if you really want something to taste good, you have to eat it as a child and then remember it fondly. For me: my nan’s boozy sherry trifle; toasted cheese sandwiches made in a Breville; and a hearty soup my mum put together once with leftover Christmas vegetables and a wicked mix of spices.
[Left to right: brother, me, and nan.]
*10* Celery leaf: don’t bin it, eat it.
*11* ‘Fridge cold’ temperature is the death of a good salad – and the most injurious thing you can ever do to a tomato, most especially, is eat it straight out the fridge.
*12* You can’t ever go wrong with a Delia.
*13* Every fridge should have creme fraiche in it, and every pantry Worcestershire sauce.
*14* An egg fried in butter, generously seasoned, and flipped once but still left to be properly runny, is just about as good as food gets. And anyone who say’s they ‘can’t cook’ – in the light of such information – plain isn’t trying.
*15* Home cooking is always the right way to go. Except, of course, whenever better sense prevails, as for Pad Thai, crab rangoons, all forms of sushi, pan au chocolat, pastrami on rye…
*16* My proudest ever kitchen creation: basmati rice cooked in homemade chicken stock. Because it’s the closest I’ve ever come, I think, to cooking something perfectly.
*17* Foods always worth spending a little extra for: Parmesan cheese, ice cream, tinned tuna, chopped tomatoes, bread, pistachio nuts, olive oil. Foods generally not worth spending a little extra for: ketchup, anchovies, pasta, pre-cut fruit and vegetables, croutons.
*18* Every time I eat good Mexican food, I think, wow, Mexican food is so much better than the half-arsed, bland, melted-cheese fiasco, that all too often passes for it.
*19* Happiness is a Greek appetizer (anything with baba ganoush, feta cheese, and humus), an India entrée (lamb rogan josh), and an Italian dessert (zabaglione). But not all in one meal, obviously!
*20* When Jerry Seinfeld talks about spoiling an appetite it’s every bit as liberating as it is funny:
You know, I tell ya, I gotta say that I’m enjoying adulthood. For a lot of reasons. And, I’ll tell you reason number one: as an adult, if I want a cookie, I have a cookie, okay? I have three cookies or four cookies, or eleven cookies if I want. Many times I will intentionally ruin my entire appetite. Just ruin it. And then, I call my mother up right after to tell her that I did it. “Hello, Mom? yeah, I just ruined my entire appetite… cookies.” See, there’s no danger in running out of appetites. I’ve got millions of them, I’ll ruin them whenever I want!
*21* America is supposed to be the land of plenty. But good luck trying to get a halfways decent pork sausage over here. Or a ready-made microwave meal fit for more than a three-forkfuls-and-done, down and dirty snack.
*22* I used to think my nan had a magic way with coffee – until one day I figured out the truth… she simply used to add a nice amount of milk and a whole lot of sugar. (Still, there are plenty worse ways of making coffee…)
*23* Never reheat french fries (unless solely for the purposes of sustenance).
*24* The chicken katsu curry at Wagamama is unimprovably delicious, and I always love the avocado eggrolls at the Cheesecake Factory… But generally chain-restaurants are much more a ‘bad thing’ than good.
*25* Call me the worst kind of dick for saying so – but I’m pretty sure there’s a compelling link between obesity and eating too much.
*26* A crepe is many times more delightful than a pancake. (Unless, of course, like me, you’re from a part of the world where no distinction is made between the two.)
*27* Eggplant parmesan, potato dauphinoise, peppers stuffed with cherry tomatoes and garlic, spanakopita, egg foo young, mutter paneer: just some of many reasons why being married to a vegetarian isn’t quite so bad, after all.
*28* Sure, it’s not a whole lot of fun to bite into an unexpected bit of sinew, gristle, or bone – but the worst thing I ever ate was a rotten lychee.
*29* Of course I wonder how closely it resembles anything that anyone in China actually eats – but, just the same, General Tso’s Chicken is rarely anything other than boundlessly delicious. Sweet, sour, spicy, a little crunchy and ever-so-slightly gooey, I wish I was eating one right now…
*30* There is only one perfect day-time drink and one perfect night-time drink, and these are, respectively, Camp coffee with cold milk, and Guinness.
Oh, and (#31)… the very best food of all ALWAYS comes from the same place. This one: