Posts Tagged Cooking

Just Like Mamma Used To Buy

Two varieties of ginger as sold in Haikou, Hai...

It's not even like there's only one kind of ginger

I had a sudden flash of insight into why some children are such finicky eaters. It’s consistency. Modern food is too consistent.

Kids are dubious about new tastes. For good reason – they are born into a world that consists mostly of things you shouldn’t put in your mouth. The corollary though is that once they’ve tried something a few times and found it to be safe, they become keen on that.

That’s not a problem with home-made food. Even cooked to the same recipe by the same person, even when prepared by an expert chef, flavour varies. Personally I’ve never cooked the same meal twice. Hell, my spaghetti sauce rarely comes out the same colour. Not so with prepared foods. To encourage customer loyalty, the inevitable inconsistencies of the natural flavours are drowned out by simpler artificial ones. The only remarkable change in the taste of branded food for the last few decades was when US bottlers of soft drinks switched from cane to corn syrup, and merely swapping between minor variants on the theme of pure sugar almost caused war.

The upshot is that more and more now kids don’t develop a tolerance for variation, and so a broader flavour palette. Instead they become convinced that only certain tightly-defined tastes are tolerable.

This occurred to me today because I bought a ginger cake. It’s a nice ginger cake. You can really taste ginger, which is good in my book. It’s moist and sweet and very traditional. By most objective criteria, I’d be willing to claim that this was an excellent – even an ideal – ginger cake.

But it ain’t a McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger Cake.

Reader, I was that child.

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Shiny, Shiny Shark

iridescent shark catfish Pangasius hypophthalmus

Weird-looking fish

I know I’m writing about dinner a lot this week, but it’s really not my beat. I have friends – Domestigeek, Zucchini and Aubergine – who blog about food far more entertainingly than I ever could. Because they write better? I would deny that of course. But they sure as hell eat better.

OK, the days are over when I regarded beer as the staple and takeaway fried chicken as the health supplement. Seriously, I lived that way for years. Well, I say lived. Nowadays I’m a reformed character, all fruit and nuts and vegetables and cereals. But though my diet is healthy, it’s still not really interesting. There is only so much you can say about bran.

Today though was an exception. Today, I ate iridescent shark.

This is not a 60s band from San Francisco, it’s a type of catfish farmed extensively in Southeast Asia. I understand it’s fairly common in the US where it’s often called tra or swai, but it’s pretty much unknown here and was being offered under its taxonomic name pangasius. At an introductory price of just one euro a fillet too – but really, they had me at the Latin.

Even better, the place was about to close so she gave me the remaining four for the price of two. Mushrooms also being on special offer, I bought a punnet and grilled the whole lot together with butter and just a cheeky sprinkling of mélange d’herbes. The fish was pleasantly unusual. A little earthy, though not so much as catfish usually is, but quite sweet and fatty as well. I didn’t think I could eat four of them, but it was just exactly enough to make me feel sinfully stuffed. And all for three euro.

My cooking tip of the day then: Buy weird-looking fish they’re about to throw out.

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And Now For Some Random Facts

Huge ocean sunfish (mola mola) at Outer Bay ex...

In German, the sunfish is sometimes known as Schwimmender Kopf, or "swimming head"

Jell-O is the official state snack of Utah. This is the sort of thing you could make up and people would believe it, but in this case it happens to be true.

Vegetables and fruit served in savoury jelly is sometimes called “congealed salad“, possibly the worst name ever given to something you expect another human being to eat.

Jell-O and other brands of jelly are made of collagen extracted from the boiled bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as cattle and horses. Though contrary to popular belief, there are no hooves in it.

So that’s a relief then.

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