When I was young my parents talked about how life was simpler when they were kids. They bemoaned the fact that life was so busy. I remember cartoons that touted the advent of inventions that would make life easy again - you know, like the moving sidewalks and fancy appliances the Jetsons had in their kitchen. Isn't it funny how things work out? Now when people want something taken care of, the comment is usually, "there's an app for that!". All the inventions that were to make things easier have just allowed us to pack even more into the day. So much for lazy time. Even kids have "play dates" planned out for them. And there is a gizmo for everything..
Did you know that you can buy a cookie dipper? It's true, no more messy fingers when you dunk your cookie in your glass of milk, there is a tool you can buy. They come in packs of four, I guess so you don't have to dip alone :)
The ultimate sign of decadence used to be having someone peel you a grape. I didn't find a gadget for that (entrepreneur alert!!) but there is a Grape Cutter out there. And, wait there's more - it works on cherry tomatoes too!
And I'm sure you were getting tired of wrapping leftover food in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, or worse yet, a simple square or round container. Well, worry no more - you can now wrap your half-avocado in an Avocado Saver, store your half-pepper in a Pepper Saver, save your tomatoes from bruising in a Tomato Saver, and bring your banana for lunch in its own Nana Saver. Not to mention you don't need to cut into a lemon or lime to have a squeeze of juice; simply use The Stem and spritz out what you want from the pump attached to the tube in your fruit. Aren't you relieved?
Are you the kind of person who has trouble deciding between flavours? (Do I sound like an announcer on the Home Shopping Network yet?) Well, now you can enjoy two flavours at once in the new Half n' Half Cupcake Pan.
Okay, for the grand finale I couldn't resist... the yolk's on you! There is a gadget out there called the Yolkr that helps you separate eggs. Newsflash: you can do the same thing with an empty plastic water bottle. You can Google the link; Food & Wine Magazine has a series on how to use regular stuff as funky tools for tasks, which is much more fun I think.
I liked it when I was expected to use my imagination to make something happen instead of waiting for someone else to invent the solution to a challenge. Life is short, but that doesn't mean we need people to live it for us.
Have you got a cool, or a useless gadget in your kitchen? Share a picture of it on my Happy Gourmand Facebook page! Let's see just how many silly things are out there.
Martin and I are headed across the border this weekend for our yearly visit to the hamlet of Wauconda, Washington. If you are a regular reader you'll know that our trip to the Fabulous 50's Sock Hop and Vintage Car Show at the Wauconda Community Hall has become a staple of our summer. We go not only to step back in time and enjoy the sights and sounds of the 50's, but also to reminisce about our own memories there. Our costumes and the music speak of another age, but our memories of the past years have created an integral part of the fabric of our lives together.
This will be our ninth visit and we're looking forward to seeing people we have gotten to know a bit and to enjoy our favourite things about the area. We'll stop by the amazing junk and antique place in Malo and see if they have any vintage kitchen knick knacks, and we'll pop into the grocery store in Republic for some American beer and wine and probably a few other traditional Yankee treats like Tillamook cheddar and whatever the new flavour of chip happens to be :) We have to try a piece of pie before we start dancing, and the Ladies Auxiliary always has a great selection. I have a handwritten recipe for apricot pie that was sent to me a few years ago from Edna, who is in her 90s now but still bakes for the sock hop (the sales from the pies helps fund the ongoing maintenance of the hall). I haven't mastered it yet, as it's one of those recipes that says to add "just enough" sugar, and to blend the pastry until "it feels right". Once I get those elements translated, I'll post it on my blog.
Martin and I have shared this experience over the years with various people and this year is no different. We invited friends to join us who are vintage car fans, and good dancers, so it should be another great weekend. Chloae, my stepdaughter, has seen a few Sock Hops - she was quite twitterpated at 15 when one of the tall young cowboys asked her to swing dance with her. Perhaps she will bring her boyfriend with her next year, and create her own memories.
New adventures are exciting and I highly encourage them. New tastes can be added to our repertoire of flavours, and new places might open our eyes to new horizons. That is not to say that classic favourites are to be abandoned, however. There is a lot to be said for enjoying a moment that has layers from the past similar experiences that we enjoy. The love and peace we feel in Wauconda is one of those moments for Martin and I. When I bite into my pie this year, it will taste of many fond summer memories that will flood back to me instantly. As I have heard people say, "it tastes like another!" I think I will have one more, just for the fun of it.
Here's hoping you can create a great memory - new or classic - this week!
This past week my stepdaughter turned 21, and that made me think... Martin and I shared many memories with her growing up that centered around the dinner table. As I pondered the poignancy of “coming of age”, it occurred to me that the traditions around such celebrations are more about the drink than the food. Is there such a thing as "adult food"?
I guess you could take sides on this issue: there is the serious, responsible side of food that most people would class as “mature” (some might say “boring” but that just depends on your perspective, doesn’t it?); then there is the lighthearted, whimsical side of food. If there was some kind of tradition about representing the passage into adulthood with food, then it seems that the serious side would prevail.
There is an adventurous side to food too, and I think this gets explored as we start to come of age. I remember a summer in my teens where my cousin and I made Dagwood sandwiches of all size and description, with ingredients that we would have previously snubbed. Red onion slices became an exotic addition to ham sandwiches, and eating cheese that didn’t come in its own plastic sleeve all of a sudden was cool. We definitely wanted to be cool, so we tried all the fancy adult things in the fridge and the cupboards.
I think if any kind of food or drink is associated with the “coolness” of adulthood, it is alcohol. Quite often the ritual involves nothing more than the theory of “more is better”, but I wonder if perhaps the aftermath is bittersweet as we usually discover that overindulging just because you can is rather anti-climatic. The maturity there comes in learning how powerful a hangover can be; you discover that as an adult you don't need someone else to supervise. You can punish yourself for your bad behavior!
Maybe we do have rituals that are not presented at a coming of age party but are unwritten rules. As I seem to recall, once I got older my parents just took it for granted that I WOULD eat my broccoli. Looking back, I suppose it was akin to giving up my blankie when my little brother was born; I just knew deep down that I was expected to step up to the plate (up to the table?) and be a big girl.
Could we start a new trend? Maybe we should tell the kids the really cool adult thing is to drink broccoli shakes…but then we would have to set the example to really push the point home. I guess that doesn’t work, as the best part about being an adult is when you get to make your own choices. You can say, “I think I would like to relive a childhood moment” and you order an extra scoop of ice cream, or you put sour cream AND bacon bits on your baked potato just 'cause it tastes so good'…
Food has become a trendy topic. We have a TV network dedicated to it. Dining is trendy too, with endless possibilities for table décor and ambience, whether you eat in or out. There truly is something for everybody. Of course, like most things, we tend to all jump on the same bandwagon, and so there are more popular and more trendy ingredients. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a regional phenomenon, much like clothing fashions. I thought I would share a list of what has now become “overrated” in the trendy foodie-friendly cities, according to Zagat (the company that is famous for restaurant reviews in North America). Let’s see if we agree…
The first ingredient listed was ramps, a member of the onion family that resembles a small leek. It is sometimes called spring onion or wild leek. In the locavore movement, this was an easy pick, as it is native to the eastern side of North America, and its French name is where the city of Chicago got its name (there was a field of them near Lake Michigan when the area was discovered). I suppose an onion being trendy is considered too much, since it is such a pedestrian food. They sound interesting to me, though.
The second ingredient was truffle oil. It is true that oil infused with the essence of truffles could easily be produced in various ways, allowing for a huge degree of difference in the quality of the product; even the oil can be of varying qualities. It does usually leave a bad taste in our mouths if we spend much more money on a dish and discover that we have not seemingly got our money’s worth. I think that the musky flavour of truffles is an acquired taste for many people, and as such, it could easily become something people consume just to say they did. True truffle oil is pungent, and not something you would want every day, even if it is good in mayo with homemade French fries… (I couldn’t eat ketchup every day either though.)
#3 was Kobe beef. Here in the Okanagan we had our own version of specialty beef (the wine-fed cows from Sezmu have the same even marbling that Kobe beef does). Again, this is an ingredient at a premium price and so it has lesser versions for those who want the prestige but not the price; they are now cross-breeding cattle to claim Kobe status while not having 100% Kobe characteristics. I think the true secret here is eating premium ingredients prepared by a premium cook. If good food is cooked well, it always tastes sublime.
4 – Quinoa. This one surprised me, as it seemed to have just become the new thing. Quinoa is an ancient “grain” (it’s actually a seed, related to spinach and beets) that is often used in salads or as a substitute for rice. The writer of the article claimed “Eating quinoa is the culinary equivalent of wearing an alpaca poncho while listening to Michael Buble.” Well, if you like that sort of thing, why not?
Fifth, we have bacon, and this was the one food listed that drew the most comments from readers, many of them devout bacon fans. The writer claimed that bacon had “gotten out of hand”, being used to flavour everything from vodka to ice cream. While I wouldn’t suggest eating bacon every day even if you do love it, I don’t think that we can ever count this quintessential cured meat out of the diet in our house :)
Number six was pork belly, which was described as bacon without curing and smoking. Again, here is an example of cooking food well. Pork belly is not a cut of meat many of us cook often, so it’s understandable we might not prepare it to show off its best features. Chefs do like a challenge, and so perhaps that is why it is a popular restaurant ingredient. At least this ingredient is not expensive! I think the local version of pork that has become trendy is pulled pork. Good pulled pork is fantastic; like anything else it can also be very beige in character if there is no attention put to the details of the flavour or the cooking.
#7, the second-to-last mention, was fiddlehead ferns. This is a real delicacy, both in its availability and its appearance. You know when you see these things that they must be special. And either you are adventurous and you want to try them, or you think that perhaps the cook has had to root at the bottom of the bin to find the last possible green in the area. (The picture this week is a fiddlehead, in case you have never seen one.) I enjoy them as a sign of early summer, but I have to admit I couldn’t eat them often.
Last, at number eight, is “hand-carved ice cubes”. Here I think the writer might have run out of ideas, as I don’t know that I would call an ice cube a food. Sure, I suppose a big-city bartender might like the idea of a cube with as many sides as possible, so the ice touches the drink with more surface area. (But isn’t that why you swirl your glass and enjoy that clinking sound?) If I was going to choose, I think arugula would have to be my entry. As much as I love it, and grow it in my garden, it seems to have become more popular than spinach as an alternative to lettuce. I am a firm believer that variety is the true spice of life, not a spicy salad green.
Here in our less urban valley, I don’t think most of the items listed are a danger to the variety in our diets. I am quite proud of the fact that the ingredients we have lots of we do use often – Okanagan fruits are offered on menus across the region in a plethora of dishes, and our markets supply an incredible range of delights. However, I do think that we should try something new on a regular basis. Whether it is a new ingredient or a different way to prepare an old favourite, being adventurous and having fun with our food keeps us connected to the process of eating. We have the ability to enjoy our food and not just eat it to sustain us. Let’s make the most of that advantage and count our blessings.
Read more Happy Gourmand articles
- Midsummer madness Jun 21
- Good food, good friends Jun 14
- Chickens don't have fingers, do they? Jun 7
- The Wisdom of Pooh May 31
- Highs and lows May 24
- Ready, set - go! May 17
- Farm to table May 10
- Derby Day May 3
- Every season has its force of nature Apr 26
- Chocolate really is good for you! Apr 19
- Politics, religion & dinner - oh my! Apr 12
- What is the value of good food? Mar 29
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