Friday, April 15

This Week On Doghouse Riley's Doggone-Good Foodie Blog ™

OKAY, for the record: my Poor Wife watches Glee, but I still love her. So; I'm not gonna slug it out with somebody over "foodie", but I'll be happy to get down in the mud, or the Jello, or the Green Tea-infused Mango-Blueberry Chutney, and rassle around a bit. Preferably the mud, in case I have to eat some.

First, "food" comes from the Indo-European root Pa-, from which we also get, via the Greek, Fodder, Foster, Pastor, Pasture, Repast and, from Latin, via panis, bread, Pantry, Company, and Companion; that is, much which is basic, nurturing, nourishing, comforting, and consoling. Had our ancestors not been adept above all in its procurement we would not be around today to turn it into a art form, to put our resources into providing it for the world's poor, or watch Iron Chef America. So mixed bag, is what I'm sayin'.

On the other hand, the diminutive "-ie" comes from the sort of gurgling sound adults make when confronted with someone else's infant. It designates the uncomprehending. We talk to doggies and kitties, and shun Trekies. We do not have Lities or Painties, or Songies, and we put Bookies in jail where they belong.

People with a sense of proportion call Citizen Kane a great film, Jean Renoir a Titan of the cinema, and the collected works of Rob Schneider movies.

And bubbling alongside the objection about trivialization and standards-free pretense of expertise I made yesterday is the distinct impression of anti-intellectualism. Foodie, it always seemed to me, is the coinage of some middling adolescent who didn't want to be a Frenchified gourmet, and of course had no awareness that that term is inevitably misused (gourmet being a wine term; gourmand is the food equivalent ). Gastronome and epicure were sitting there all but unused, though they too connote some level of expertise rather than the unstinting hedonism of the chronic enthusiast. Nothing wrong with aristologist a little work-out wouldn't fix. Foodie comes to us because there's a certain class of teevee viewer who wouldn't be caught dead saying "connoisseur" in mixed company, even though "foodies" are, by domestic definition, at any rate, fussy. They are welcome to the term. But they should not be encouraged by their brethren with triple-digit IQs.

For that matter trencherman, with its hint of the knife and fork replaced by mattock and shovel, seems an almost perfect fit to me, though I suppose it would be rendered trencherperson before nightfall.

A couple other details (there was such a wealth of raw ingredients from Megan yesterday that one could hardly sift through them): first, I'm slightly flabbergasted to hear Narya say she was taught the water displacement method. But I think the real question is why. It makes sense as a holdover from someone churning his own; it makes technical sense to weigh, rather than measure, in that the water content of butter varies a good deal. I admire frugality, competent husbandry, and scientific notation, but I question whether that was going on very much by the time the Fifties rolled around. Urban dwellers ("urbies") had their butter delivered, and variation in quality, like variation in weight, soon became conveniently forgotten. I buy quality butter, but I don't ever consider how the water content might vary. And a packaged one-pound block is pretty easy to cut accurately into fourths.

As for the use of a duster, well, no doubt many were used as Megan incompetently demonstrated, but her point was the remarkable superiority of the machines invented in anticipation of her own birth. If I'm sifting 3-1/2 cups of flour I use a sieve the size of a colander, and I'm done in less time than it takes to open the bag. And I didn't mention (embarrassment of nouveau riches, again) that you're supposed to measure after you sift, so a quick spin in the processor requires you to figure out a way to pour it into a measuring container somehow. I'll race her any day.

And then there's this, which I specifically ignored yesterday:
At least I use my pricey equipment: although my husband may be the world’s leading expert on frozen chicken tenders, we do eat something cooked from scratch more nights than not.

and which is, I think, the crux of my argument: the convenience of frozen chicken is not in the preparation, but in having the ingredient around with a more-than-three-day shelf life. Chicken tenders take fifteen minutes from scratch, if that. Ain't you gonna make a salad or something to go with those frozen deals? Slice two chicken breasts, flour 'em--don't use that sifter--and saute for ten minutes.

I don't spend more than thirty minutes in the kitchen very often. Fish cooks in minutes; tilipia is farm-raised and amenable to just about anything you'd like to do to a filet. I've done it a dozen ways, and buy it whenever it's on sale; what's left over from fish tacos one night is a cold salad ingredient two nights later. Pork roasts take an hour, and the most you have to do is marinate and brown first. Roast chicken takes 2-2-1/2 hours, but it's five minutes trussing time, and, if you're obsessive, three or four bastings in the final hour. And then you've got three meals and a couple lunches. Stir fry. Main-course salads. Imagine™ organic free-range low-sodium chicken stock is as good as what I can make. Onions, garlic, fresh tortellini, and some fresh spinach and you've got a soup that's a meal. The no-cook lasagna works perfectly.

Megan's kitchen, if that is Meagan's kitchen, looks more utilitarian than fancy-schmantzy, and good for her. But she doesn't know how to cook, and she ought not to be adding to the wealth of disinformation and unfortunate eyeglass choices already out there. You're not going to learn to cook from The Food Network. You're sure not going to learn to cook from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because you're going to bog down rapidly. If you'd just study the Introduction you'd come out ahead, but without recipes. And recipes is what the illiterate cook is all about. Technique and preparation is what a good cook is all about. You're a good cook when you can open your refrigerator at five-thirty and produce a good meal at six-fifteen. And when you don't have to justify the cost of your knives.


Kathy said...

I like stovetop cooking: stews, soups, chilis, pot roasts and so on. A type of low-labor, plenty of fuel cooking. I enjoy the preparation, measuring liquids, cutting, dicing, chopping veges & herbs. It's fun. I like hours of stirring and sniffing the aroma, adding a touch of this or that, peering at my spice cupboard and wondering if a pinch more nutmeg would be good in the stew... should I risk trying the leftover red-wine or not (I did destroy a stew by adding red wine. Cheap stuff I guess, turned the stew nasty & bitter; it just couldn't be salvaged).

Baking is fun, too. I'd forgotten about "aerating" flour till I saw ArgleBargle messing with a processor. My Grandma shook her flour in a paper bag. Mixed bread and pie-crust dough with her -gasp!- fingers!

Doghouse, you make 'quick cooking' sound fun, too.

mndean said...

"trencher" would be just fine, it was used by Wodehouse although often modified as "avid trencher". Next time I see a foodie I'll mention they're a trencher.

Dr. Harl Delos said...

If you can open your refrigerator at 5:30 and have a meal at 6:15, you're not cooking, you're re-heating.

You're right, you don't learn to cook from the Food Network. They don't have a recipe for ANYTHING that doesn't start out with putting garlic cloves in olive oil.

If you're going to roast pork, for heaven's sake do it right. Give it four or five hours at 260F. It's not like you have to be standing over it every minute; you can hitch up the horses and plow the bottomland while it's cooking. If you're making bean soup, give it a minimum of twelve hours.

The Maillard reaction is the primary reason why cooked food tastes better than raw food, and it doesn't work instantly. If you insist on "cooking" in 45 minutes, pull something out of the deep-freeze and warm it up, and do the real cooking on weekends, so there's something in the deep-freeze to warm up.

Narya said...

Maillard reaction (or caramelization) in a nutshell: brown food tastes good.

IIRC, my mom (and grandmother, who was an excellent cook and baker as well) used the water displacement method for shortening, mostly--which is actually easier than scraping shortening out of a measuring cup. So that would mostly have been for pie crust, because otherwise, it's butter, baby.

Actually, I CAN cook something in 45 minutes, and I'd call it cooking rather than heating, though I do see your point. But I take great pleasure in things like bread, especially breads that use a preferment of some kind, that take their own sweet time to be ready. And as for baking, when you'd ask the chefs how long to bake something, they'd say, "Until it's done."

Kathy said...

When I read about the shortening "displacement" (via ArgleBargle, tho she sneered at it) technique I thought "what a clever idea, and the cup won't get quite as sticky, either! So old ideas are still good ones.

Unknown said...


Kathy said...

Doghouse, if you start a FOOD blog, I'd read it. Even try recipes.

heydave said...

there was such a wealth of raw ingredients from Megan yesterday that one could hardly sift through them...

I get it!

desertscope said...

I'm glad someone has said it. The first time I ever came across the term "foodie" was, in fact, in a McArdle article. From a more simple linguistic interpretation, I would have considered it to mean, "one who regularly consumes food." The category includes, in other words, nearly every member of animalia.

As far as that particular article went, however, I think what she meant was "ignorant food snob" or "pretentious culinary idiot." Of course, Ms. McArdle lacks the self-awareness to note her own ignorance or idiocy. I defy anyone to successfully differentiate between Dead Sea salt and Mediterranean Sea salt.

I fear that if I ever heard anyone use the non-word "foodie" as McArdle does, I would be unable to resist the urge to emit a loud "Shut the fuck up."

Also, are the non-words "airie" and "waterie" taken? I am really into air and water as well.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Riley, I second that food blog idea. At least walk us through roasting a chicken.

Anonymous said...

You have a mistaken impression: gourmet means a connoisseur of food and wine, someone with an educated palate. Gourmand just means someone who eats a lot.

Kathy said...

I watched her video up to the part where she says that in the olden days they didn't have "standardized" measuring cups. (All hail the invention of the measuring cup in 1971!)Then I turned the sound off. Gad, what a cluttered mess her kitchen is. Why so many pots & pans, there are enough there to furnish a good-sized restaurant kitchen. I have a specialty pan: for omelettes.

77south said...

If furries are people that dress up like animals and get freaky, wouldn't foodies go to conventions at hotels on the edge of town where they dress up like omelets and pork chops and tortellini?

Vivek said...

I do take one bit of issue, Riley: roasting a chicken doesn't *need* to take 2-2 1/2 hours, but it depends on personal preference. I like a variation on the Keller method: 425-450 degree oven, truss and salt/pepper the chicken, stick it in a skillet, and put it in there, with no basting (though I may, on occasion, stuff or brine the bird if I think about it in advance). Takes roughly 45 minutes (obviously this depends a bit on the exact size of the bird, but it's never taken me longer than an hour)+resting time, and you get a marvelously crispy skin.

StringonaStick said...

Hmm, I hadn't considered the anti-intellectualism issue, though that certainly makes sense, considering how MEgan is a shill for the crowd seeking to make "elite" into a dirty word.