lately, it seems like fat has become all the rage.
paleo dietitians and fitness enthusiasts have been flooding the interwebs with all sorts of articles and scientific studies which sing the praises of blubber. in its stead, this year’s dietary scarlet letter has been sewn to the frock of carbohydrates, specifically gluten. dozens of first hand accounts seem to indicate that a fat-rich diet high in animal proteins and low in sugars can make us healthier human beings. shaky nutritional data is being tossed around like gluten-free hot cakes.
and honestly, i couldn’t care less about any of it.
how do those iron chefs do it?
super chefs have some sort of sixth sense that allows them to recognize the exact weight of each ingredient required to prepare a single portion of their dish. when they pull the curtain off the secret ingredient in kitchen stadium, i like to think the iron chefs are thinking “ok, i’ve got this licked. i’m going to need one scallop, two figs, 3 grams of cheese, 5 ml of wine, and a 20cm strip of phyllo dough per plate.” i think maybe it is a gland or extrasensory organ we normal humans just don’t have.
regardless, the portions come out perfect every time. nobody has leftovers on iron chef. the members of the celebrity scoring panel never take home extra black truffle and snow crab terrine to microwave the next day.
or do they?
this post is going to start with a little bit of unadulterated praise.
most chefs who prepare washoku in a restaurant setting have a truly incredible attention to detail, which can encompass everything from the taste of their dish to the geometry of their plating. as is the case with a lot of facets of life in japan, there seems to be a tried and true method behind most japanese recipes. some of these methods are easily explained and demonstrated, while others seem, for lack of a better word, almost magical.
i often find myself in childlike awe when watching a few of my japanese friends cook their specialty dishes. watching pros prepare foods like slow-simmered fish heads, deep sea angler hot pot, or dozen-egg rolled omelettes is mind-blowing. of course the end product tastes great. but the freshness and simplicity of the ingredients they use necessitates a borderline superhuman culinary sense. a culinary sense which can only be acquired through (what i assume to be) trial and error.
that being said, i am not japanese. i have the attention to detail required to cook complex japanese food, and on occasion i even use it. but i like to cook on the fly. i’m not much one for patient measuring, complex kitchen tools, or difficult techinques. i have a very deliberate personal style when it comes to cooking.
sometimes, that style involves getting drunk, nearly cutting off my fingers, forgetting that the stove is on, and starting a fire in my kitchen.
as the greatest song writer, performer, poet, actor, philosopher, and sage of my childhood once said, “it’s not easy being green.”
although kermit the frog was of course referring to himself and the hard road he followed to the tippy-top of muppet stardom, the old adage rings true in a variety of other walks of life. frogs aren’t the only delectable morsels who get a bad wrap for their color.
until 1871, it was illegal to eat beef in japan.
yeah, you read that right. in fact, it was generally frowned upon to eat any kind of meat taken from livestock until the midst of the meiji restoration. chicken, pork, beef, you name it. while the reason for such an edict is obviously up for debate, many historians think that it was originally put in place to prevent famine. raising large livestock, particularly cows, requires an excessive amount of land and feed which can be put to better use on humans. put simply, beef wasn’t efficient.
close your eyes for a moment and think about every type of mushroom you have ever eaten.
in no particular order, my list includes: morels, white button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, chanterelle, portabellas, creminis (which are technically just baby portabellas), hen-of-the-woods, shiitake, brown clamshells, white clamshells, porcini, matsutake, enokitake, maitake, and king trumpet mushrooms. there might be some others, but those are the main ones i can think of. honestly, i think fourteen different kind of mushrooms is pretty good right off the top of my head. what was your score?
while you are distracted with this fun little mental exercise, i guess i’ll go ahead and get to the point of this post.
true, this post is about mushrooms as i am sure you have already guessed. but this post is also about a swedish guy named carl linnaeus.
frankly, i’m not a big fan of british cuisine.
as a quick disclaimer, i’m not making some sort of grand proclamation denouncing the deliciousness of all food served in the united kingdom. britain has become a country rife with cuisine from all kinds of cultures, so much so that i have a few friends that joke about tandoori chicken being the national food of the uk. i will gladly agree with any person asserting that britain has some really tasty food.
i don’t like british cuisine because, once you ask that person who asserted the deliciousness of british food to provide an example, the first thing they come up with is fish and chips.
not mince pie. not bread pudding. not kebabs or tandoori chicken. fish and freaking chips.