Tuesday, May 20, 2008

unfashionably delicious

When I tell people that I went to culinary school and worked as a professional chef for 8 years, I think they always make the assumption that I am a trendy food snob. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, I like my good mustard, chicken stock, and kosher salt and I would never cook with anything called "cooking wine" or "cooking sherry" but I am not into trendy or fashionable foods. In fact, I think food trends to be rather silly. I mean what did the world do before the whole salt craze? I think the one food trend that drove me the single most nutty was the whole "balsamic glaze" craze that is really so 10 years ago. Honestly, balsamic vinegar is lovely and it does have a place in cooking, no doubt. What I do doubt is that it is good on everything or that everyone who claims to like it on everything actually does, you know? What truly makes me excited in cooking is really good food not really trendy food. I think a lot of unfashionable food is incredibly tasty. I remember hearing after the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11 that fine dining restaurants around NYC were serving comfort food because that is what people wanted to eat. I was so excited to hear that but at the same time I wondered, why were they not already serving comfort food on a daily basis? Herein lies the number 2 reason I left cooking as a professional chef (#1 was the hours/lifestyle) and that is my unwillingness to try new things if trying new things meant serving some unsuspecting patron chocolate covered squash or compromising the taste of food to make it look like something that food was not meant to look like. Trust me, if you put enough gelatin in most any pastry it can become a park bench... but at the cost of the flavor and texture. Besides, who wants to eat a park bench?

Having said all that, I was so happy to see Nigella Lawson's show on Food TV the weekend before last called Childhood Memories. She made a number of dishes she grew up eating and she remarked (albeit briefly, she does not blather on like me) about how delicious unfashionable food truly is. She prepared a dish called "Granny Lawson's Lunch Dish" which is a very unfashionable name for food, I think (but I love it)! I prepared it for my husband and I over this past weekend and I must say, we really did enjoy it. I followed the recipe exactly, except I made mine round since I thought it would look super cool. Actually it turned out looking like a gigantic "uncrustable" which made me smile.
I served it with glazed baby carrots. Glazed with?? That's right, balsamic vinegar, because balsamic vinegar does have a place in cooking. No doubt about it.

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