Monday, February 13, 2023

CULINARILY HEADING UPRIVER

One of the best lines seen on the internet this morning is "I am an atheist but I am praying for something to go wrong here". What it was a comment underneath is immaterial as it is multi-applicable. You can say it in your mind in any number of circumstances. And it is quite likely that you have done so after several recent news conferences, sports contests, and cooking shows. Diddy is excited about dat!

[Uber hired Diddy for an ad. Diddy don't do jingles.]


And that explains, you must understand, ninety percent of US cuisine.
Mac 'n cheese, nachos, grits, chili with beans .....
Church suppers.

Something definitely went wrong there. Because of, or perhaps despite, a huge amount of prayer. Maybe it's the people. I don't know. I mostly eat by myself these days, which is a habit that I quite unwillingly fell into after the computer company. At the law offices people weren't very social (except for the Filippinas, but they were somewhat toxic), and at the toy enterprise I never felt the inclination much. Given a choice between work companions and food, mediocre food at that, it is natural to focus on food.

Sharing food is a sacrament.
The better the company, the more culinary eccentricity can be tolerated. And one must be selective about both of those things. One of the memes on the internet that speaks to me is the one that shows a facehugger alien constructed by combining spatchcocked roast turkey with crab legs at one end, with a sausage tail, as a suggestion for preventing people from ever asking you to cook for holidays again. It's reminiscent of the multi-legged fowl made from animal parts that a hostess on Hoarders presented to her relatives.

As a Brabander (by social environment during my childhood and adolescence), social eating is natural to me, even though I am not a social man. One of the extremely few people from Valkenswaard I'm still in any kind of contact with is a restaurateur whose business has been severely impacted by the pandemic. His food pictures from catering show gorgeous plating and arrangement of food he has prepared at client events. Luscious. The man is an artist.

When I cook, presentation sometimes takes a back seat so far from the wheel that it's left idling at the station. In 東坡肉 ('tung po yiuk'), which is a lovely dish prepared both at home and in fine dining establishments, named after the famous Song dynasty poet, the classic way of dishing it up is on a bed of lettuce or baby bokchoi to sop up the thicked juices. Additionally, many cooks will leave the whole green onions with which it is cooked for fragrance in the pot, and add to the dish by including whole black mushrooms before beginning the slow simmering. So it is both variegated and delicious looking.

In the painting above I have not done that.


Braised fatty pork belly, using ginger and a bucket load of sherry. Fine the way it is. A suitable side dish would be stalky mustard greens, and a simple broth with watercress, kind of an old fire soup (老火湯 'lo fo tong'). Plus rice. And, for me, sambal. It is not to be admired except by being eaten. The colours are dramatic enough, they speak for the themselves.

Cilantro, however, would not be amiss.
If I bought a bunch.



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