Monday, 3 April 2017

Comfort Food

For years when people asked me what my comfort food was I told them Chinese Take Out.

I thought that was my answer. So I answered it thusly.

Then I got asked why I found that comforting? 


No, no, you wanted to know what my comfort food was. And comfort food means stuff you remember from childhood, right?


Think about it Melanie, not everything you had in childhood was enjoyable, or enjoyed indeed. 

Well, I was a bit spoiled, so I was never really given food I didn't like.

So, if you like, everything I had a as a child was comfort food.

No, you aren't getting it, it's a specific thing associated with happy memories.

Well, you've got me there then. All my childhood memories are happy memories. Not that I associate food with any of them.

So, off I went on a different tack.

Comfort. I know what comfort is, it's the opposite of discomfort.

Therefore it's food I enjoy. That's a long list.

No, you're still not getting it, it's food that makes you feel good.

I only eat food that makes me feel good. Why the fuck would I eat food that doesn't make me feel good?

You're being difficult. 

I'm being honest.

You know very well what comfort means.

Actually, I'm not sure that I do. I thought I did. This chair is comfortable. It doesn't hurt. This shirt is comfortable, it's not too tight and it has no itchy label! So comfortable doesn't mean that?

No, you're really being difficult, I'm annoyed now.

Hey, you started this. Not me.

Maybe I just have a different approach to pleasure and non-pleasure. I'm all for pleasure. It feels like sanity. 

But too much pleasure can be pain. That's why I don't over-eat. That makes me uncomfortable. I hear about people who say "Oh God, I'm so stuffed". That isn't pleasant. That's fucking stupid. So I don't do it. Sorry about the logic, but I don't like being uncomfortable. Same applies to everything. Tight shoes are uncomfortable so I don't wear them. Hats are uncomfortable so I don't wear them. Long sleeves annoy me so unless I'm freezing, I wear short sleeves or push my sleeves up. I could come up with a really, really long list of things that are uncomfortable, aka things I avoid. And if I'm cold, I'm very uncomfortable. So I avoid being cold. Yes, I'm like that.

And as for food, I simply don't eat food that isn't delicious. Why would I?

Listen, I am overweight. I'm not a barrel but I'm a lot fatter than I need to be. It's genetics and there's fuck all I can do about it other than starve myself, and that's not going to happen. See comments on pleasure.

At the same time, I don't NEED extra calories. I'm not starving, I don't have any need to eat "whatever - it's food". So, I don't eat things I don't enjoy. This seems logical to me. If all that is available is not delicious, I will just skip eating. I have fat reserves. Trust me, I'll be fine. If the bun on the burger is nasty (they mostly are) I'll just eat the fillings. If the pizza crust is plain (usually) I'll leave it.

So, as I have meandered into that topic, I may as well continue. Here's what I eat on a typical day.

For breakfast on weekdays I have half a grapefruit, a slice of toast (buttered), and two egg yolks. And a glass of water. Not juice. I'm not a juice lover. If you put a glass of orange or grapefruit juice in front of me (no other) I'd drink it, but I don't bother. I don't drink milk, I don't drink coffee or tea. Give me water. Yes, cold. Yes, first thing in the morning. Because that's what I enjoy. (On weekends, add a sausage. To the meal - not to the water, silly.)

This requires more detail due to the topic at hand. I have my grapefruit without sugar added, because I have an underdeveloped sweet tooth. This is therefore a very health conscious way to start the day. BWHAHAHA. No. I eat it because I enjoy it. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't eat it, and if I had a sweet tooth, I'd add sugar.

I have my toast buttered because there's no fucking way in hell I am eating unbuttered toast. And I insist it is buttered all the way to the edges. And I don't eat the heel of the loaf because I don't like it. And I eat only the egg yolks because I don't like the white. (Are you getting the idea yet?)

These are fried eggs. It doesn't matter that they are fried BTW, oh judgemental reader, because the yolk doesn't come in contact with the fat it's cooked in. Sunny side up (still runny, just how I like it).

For lunch I have a wrap. Tortilla, chipotle mayo, some meat or fish, cheese, and whatever veggies are available. If we're out of tortillas I have a sandwich. I could just have a salad, and sometimes I do, but I'm not going to turn into a supermodel from one less tortilla a day, so fuck it.

For dinner I have whatever. A small portion - I don't have a large appetite. A child size portion is fine. I like my plate to be 50% veggies. That's preference, not virtue.  No dessert. I don't bother with dessert.

I don't snack.

To re-cap.

I refuse to eat less than this.  I don't consider it excessive, actually.

I remain overweight.

Therefore, as I clearly don't need the calories, eating things I don't enjoy is illogical.

And I have no intention of not enjoying my food by taking out all the good bits (butter, cheese, meat, mayo).

QED: EVERY FUCKING THING I EAT IS COMFORT FOOD. It keeps me comfortable. Not hungry and not stuffed. Comfortable.

I am not stupid. I know that's not what it means. I just don't do comfort the way you do comfort. You do it your way, I'm fine.

Why I Don't Make Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

When I was a young newly married woman in the early 80s I bought a toasted sandwich maker. It was all the rage, and it sounded exciting, so I thought I'd give it a try. What's not to like, after all? I loved cheese on toast but this was a bit different. Why not.

The end result was pleasant enough. And then I tried adding other ingredients. I experimented for about a week then lost interest and the thing languished in the back of a cupboard for years until I threw it out. It wouldn't be the last gimmicky small appliance I'd ever buy, but that was the story of the toasted sandwich maker.

In 1993 we came to live in Canada, and shortly after that I got a babysitting job for a child in my younger daughter's class at school. It was before and after school, but obviously on days when there was no school I had her all day. Her mother told me she was picky but easy to feed. Just make her a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. I told her that I didn't have a grilled sandwich maker, but I'd be happy to give her cheese on toast.

We both looked at each other blankly.

I was then instructed on the art of a standard North American grilled cheese sandwich. It wasn't difficult, but it seemed a bit odd. For a start it was fried, not grilled. And for this child the filling was processed cheese slices. And she ate it.

That was the only time I made them for years. For my own family I made cheese on toast. Far less work.

Internet years arrived. I learned that it was actually normal, common, and popular to make grilled cheese sandwiches in North America. Well, fried cheese sandwiches really. On a couple of occasions I decided to give it another go, but frankly, it just wasn't worth it. Cheese on toast has a much higher cheese to bread ratio (i.e. this is better) and is less effort. I could see no advantage to the grilled cheese sandwich whatsoever. More work, less cheese. Nope.

Then people started to tell me about eating it with soup. I had heard of having soup and a sandwich before, apparently a popular lunch option. Well, two lunches really. At first I assumed it was two courses, but then I learned it was served together. This confused me. I couldn't quite picture it. Did you dip the sandwich in the soup? Or did you double fist it? Spoon in one hand, sandwich in the other? Whatever, too complicated. Sandwich for lunch, fine. Soup for lunch, fine. BOTH...sounds like too much food anyway. I'm sure it would be great for a working man, but I don't need two lunches.

But to COOK a sandwich and heat up soup too? FOR LUNCH? Geez. Well, clearly many people make far more effort for lunch than I do. For me it's a quick snack. There is no way in hell I'm cooking two things at that point in the day. If I feel like eating cheese and toasted bread I have cheese on toast. I have absolutely nothing against grilled cheese sandwiches. I just don't have a use for them. If you make me one, I'll eat it, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it, but it's just not something I make.

(I've also learned that some people eat chips with their sandwiches. It's a nice touch on a special occasion, but daily? There's another blog post right there, but I can't.)

Then, I heard of people having this for dinner. And I gave up.

It is none of my business what other people eat. That has been made very clear. OK. Unfortunately this doesn't work the other way around. It is perfectly acceptable to question or berate me on my food options. Hey, it's fine. So, now you know, this is why I don't make grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Follow The Fucking Recipe

Inspired by a friend this morning. This blog was created to share recipes, although I hereby confess:

a) I haven't exactly used it very much, and
b) Much of what I write is more of a guideline than a code (said in pirate voice)

But I want to talk about recipes.

Once upon a time recipes came in two forms and we knew the difference. They either came in books - collections of recipes by established cookery writers, tested and checked by a team of people, edited, professionally photographed and published - or they came on the back of envelopes in the handwriting of an elderly relative, with thumbprints and jam on it over time. And we trusted the latter more.

These days we find them mainly on the internet but we can never be quite sure which are worthy or not until we try them. It's a bit of a crap shoot. Because of this, there's usually some feedback involved. Reviews or comments, where people before us have tried them out.

Some of these are very helpful.

"I found this very sweet, and adjusted the honey down to one tablespoonful the next time. It was better, even my children thought so."


"Yield says 2 dozen, but if you fill the cups to the top as directed you will only get 18"

Fair enough. Practical suggestions by sensible people.

Alas. Not everyone who takes part is altogether.......right in the head. My friend found one comment from a woman who objected to creamed corn because she's lactose intolerant. You can't help some people.

But what pisses me off is this:

"I followed this recipe except that I had no ground beef so I used a can of tuna, and I can't eat gluten so I substituted rice for the breadcrumbs, and I don't like spice, so I left that out, and it was really horrible. Bad recipe."

Over the years, I have discovered that people do this stuff a LOT.

I share a recipe, get told it doesn't "work" and then I dig a bit deeper.

"Did you follow the instructions?"

"Well, yes...mostly"


"I didn't leave it to rise quite as long as it said because I ran out of time...."

Well, that's why it didn't work.

Some years ago a friend asked for my lasagne recipe, which I duly provided. She said it was runny. Turns out that to get the last of the tomato sauce out of the can she filled it with water, swooshed it around, AND THEN ADDED THAT. But apparently this was a long-standing habit. Another friend told me that everything she cooked had a bland, watery taste because of her practice of doing this sort of thing. I suggested she stop doing it with every ounce of tact I could muster, and not only did she look at me like I'd grown an extra head, she said "I'm just being frugal". There's REALLY no helping some people.

But she isn't rare. No.

Almost every single time that somebody has complained about a recipe I've given them, when we get into a conversation about it I discover they did not follow it. In some way or other they changed it. Either more or less of an ingredient, or a substitution, or a step they didn't follow. They deny changing anything, but sooner or later confess they did. And then when I say "AHA!" they make an excuse.

It may seem like a minor detail (use a pre-heated pan to make Yorkshire Pudding) but it's not. If it says do this, then do it, There is a reason why it is in the recipe. Recipes are not merely guidelines unless you really, really know what you are doing.

And some changes matter more than others. If you use chicken instead of turkey, or vice versa, you'll hardly notice, quite frankly. But you can't use dandelions instead of basil, even though they are both green leaves.

Here's some "authorized" substitutions:

And don't forget that when baking, i.e. bread, cookies, and cakes etc., proportions can be critical. You can faff about with the stew but follow the brownie recipe to the letter. Even the size of an egg can make a huge difference.

If you struggle with this stuff, experienced cooks are always willing to help.

But we get frustrated with you if you lie to us about following stop it.