Stalking the Waiter

Riffing on foods, flavors and methods, that would be telling.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

MeMeMe-Meme! Ten Favorite Foods

That's me warming up to sing for my meme? Cookiecrumb tagged me for this one. I know it is part of her sneaky plan to make me be a better blogger. Bless her.

She was in a bit of a quandary as to what constituted one's favorite foods, and I'm right there with her. Are we talking ingredients? Or are we talking dishes? Do beverages count? I'll assume price is no object, although I don't seem to have a lot of expensive tastes in ingredients. Not that there aren't pricey things that I love, but they're not in my all time Top Ten.

Let's see. Ten things I couldn't live without, perhaps? In no particular order:

  • Avocados - I grew up spoiled with beautiful avocados right from my Great Aunt's tree. Every winter we got a big carton of avocados, individually wrapped and cusioned in newspaper. It's a California childhood memory. One of the things that will make me forever grateful to have been born and raised here. Then, the last place I lived, I, too, had an avocado tree. It needed topping, and the only way I could harvest the fruit was to wait for a storm with high winds, then rush outside in my slicker and paw around in the wet ivy looking for windfalls. But they were the creamiest, smoothest avocados I've ever eaten. A little bit of avocado lore - they type of avocado pit you plant won't guarantee what kind of avocados your tree will grow. I understand they cross polinate with everything, so they will always be a surprise.
    I can eat an avocado plain, or with a little salt and a squeeze of lemon, or in a salad, or filled with something yummy, like baby shrimp and Roquefort Dressing; or a scoop Gorgonzola Crême and topped with a perfect pecan half (had that on the Bateau Mouche at lunch once, and I've never forgotten it); or filled with a zippy tomato mayonnaise, sort of a Bloody Mary aspic made with a good mayo (mmm, my mouth is watering). Then there's the fact that avocados are so wonderful in sandwiches, with something salty, like ham or in a BLT (making it a BLAT); in a pita bread with Gyros, as odd as that may sound; or as a garnish for my tofu - veggie curry.
    Avocados are bland and creamy so they lend themselves to a ton of different uses. Nope, can't live without them. And if I can do a mini rant on the subject of finding a "ripe" avocado in the market...DO NOT, under pain of really bad karma, press your thumb into the fruit. Anything will dent when you do that. All it does is leave the avocado for some poor unsuspecting slob who won't discover until they've peeled it that it's full of bruises. What you must do is cup it in the palm of your hand and give it a sort of side-to-side, gentle squeeze with the outsides of your hand - no fingertips. But, really, unless you absolutely have to use it within the next day or two, why not just buy them firm and let them ripen. They don't have to be squishy to use, shouldn't be, in fact. Oh, and they're loaded with tacopherols and monosaturated fats, the good kind.

  • Rare Porterhouse - both sides of my family originated in the Midwest, on farms. That may have been a couple of generations ago, but the meat and potatoes eating gene is still alive and well today. I think a Porterhouse is my favorite steak. I like a nice Prime Rib (adored the House of Prime Rib and their heavenly Creamed Spinach) or Filet, but that's such a tender, sedate cut. The Porterhouse has its filet portion, but it's not all filet. I think it has a better flavor, too, for my tastes. And rare, well, let's hope I don't ever find myself going barking made from MCD.
    A Porterhouse can be grilled or sauteéd with nothing more than a little S&P and be delish. I like to put some really good olive oil in the pan and use Lawrey's Garlic Salt, the kind with the flakes of dried garlic and parsley in it. This is one instance where fresh isn't best. Then, do you eat it plain? Or with some kind of steak sauce? Smothered in (crimini)mushrooms sautee'd in butter and garlic, pan deglazed with brandy or balsamico, and a healthy grinding of fresh pepper? Or a scoope of that same Gorgonzola Crême that was so good on the avocado - pretty darn fine melting over a freshly grilled steak? Or Steak au Poivre or Steak Diane? Who cares if those aren't meant for Porterhouse? Live a little.

  • Popeye's Fried Chicken - Chicken, in general, but Popeye's, in particular. Oh, Baby, oh, Baby, I am addicted to this stuff. It's not an out of control addiction, but only because I have to drive about 45 minutes to get my fix. When I lived in Maryland, they had Bojangles chicken, which was the acme of Southern Fried Chicken chains, as far as I was concerned - biggest chickens, juiciest meat, best flavored batter, never overcooked or dry, and the best price. Just perfect. Then, to my great sorrow, the Bojangles restaurants in the Baltimore area were closed down, killed by the competition, that being Popeye's, a much bigger chain.
    So, with great regret, I switched my loyalties to Popeye's. And a good thing, too, because now they have them here in the SF Bay Area - not many of them, but a few. Never soggy or over-herby, whether spicy or mild, they are my favorite. They will never be as good as Bojangles, but they're far better that KFC and its knockoffs. Plus, they make a wicked tasty Red Beans and Rice. Zippy, creamy beans with buttery rice. Mmmm. Nothing like you'd get in New Orleans and vicinity, but delicious all the same.
    I did manage to make a pilgrimage to get some Bojangles chicken when I was driving across country, going the Southern route. It was bliss. It was Nirvana. It was everything I remembered it as being. If you're still around Bo, hang in there. I'm coming back for you.

  • Crunchy Iceberg Lettuce - As Cookiecrumb said in this post, "Iceberg lettuce. Do not snob out." Yes, I love the nice buttery leaf lettuces, and the baby greens and the frisée and radicchio and spinach etc., but nothing stands up to hot taco filling, or a fresh off the grill hamburger, or hot bacon in that BL(A)T, like iceberg lettuce. And nothing gives you a beautiful chiffonade like it. And nothing stands up to heavy salad dressings or sandwich fillings (chicken salad) like it either. And, in the summer when it's hot and you need a way to cool off, a nice big salad with cruncy iceberg lettuce will do the trick every time.

  • Milky, Sweetened Tea - at one point in my life, I was pathologically anemic. Every sneeze turned into bronchitis or pneumonia. In the last semester of my senior year of High School (Go Lowell!), I was so ill that I had a home nurse for a while. She got her nursing degree in England. And invalids did not drink their tea black, no. I grew up on Chinese restaurant tea, black and strong. I was too sick to put up much of a fight, but I was outraged at having milk and sugar put in my tea. Now, I can't do without it. Even sometimes in light fragrant teas like Jasmine or mint. Sounds gross, doesn't it? But putting milk in Jasmine tea is what gave me the idea for a Jasmine flavored Blancmange, which was exquisitely delicate and fragrant. So, I'm good with that preference. There's something in tea, can't remember what, that's a great antioxidant, so that's a bonus. Plus, I'm allergic to coffee, and I have to have my hot caffeine source.

  • Toast - Well, I guess I could have said bread, but I have to have toast with my tea, so toast it is. I like most kinds of bread turned into hot buttery toast. One of my favorite toast-type things is toasted French, Italian or Sourdough bread with butter and Marmite. Marmite is one of those things you either love or you hate, but I love it. And it's a good Vitamin B supplement, if you're a tea drinker, because tea inhibits the absorption of B Vitamins, or something along those lines. There are so many things that go well on toast, too, like Creamed Tuna, or some of those Sautéed Mushrooms, or a Hot Turkey Sandwich, or a Rueben or a BL(A)T. Or toast crusty bread in the oven topped with garlic and butter or olive oil. Got to have toast.

  • Papaya - I suppose this seems kind of trivial, when there are so many other fruits easier to find and cheaper to buy, but nothing tastes like a good papaya. The first time I tried one, I was stunned by the perfume of its flavor. I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but I thought I might like it. I was right. It wasn't long before I was craving papaya.
    Like avocados, papayas can be eaten freshly seeded and peeled. They also give a lovely scent to a fruit salad. Or you can slice or cube them and add them to a salad. Or halve, seed and peel them and fill their cavity with, mmm, Raspberry Sherbet, fresh raspberries or blueberries, a good Vanilla Ice Cream. Love 'em.

  • Lovely, Runny Egg Yolks - Is there anything more decadently rich and creamy than a warm, runny egg yolk? Sorry if you're one of those folks who are grossed out by runny yolks. Dip a corner of a toast point or the end of a toast soldier, with or without Marmite, into the yolk and savor its goodness. And for real overkill, I like to make a fried egg sandwich, where the yolks are still partially soft, on toast with a slice of good old Kraft American, and I am in heaven. High cholsterol heaven, to be sure, but the combination of the bland yellowness of the egg yolk with the salty yellowness of the cheese. Where did I put my drool cup?

  • Potatoes - Fudging a bit here. My favorite potatoes are the soft-skinned, new potato varieties - Red Bliss, Yukon Gold, White. I like them cooked, cut up and mixed with a little butter. I like them cut up in a potato salad. Then there are the Russets, which you have to have for baking. And they seem to make a better mashed potato, too. Or maybe it's just that that was my family's masher of choice when I was growing up, so they taste the best to me.
    And I'm including Yams in this category. I love yams, baked and mashed with garlic, sautéed with garlic, of course. They're wonderful in a veggie curry, or in a grilled veggie salad with a lime vinaigrette. And they're very good for you - lots of beta carotene.

  • Milk - I put it in with the tea above, but milk is just an essential, whether you drink it from a glass, add it to tea or coffee, make a pudding or chowder with it. And yoghurt, and cheese. You have to have milk for those things. Right? Ice Cream, if we assume milk inlcudes cream and it's byproducts, like butter, crême frâiche/sour cream? Where would gastronomy, at least in the West, be without those things?

  • Seafood - Growing up in San Francisco, I'm a fan of Dungennes crabs. But, after living in Baltimore, I also love the Maryland Blue Crabs, mainly as crab cakes. If you don't grow up with those bitty crabs, they're far too much work to pick. Fortunately, in Marlyand, the picked crabmeat, even the lump, is mostly a reasonable price.
    Prawns or shrimp in all sizes are wonderful. I love them in salads, in stir fries over pasta, in a cocktail. And I love lobster with drawn butter - simple things are often best. However, one caveat, I can't do the throwing live things into boiling water thing. I pays my blood money to the fishmonger, and he makes the kills.
    Fish, not so much, but I do like salmon on occasion, or tuna (canned, or grilled, or as Sashimi), and Tilapia or Red Snapper cooked in the Vera Cruz style, i.e., with garlic, tomatos, and olives. That is a savory, zingy dish that benefits from the blandness of the fish but never tastes fishy.

There. I think that was ten. Basically, I want my ingredients because I can cook my own meals, except for the Popeye's. I don't like all the mess involved in deep frying.

So, who can I tag? Let's see, going for variety:

  • Barb Ferrer, a writer friend, Cuban American, who grew up in Florida and will undoubtedly dazzle us all with her soon as she gets back from New York.

  • Deb Grabien, ditto, the writer and New York parts (she's a Brit), plus I hear she's a killer pastry chef.

  • Danno, an afficionado of New Orleans cuisine, although he lives in the Midwest.

  • Emi Lipe, who will be attending Greystone in St. Helena. Emi's new to the food blogging world, so drop on by and say hello.

  • Kathy, a mom who cooks and does all kinds of crafts. I first saw her cooking skills when she entered The Amateur Gourmet's fundraiser for Katrina relief this autumn. She's fantastic.

{tags }


At 4:45 AM, Blogger Clare Eats said...

I am with you on quite a few of your food choices, seafood, avacados, potatoes, steak, papaya, YUM!!!!

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

I'm honored! And with you completely on milky, sweetened tea. One of my favorite things to savor, especially when it starts getting colder.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

That was fast! Thanks for all the props.
I loved your list. You paean to avocados alone would make a neat blog post.
::And Popeye's!::

At 11:25 AM, Blogger b'gina said...

Clare, thanks for stopping on by. Yeah, my list was pretty basic. :G:

Kathy, I'm thrilled you want to participate. I'm constantly impressed with the great things you do. You're Superwoman.

Cookiecrumb, you shamed me into finishing up some posts I had languishing, plus doing this meme. I really can riff, can't I? Especially when you consider that I had to restrain myself from saying MORE!

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous aria said...

milky tea, avocados, runny eggs - major yum. we put runny eggs in everything over here. mmmmmm


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