Sunday, August 12, 2012

Modern food thoughts #1

(hand written in the states and transcribed now)

I guess I have spent too much time while in the US watching food network. Though in some ways not I have been enjoying the competition element of the show "Chopped". A show that starts with 4 contestants and a mystery basket with 4 ingredients and a timer to make an appetizer. The next round it is 3 contestants and a new basket to make an ente and the third and final round is 2 contestants and a new basket to make a dessert. After each round a contestant is "chopped" frm the competition. I am trying to think of ways to run a competition like this with medieval foods and an outdoor setting! This would be fun!

Anyway what really prompted me to put pen to paper is the breakfast I just had. I have always thought it was the one meal of the day that a person couldn't majorly screw up, but I was wrong! How does this relate to the show? Well, on the show they are usually talking about finding a harmony of flavors with the 4 ingredients or making them some how part of a whole. My breakfast was not part of a whole. It was horrid! the eggs tasted plain, no butter or bacon grease flavor, the sausage was from a box frozen and overcooked, and the homefries were seasoned to heavily and only on one side of them and no onions! though that may be a local thing.

All of this though did get me thinking of medieval cooking and the fact that while redacting we are looking for balance of flavors. Stepping out of the box and going out on a limb to try to achieve what we think is "their" flavor. Stepping beyond the modern palate and into the unknown.

My first venture was balancing mint and garlic in an eggplant dish (talk about in an earlier post) Trying to balance the heat of garlic with the coolness of mint and not have one overpower rthe other and also not having them muddle together into a mess.

How do we do it though? I know I have talked about the "to taste" before, and how will we ever truly know what "to taste" is, but have our mouths changed that much have our tastebuds "evolved"? Probably not. We still crave the 3 same basic things that have kept us alive for millenia, Salt, Fat and Sweet. These flavors are still the ones that appeal to us the most.

Back to the breakfast I ate, my eggs had little flavor. Why? Probably for 1 they were old and 2 they were not cooked in enough fat or a flavorful fat like olive oil, butter or bacon grease. Try this experiment at home, cook 4 eggs, in the first barely wipe the pan with a vegetable oil so it won't stick, second use butter, the third use bacon grease and the fourth use olive oil. you only need about a teaspoon to fry in but the more the better :) My bet is that the higher fat eggs will traste better and that overall the palate will be happiest with the one cooked in bacon fat because it gets both fat and salt. The most common fats of the time for cooking were rendered anomal fat, butter and olive oil. They were used to cook the food as well as enhance flavor of foods.

The media talks about diet and obesity and why it  is on the rise but rarely does it talk about the why of it. Talk to a person who is "dieting" and they will talk about food, the foods they crave, the foods they miss most because they feel they have to cut them out, and most often you will find that they are sweet, salty or fatty or a combination of flavors like chips that are salty and fatty or cookies that are sweet and fatty. The something and fatty is the perfect combo as fat transports flavor.

Anyway just thoughts....