I write about food because I could never figure out how to write about politics. Journalists are supposed to be able to write about politics, to speak truth to power, to drill down and decipher the talking points, to explain which stakeholder can separate the wheat from the chaff inside the beltway. While I actually know how to separate wheat from chaff, when trying to cover politics, I frequently found that I was inept at figuring out what’s what. Often, everyone’s point of view seemed valid. Food, however, was something else. That made sense to me. So I started to focus on the wheat and what was inside the belt and paying more attention to the steak rather than who was holding it.
Writing about politics gives a journalist access to those in power, which can be gratifying. Writing about food gives me access to the kitchen, which I find more fulfilling. Furthermore, unlike covering politics, covering a table rarely leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Unless, of course, I am eating a nice hot and sour soup… yum; or even better – a tasty Thai tom yum.
Like all journalists, I have an ingrained curiosity. A political journalist wants to learn about new politicians. A food journalist keeps trying new dishes. As an adventurous eater, I like to think that I am rewarded with frequent fryer points.
There are several approaches to eating adventurously. On the one hand, there is, what my friend Geoff describes as eating in the interests of science.
This approach works best when I am trying to decide between two similar foods, for example discerning the differences between Cronuts which are cream-filled deep fried dough in the shape of a croissant, and Krispy Kremes which feature cream-filled deep-fried dough in the shape of a doughnut. The differences may seem subtle but that is what we food journalists are there for. As one burger chain used to advertise, “We do it all for you.”
Another approach to adventurous eating is to try something less caloric but equally trepidatious: Udder, perhaps, which I once tasted from a bizarre purveyor in a remote British food market. Or chili-speckled, low calorie, high protein, fried crickets dished from a woven basket in a Mexican market. I do this for you, esteemed reader, and I can report that neither tastes like chicken.
One other approach is to simply be on top of the latest trends. As an adventurous eater, you will be pleased to learn that cupcakes are falling out of favour, or is it flavour? I was never a fan of what are often stale lumps topped with an achingly sweet frosting. You may have seen stores for cupcakes open and close recently. Few survive a Montreal winter. In their stead, I have noticed grilled cheese shops opening up.
Emporiums featuring one dish wonders are always worth exploring, as I never know how long they will last. I remember, many years ago, a young man opened up a baked potato store in the west end of Montreal. I thought it was a good idea until I asked myself how many baked potatoes I would eat. I watch these fragile enterprises rise and then disappear. This winter, there was a great little macaroni and cheese store open, late nights only, three days a week. It was perfect for an après-movie treat, but sadly, it too has gone.
What’s next? According to the business magazine, Forbes, we might look forward to locally sourced, gluten free vegetarian pizza in 2014. To the adventurous eater, this is the food equivalent of a fiscally conservative NDP. It might be good for us but it is hardly appetizing. To make it palatable, I’d like them each with extra cheese.
Nothing wrong with a great grilled cheese sandwich.
Try this: spread a little mayo on both sides of two slices of bread. Sprinkle cayenne pepper lightly on each side. Put each slice in a hot frying pan and cook until one side of each slice is toasty. Turn the slices over. Add several slices of cheddar to one slice and put the other slice on top, toasted side down. Cook until the bottom is toasty and flip the sandwich over, cooking it until the other side is done.
If you want a panini-style flatter sandwich, take another frying pan, heat it and put it on top to flatten the sandwich. Yum.