Sunday, September 16, 2007

Edible Skeletons in Kitchen Closets

I was tagged for a meme. How exciting is that? I feel all bloggerly and validated. Someone out there in the great big bloggy world cares to know what 5 foods I am ashamed to love.

It’s a neat concept for a meme, but one that I have a bit of a problem with. I don’t need to add to my reputation of food snobbiness. I think there is equal beauty in a perfectly ripe, sweet and juicy plum with a crackly, taut skin and a masterfully prepared complex dish with 50 ingredients and 30 garnishes. I don’t like to judge food on anything beyond its merits.

That said, I will now release all my nasty food habits out into the open. Let them run around and make friends with one another.

1. This skeleton may already be out of its closet, but I love Cheetos. I do. I love them. I don’t really know what they are or what they are made of, nor how they get to be knobby, crunchy, and day-glo orange, but I love them. I love how the
neon-colored fake cheese gloms onto your fingertips. I love scraping it off with my teeth once a thick enough layer has accumulated. So good and so bad all at the same time.

2. I love burnt cheese. You know when you’re making mac and cheese or baked brie, and just a little bit of the cheese spills its way onto the baking sheet and gets fried into a hard, slightly bitter and massively salty cracker? That’s the bit I love. I will stand there picking at it, chipping it off the metal sheet, shard by crispy little shard. The mac and cheese is a poor consolation prize after all the burnt cheese is gone.

3. Ok, it’s now time for scary “ethnic” stuff. [As an aside, I find the word “ethnic” to be one of the most cringe-worthy in the English language and borderline offensive. It’s a remarkably efficient way of setting someone apart, making them feel different and left out. Speaking as an “ethnic” person, of course.] I love pickled herring. I know I am fulfilling about 15 different stereotypes by saying so, but I do, I love herring. Russians serve it doused with vegetable or sunflower oil, with sliced white onions and occasionally minced dill on top. My hands smell of fish for a whole day afterward, but I don’t mind. I guess I am just ethnic that way.

4. Every five years or so, I find enough time to make my own chicken stock. I really like doing it. It makes the house smell good and it reminds me of my Mom’s cooking. She used to buy chicken drumsticks for stocks (now she bad-assedly dismembers whole chickens for the purpose… I have a long way to go before I can even pretend to do that). I loved, and still love, to eat the resulting plain boiled chicken, with some mustard or horseradish. It’s not a particularly bad or disgusting food habit, but it is a really boring one. It’s boiled chicken. Period. But it reminds me of when I was little. More than anything else I cook for myself, boiled chicken drumsticks (possibly the most un-photogenic food in all creation) send me back home.

5. Last one. I should make this one good, right? The grand reveal? The complete gross out? Ok then. It’s not so much a food as an approach to food. I hate utensils. Really, I do. I cannot stand forks, spoons are ok, knives are instruments of dining torture. All the pomp and circumstance and watching where you put what and how you hold it in your hand, blah blah blah. I may be rebelling against my old world upbringing or embracing all the Indian food prepared by my best friends and their Moms over the many years (close to two decades!) of our friendship, but I think food tastes better when you eat it with your hands. You get to feel its weight, its texture. You taste more of it because it’s not scalding hot… And frankly, it’s more fun.

So there you go. When no one is looking, I am eating Cheetos, herring, and boiled chicken with my bare hands, while picking at burnt cheese. How’s that for attractive…


JC said...

I like those spicy Cheetos with the red powder on them, although I have gone about 10 years between Cheeto feasts. I used to really love those poofy cheese balls that come in a can! You gotta love Cheeto hands!

I like burnt cheese too. I like to pick the little burnt blobs off of pizza crust and pop them in my mouth.

The no utensils thing kind of surprised me. I dislike all the etiquette surrounding utensils, but aside from the normal stuff like sandwiches and finger foods I usually use utensils. Except with Ethiopian food!

coturnix said...

Do you use chopsticks?

Let's have a food-fight next time we meet - no utensils allowed!

And there are only a few spots left so I hope you have signed up by now (I don't know if utensils will be obligatory or facultative...).

Anna said...

JC - Ooooh I love the spicy Cheetos! I wish they were spicier though. They are a little sissy for my taste, when it comes to spice. Etiquette feels so constraining. It can sap the life out of a dinner for me every once in a while.

Bora - I love chopsticks! I would still pick fingers over chopsticks, but I do love them. I did sign up for the food blogging event! I am very excited about it. All it took me was changing a flight, renting a car and finding a hotel room. All in a day's work :) Will I see you there?

JC said...

You're right, the Cheetos aren't very spicy. I had some of these potato chips last weekend. These things were super-spicy!

aimee said...

If I ever have you round for dinner and serve lasagne or some other baked cheese involved'll notice that I take a while joining my guests. It's because I'm scraping all the burnt cheese onto my plate. Or more likely straight into my mouth.

Food is so much better when you use your fingers. Or other bits of food, even. I love eating curry by scooping it up with chapatis. Brilliant. It's the intimacy of it I think, same as sharing platters with other people. There's something really lovely about all digging in together. Except if you're all after the burnt cheese of course; then it's war!

Hillary said...

I say you need not be ashamed about any one of those secret loves! In fact, I agree with all but maybe the pickled herring...haha.

leena! said...

Utensils suck! I am totally on your boat. Maybe its the Indian heritage in me, but I think its just my inner child that loves licking food off my hands and getting messy. The only downside is when I forget what I'm doing and scratch an itch in my hair. Then its just plain nasty.

coturnix said...

I'll be there. Renting a car? Why? This is the South, land of hospitality - of course I'll pick you up at the airport and take you places. Just e-mail me....

Anna said...

JC - Those chips look awesome! Where are they sold?

Aimee - I am glad that the burnt cheese fetish is not mine alone. Makes me feel a little better about my deviance :) I agree whole heartedly about sharing and digging in (in a civilized way, of course) being one of the great things about sharing a meal.

Hillary - Yea, I was afraid the pickled herring might get some people! You have to be born and raised with it. It's not the kind of taste one can grow to like, I think.

Leena - Ha! I totally sympathize with the hair. Having to be mindful of your hands at all times is the one drawback to eating with your hands. I don't think people realize that there is technique involved in eating with your hands, certainly when it comes to Indian food. I still look a little stupid trying to do it the proper way, but at least I don't drop as much stuff on myself.

Bora - Thank you! That is very kind of you.

lbjay said...

Cheetos certainly qualify as a guilty pleasure. Maybe not on the level of, say, pork rinds, or maybe if you enjoyed crushing them up into your peanut butter sandwich, but OK.

That boiled chicken sounds dreadful indeed.

I'm not sure if can give you credit for the burned cheese. Does it qualify if the Italians actually have a name for it? I guess it depends on what level of doneness we're talking about.

Anna said...

Ok, fair point. The problem is that I was kind of struggling to come up with 5 things! That's so awful, I know, but I don't eat a lot of processed food and it's kind of difficult to make natural things gross. It really is.
Pork rinds? Not so much. I am willing to give them a shot, but that's as far as I will go. I am pretty sure I would have to have a couple drinks first though.

Anna said...

More justification - I had (have? Don't know) a friend who found burnt cheese to be completely gross. Maybe that's why I still think of it in those terms. I am still lame for not having 5 good things to be embarrassed about, I have to agree with you. I need to work on that.

Rachael said...

Herring rocks. Everyone knows that. Well, everyone with sense...


Great list!


Anonymous said...

Curse on you Anna, curse on you!

Right after reading your post, I couldn't help stopping at CVS on my way home,to get a pack of my beloved orange sticks, indulge in them until one's got to dig deep inside the pack and peek down to get sure there's none of the crunchies hiding at the corner. And the result, another 1440 Kcal to burn.

Curse on you Anna, curse on you!

Anna said...

Rachael - Ooh you like herring as well?? Cool. Even my family won't eat it.

Hello mystery commenter - Those things are so stupidly addictive, aren't they? I can't stop. Especially if there is beer involved. Talk about calories... Sorry to have contributed to you falling off the healthy food wagon.

JC said...

I bought those chips at a bar in Dallas. I don't recall seeing them at any stores around here that I've been to, but maybe they have them at some of the larger grocery stores?