Tag Archives: nosh


I hate celery. I mean I really hate celery. Raw celery. Cooked to mush and absorbed into other things, like soup, I can overlook. But raw? I will be a petulant small child about it. I will pick it out of my food piece by piece. And if that’s not possible, I just won’t eat it. And I won’t do that with any other food I dislike – I’ll suffer through coconut, I’ll force myself through the texture of eggs, and I’ll even deal with mint which gives me actual migraines. But I will. not. eat. raw. celery.

People who like celery cannot comprehend this – and I’m thinking of one of my relatives in particular. “How can you hate RAW CELERY? It tastes like CRUNCHY NOTHING.” (This went on for no fewer than 20 minutes.) Well obviously it doesn’t if it tastes like the blue-ribbon winner from Satan’s personally cultivated vegetable patch. So why the disparity? What’s with this? How can most of the population think it tastes like crunchy nothing (or maybe slightly salty nothing, according to some), and a bunch of us think it’s the taste to destroy all other tastes?

I think it’s genetic. Like cilantro – does it taste like lemon or soap? Or like lemons – is it bitter or just tart? I’m convinced there’s a gene somewhere that when turned on makes celery taste like a Vegetable of the Apocalypse. And I’m volunteering to be one of those subjects for the genetic study that figures this out, so I can tell all those diabolical celery-lovers that they’re wrong and Nature has gifted me with the ability to see celery for what it really is – evil.

If you’re interested in conducting this study, you know where to find me. …as long as I don’t have to eat the damn stuff.


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So I’m at Kroger, in line at the deli picking up some bologna and cheese when this man, probably about 40, walks up and asks nobody in particular:

Man: Do they have mortadella here?
Me: I think so, I’ve seen it here before.
Deli lady: I don’t see any in the case, I’ll go open a new one.
Man: Oh, thank you, so much. I’ll take a pound.

I am impressed with this guy.

Me: I haven’t had mortadella in years, not since I left New York. And I haven’t seen anyone else order it!
Man: Oh it’s so good, isn’t it?
Me: Yeah, I know.
Man: So what are you getting?
Me: Just some bologna today.
Man: (his face brightens) You know, we always forget about the simple things, like bologna!
Me: I know! I grew up in an Italian and Polish neighborhood, so I got the real stuff. And this is as close to that as I’ve found.
Man: Oh really? What are you getting? Which bologna?
Me: The regular one, not the all-beef, just the plain old cheap stuff. It’s as close to homemade out in the smokehouse as I’ve had.
Man: I’ll have to get half a pound of that!
Me: And if you like garlic…
Man: I LOVE garlic…
Me: you’ll have to try their garlic bologna. It’s not kidding around.
Man: I will definitely do that! Ah, the simple things. (Another man who I presume to be his partner comes by with some baguettes; he mentions the addition of bologna to the order and they are both pleased at the idea.) So what are you going to do with yours? Sandwiches?
Me: Sometimes I do sandwiches but I’m actually going to fry it up with some eggs…
Man: I LOVE IT FRIED! Fried bologna is the best. We had these friends in Russia who just loved it that way. We got hooked!
Me: Yeah, I grew up on the stuff, learned it from my dad.
Man: So good and so simple! Ah, perfect.

By that point the woman handed me my bologna and cheese. So I wished the man well as he ordered his own bologna. We were both smiling. Seriously, how can you not? Boar’s Head makes some seriously good bologna.

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the definition of frustration

I had strep during Thanksgiving. Like couldn’t swallow anything beyond mushy soup noodles starting Wednesday, couldn’t even swallow tea Thursday and Friday. Ended up in Urgent Care Friday afternoon. Got some antibiotics and steroids, started feeling a bit better. I managed to eat solid food (a bagel!) on Sunday. I finished up my antibiotics this past Friday, and I suspected it wasn’t completely gone because the back of my throat was still a bit swollen. But I finally felt well enough to eat real food again, so yesterday I made 2 pans of lasagna and a pumpkin pie. Not having a proper Thanksgiving dinner didn’t really bother me, but I really wanted pie. Well wouldn’t you know, yesterday evening as I was putting the finishing touches on dinner, the strep decided to rear its ugly head again. I could barely finish eating. And now swallowing tea is difficult, yet again.

I’m back to trying to eat mushy soup noodles. I’m on more/better antibiotics and more steroids. I have a reference for an ENT and the word “tonsillectomy” was mentioned. And honestly, I’m not sure whether I’m more pissed that it came back and I have to deal with this crap, or that I CAN’T EAT MY PIE. I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO THAT FOR TWO WEEKS. And now it’s sitting in my fridge, taunting me.

(And to any opportunists, no, you can’t have any.)

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sad lunch

About once a year I decide that Kraft Macaroni & Cheese can’t possibly be that bad. I mean, I remember the last time I had it I swore I’d never eat it again, but maybe I was overreacting. Maybe I was just being a snooty snob. Come on, I loved it as a kid. Can’t be that bad!

So every year my forgiving memory gets the best of me and I buy a box. Today was that day. And every year, including today, I come to the conclusion that it really is that gross. No matter what I put in or on it: ketchup, chili, vegetables, hot dogs, etc. There’s just no way to salvage it and no getting around it: it still is and always will be Nuclear Waste in a Box.

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was this review helpful? choose: no / not even a little bit

A year ago I got a Moroccan cookbook. Naturally, I also wanted to get a tagine. Because why wouldn’t I? They’re beautiful, they’re impressive, and dammit they’re authentic, and you can’t make an authentic tagine without one. But like a responsible person I decided I’d wait on buying one, because 1. they’re large, 2. they’re heavy, and 3. they’re expensive. I figured if I cooked enough Moroccan food to warrant getting one, I’d consider it and start researching. If not, then I saved myself a bunch of money and space.

That cookbook has become my go-to book, and is responsible for the massive expansion of my spice shelf, the several leftover lamb bones in my freezer, and the lovely turmeric-yellow discoloration of one of my wooden spoons. I make something from it at least once a month, usually more often. So I’ve decided to finally look into getting a tagine.

My cookbook tells me the traditional ones are made of fired ceramic, but need to be seasoned and are meant for use over a charcoal fire. Without a diffuser, using one on a stove directly will drastically reduce the life of the vessel. It also says that the fool-proof way to go is Le Creuset’s cast iron version, which sounds much more reasonable and hassle-free to me (considering cast iron is a natural diffuser).

So, I go online and start researching tagines. I know I want one that’s cast iron, glazed, and around the 2-quart range. Le Creuset’s model is $175, which is a little on the steep side for me. (Read: ouch.) Emile Henry has several models, somewhat less expensive, and apparently they’re made of ceramic with some kind of new technology that permits stovetop use, and also has a footed base for heat diffusion. These seem to be the two top models. I am considering them.

I see what amazon has. Le Souk seems to be really reasonably priced with some lovely designs. They are ceramic and need seasoning, but I consider it. I make a mental note to do more research on how involved this “seasoning” bit is.

I skip all the serving tagines, since I can’t actually cook in them, but I want them all anyway because they have the most intricate designs. I click on one of the “medium” sized cooking tagines by Treasures of Morocco, since it’s pretty inexpensive. It tells me almost nothing in the description: 10.5″ wide (nothing about capacity), free shipping, “easy to cook in it”, and that you can use it with an electric or glass (?) stove, but to use a diffuser with gas. I am assuming it is ceramic. This is probably the fourth such semi-description I’ve found across various brands.

Oh look, it has a five-star rating. That means it’s either the best product ever, or only one person reviewed it. I bet you can guess! Her review goes like this:

“I made my first tagine last night with this and it tasted wonderful. I’m not sure whether it was just because of the dish itsself or because of the cook ;-) but this was exactly what I needed. I can make authentic tagine without worrying about the bottom burning if I leave the food on too long (like a metal pot does). I really didn’t have to do much when I cooked with this. I just put all the ingredients in, mixed a few times, and left the dish to do the rest… and it was amazing. Of course it was… Tagine is ALWAYS amazing… ”

No, no this review was not helpful to me. You basically told me that you didn’t screw up the recipe. Of course it tasted wonderful – you could make it in anything and it would taste good. What do you think happens when you throw together cinnamon, coriander, and honey with lamb and dates and then simmer it for an hour in its own juices? If you have a problem with things burning, I recommend a) turning the heat down, b) watching it more carefully, or c) both. You said absolutely nothing about whether you seasoned the vessel, how well that worked, how easy cleanup was, whether it was easy to use, how well it was made, whether there were any tips and tricks needed, nothing. All you said was, essentially, “I made tasty dinner last night! Yaaayyy!” Congratulations, so did I.

The sad thing is, this is how the majority of online reviews are. Go on almost any cooking website/blog, and most of the recipe reviews will read something like: “5 stars! OMG this looks so good, can’t wait to try it!” That’s not a review, that’s a pre-view. You can’t give five stars to something you haven’t made yet.

Often on sheet music websites, I see, “This is my favorite piece ever!” Why? Was it was easy to play? Did it sound like the original? Mascara reviews are often rather enlightening and most go something like this: “OMG THIS IS THE BEST EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE IT”. Yes, and how does it work? Does it volumize, lengthen, curl? How long does it wear? How about smudging? Flaking? How black is it? Easy to remove?

But my favorites have to be book reviews. I downloaded Lord of the Rings yesterday for my new nook, and the very top review read, in its entirety: “Orlando Bloom was Legolas!!” Of course I don’t expect in-depth literary criticism from everyone, but that… come on, really?

So the moral of the story is, I still haven’t chosen a tagine. (Suggestions welcome.) And if you’re going to write a review, make sure you’re actually saying something about the product.

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you live, you learn

Things I have learned from tonight’s baking experiment:

1. Loquats: possibly not worth the effort to peel and seed, even if they are free from your friends’ trees.
2. Mini tarts bake the same amount of time as a full-size tart.
3. Using a nonstick cookie tray to hold six nonstick mini tart pans: bad idea.
4. Placing a dish towel on the cookie sheet so the tarts don’t slide around, then putting the whole thing in a 450° oven: terrible idea.
5. Dry dish towels start to smoke after about four minutes in a 450° oven. They will probably eventually catch on fire.
6. Even if you’ve transferred tarts from pan to plate a hundred times, still wear your glasses when you do it. One of them will end up on the floor. Fruit-side down.

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my only hobby

For the longest time I’ve been intrigued by the notion of hobbies. And what mine are. Because I don’t appear to have any.

Piano has long ceased to be a hobby, if it ever was in the first place. Reading, I put in the same category – I do it because I love it, but I could no more stop than I could breathing. Cooking is nice, and I like it, but it’s not a hobby – I cook because I have to, so why not make it enjoyable? And why cook something that tastes like crap? Apparently I just don’t have anything that fits in the “hobby” categories: do it for fun, in my spare time, semi-regularly.

Except baking. I love baking. And the hardcore stuff – none of this boxed brownie nonsense. I make pastry. From scratch, butter and flour, on a pastry board with a rolling pin, hand-kneaded, yeast-risen, half-day long projects of flaky goodness. I make tarts, cookies, pies. I’ve made cinnamon rolls, cream puffs, bread, cakes, you name it. All by hand, all from scratch.

It all started out with that one tart recipe. Then I bought the most amazing pastry book ever. My mixer is my favorite appliance. My pastry board is the underside of a wooden meat carving board, smoothed with a dough scraper. I have dinosaur cookie cutters; I have a nested set of glass mixing bowls, a French rolling pin, and a digital food scale. I even bought a candy thermometer – so now, not only can I make proper caramel, I can fry things. I can make donuts.

The only problem? With the (major) exception of fruit pies/tarts, I don’t have a sweet tooth. That’s right – I just don’t eat this stuff. So every once in a while I’ll get a craving for something like cinnamon rolls. I’ll spend most of Saturday afternoon making them. They’ll come out all warm and gooey and delicious. And then I’ll step back and go, “What the deuce am I going to do with a dozen of these things? I only want, like, three of them.”

So, I guess what I’m saying is, let me know if you want to be on the distribution list for warm delicious baked goods. Because the urge is striking again, and soon I am going to attempt something awesome from the pastry book, and if it works I will have a major surplus of tasty pastries.

No, I’m not telling you what it is yet. It’s pastry, what else do you need to know?


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