Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tuesday Thoughts - Food Glorious Food!

There are people in this world who eat to live and others who live to eat. I fall in the latter of these two categories and I could never understand the skinny bland white food eaters who only ate because otherwise they would die. I once had a boss whose daughter only ate butter sandwiches on white bread for lunch every day. Apparently there are people in this world who only like to eat white food. And I don’t mean Caucasian food, I mean the color white as in white rice, white bread, potatoes, pasta, butter, etc. Except I don’t think there is an 'etc' after that list, it is literally all they eat. I could not live like that. It would be torture and I would die of gastronomic distress. I love colorful spicy bold food flavors that make your mouth sing and your stomach happy.

But being around lots of friends I consider “bland” eaters, I decided that I would shake them up and introduce them to new foods that they never considered and might actually like. One of my best friends for like twenty years has a very narrow range of food she eats. She has never been interested in Indian food. She has stated that not only is it visually unappealing, but the spices in Indian food would be too foreign for her palette. Actually, like many of my other “bland” eater friends, Indian food is always their number one rejection of places to consider eating out at. Now I love Indian food and I feel that it gets a bad rap for being too spicy and all curry and so on. But there is much to love about it.

Finally convincing my friend that it was in her best interests to try something new, and also threatening to hide something that would leave a funky smell in her car, we took her out to a really good Indian restaurant. Rule number one for trying out a new ethnic cuisine - get alot of recommendations and go to the best restaurant you can. While I love greasy hole in the wall places, as they usually have the best and most authentic food, it is never a good idea to start a novice in a place like this.

We started out with garlic naan, which is grilled Indian bread with rich garlic and butter that is heavenly. It came with a variety of dips and chutneys, one particular favorite of mine was a spicy mango and chili chutney that imparted heat and sweet tanginess. We moved on to Aloo Gobi Gobhi, which is my favorite vegetarian Indian dish made of potatoes, cauliflower and green peas that is so simple and yet is packed with flavor. Then came chicken wings cooked in ginger and cumin and tamarind with enough spice to leave your mouth tingling. Is your mouth watering yet? The waiter then brought a hot clay pot of our lamb biryani, which is meat and rice mixed together and my other favorite dish – chicken vindaloo, a hot and spicy chicken and vegetable dish smothered in rich spicy sauce that is also slighty tangy. Last but not least, a king prawn masala rich with onion, tomato and coriander, all served with a bed of fragrant basmati rice. Notice, there were no true "curries" in our dinner.

We ended our meal with a trio of sorbets in mango, raspberry and lemon which was a perfect icy end to our spice filled meal. I asked my friend if she now liked Indian food and she said yes very enthusiastically. She had no idea what Indian food was really about. It was such a pleasure to introduce her to a whole new eating experience. Now if only I could convince my children to eat Indian food, it could be a great family night out instead of our current standard taco night out.

My Food Hero - Anthony Bourdain

While I am no expert, I am a fairly adventurous eater, although nowhere near the level of Anthony Bourdain, who is my hero. Anthony Bourdain, who was the executive chef of Les Halles in New York, author of Kitchen Confidential (awesome book!) as well as numerous others, and current host of Travel Channels No Reservations, is at this time my favorite celebrity. He used to host a series called A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network but he left them due to creative differences. Apparently the story is that they wanted Tony to stop traveling to Asian countries and stick with countries white America would be more comfortable seeing. Thumbing his nose at them, he took his show and his production team to Travel Channel and there a hit show was born.

No Reservations is an amazing show where you get to watch Tony partake of things both incredible and heinous. He is quoted as saying, "If it walks on four legs, is slower and stupider than I am, and tastes reasonably good; pass the salt." Boy does he take that literally! In my favorite episode, Tony goes to Namibia and has the worst meal of his life. He joins a tribe of bushmen who track and kill a warthog and brings it back to the tribe to be cooked. While enjoying his pre-dinner treat of tree beetles he is caught off guard by what comes next. They buried the head in dirt to cook and pulled out the rectum which is supposedly a treat. Since Tony was the special guest, he got the excrement filled treat. Tony knew he couldn't be rude and ate it to his great dismay. Every viewer shuddered and cringed along with him.

I'm glad Tony let Food Network for a network who isn't afraid to let him be himself. While I still watch Food Network on occasion, I have never been a fan of Rachel Ray or the semi-homemade cook Sandra something or other. Tony really hates them. He is quoted as saying Rachel Ray does to food what Hitler did to Poland. He is harsh because he is a foodie - a gourmand, a true lover of food - and a great chef. Rachel and Sandra on Food Network are not chefs and have never claimed to be such. They are typical at home cooks that most people can relate to, and that seems to be the niche Food Network is pandering to. Not a bad strategy on their part, and while they continue to have Nigella Lawson and The Barefoot Contessa on their schedule, I will continue to watch them.

But as long as Anthony Bourdain is on the air, taking us all over the world for amazing and bizarre cusine, and providing us with his sarcastic, intelligent diatribes, all is good in the food world.


sherry smyth said...

my mouth is watering ello...it's nearly lunch time!! I am not a bland eater and I love to sample but like your friend I have never had Indian food...so next time you go, call me...take me with you!! From the way you've described everything I am now keen so next time friends say where do you want to go...I'll make sure someone is as well versed in the cuisine and see what I think!

Carleen Brice said...

God, I love garlic naan! Hubby's birthday is this weekend and I'm trying to talk him into Indian food, but he wants to go to this joint that I NEVER want to go and get a Chicago beef sandwich. It's his birthday so I guess I gotta. I'll content myself by rereading your descriptions of this meal. Ever do any food writing?

moonrat said...

yeah, white eating? not among my various white problems.

good thing you're coming to new york soon. there's an awful lot of delicious things that need eating and as much as i'd like to take care of them all myself there are so VERY many that that would border on hardship.

Leigh Russell said...

I'm not a great foodie and I'm an abysmal cook. My poor husband had to learn to cook when he met me, as he quickly realised that was the only way to get a decent meal in our house. He enjoys his food and he's a great cook. Is there a link? I don't think I have a very discerning palette. Friends can identify different flavours with an accuracy that eludes me and all deserts just have the same sweet taste to me. Is this why some people are more interested in food than others? Some of us just don't appreciate it properly.

jason evans said...

Indian cuisine rocks! Mint chutney is one of the highest forms of human achievement in the history of the world.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm pretty much color blind where food is concerned. Although I might hesitate at a bright blue or electric pink.

Merry Monteleone said...


I just wrote an extensively long comment on foods I adore and lost it in cyber space!!! Well, I think living in a city with a good ethnic makeup is a huge perk, because you get to try all different types of food. I've never tried Indian, but I'd never say no - especially after your description.

I'm with you, I like spice and different types of food on a regular basis. I tend to lean towards Italian and Sicilian at home, because that's what I know how to cook well, though I'm picking up some Mexican, Greek, and Southern Recipes as I go - always on the lookout for more, though.

I'll try about anything... well, except extrement - sorry, I'd rather insult the host.

Melissa Marsh said...

I tried Indian food and didn't like it. I am not a spice gal at all - can't stand any type of spicy food. Even too much pepper makes me run for the water.

My guilty pleasure is Italian - I suppose that's because I *am* Italian, but I just adore Italian food.

I have had to adopt the "eat to live" mentality because of my diabetes and my weight loss journey, but I still don't deny myself the good things in life - all in moderation, I say!

cindy said...

i love to eat too. in fact, i've got to exercise so i can eat and eat and eat. others exercise to lose weight, i've got to do it to maintain my weight and not blow up! i also am a fan of tony.

strugglingwriter said...

I definitely eat to live. Ever since I was young, I always felt like eating was a waste of time, always wanting to be doing something else (extended family meals not included).

That said, I've tried and liked Indian food and am not averse to a good meal.

Anonymous said...


Your description of that meal is absolutely tantalizing!

So my question is "Where was I?"

Da' Man
(aka your supportive but now hungry husband)

The Anti-Wife said...

Food, glorious food! Your description is superb and there's not such thing as too much garlic.

Mary Witzl said...

I read the description of your Indian meal with tears in my eyes, thinking that your friend might not like it, and if so, what a waste that would be! I am crazy about Indian food and have been making my own for the past ten years; in Japan, we didn't live near any good places, and most Japanese people don't do very spicy food. What I thought was practically babyfood had most Japanese people reaching for their water.

Everyone in this family likes spicy food. We are crazy about Mexican, Korean, Szechuan, Indian, Thai -- all types of spicy food. Whenever there is a recipe with garlic and pepper in it, I automatically quintuple the amount and it's still not enough for my eldest.

Larramie said...

What a friend and foodie you are! Such a delicious meal topped off by those sorbets had to be heavenly. YUM!

Angie said...

I can't deal with anything spicy I'm afraid. To the point that when we go to Taco Bell, I get my burritos with no sauce because even their "mild" sauce is too spicy for me. I've had servers assure me that a dish was "not spicy at all, no, not even a tiny bit!" and then had my tongue singed off. :P It's not a matter of being stubborn or unadventurous or whatever; it's a matter of not enjoying that kind of intense pain. [wry smile]

I don't care for most food shows myself. The recipe-of-the-week shows are boring no matter who's starring. If I just want a recipe, I have cookbooks and there's the whole internet. My favorite food guy is Alton Brown. Good Eats gives some recipes, sure, but the emphasis is on technique, history, food science -- the really cool part of food and cooking. :) Any cooking show that has a nutritional anthropologist as a regular guest is good in my book.

Angie, who no longer takes any server's word that a dish isn't "at all" spicy :P

Bernita said...

Left me drooling all over my keyboard.

Lisa said...

Indian -- and for that matter, all variations of eastern and middle eastern foods -- are my absolute favorite. Next time I'm in DC you have to promise to let me buy lunch for you in YOUR favorite place. As for Anthony -- LOVE LOVE LOVE him.

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