Every food writer has secret shame. I know a well-respected food writer who prefers Hershey's chocolate bars; another blogger of my acquaintance can't stand Anthony Bourdain. We all labor under a lot of expectations of our behavior.
Below you'll find five of my confessions. Feel free to judge me all you want--you will whether I give you explicit permission or not--but stop and think about your own foodie peccadilloes.
1. I love Panda Express's orange chicken.
I know it's 500-plus calories a portion. I know that in China, they'd think it was candy and serve it on sticks to children after school. I know that boiling the entire millennia-old tradition of Chinese cookery to chicken nuggets in orange-garlic-chile marmalade is an insult worthy of having me barred from Beijing kao ya for the rest of my life, but I still love it and wish I dared make it at home.
That chow mein, though, is crap, and so is the fried rice. My embarrassing dinner has to come with steamed rice.
2. I suck at wine.
You'll notice that you rarely, if ever, see me write about wine. It isn't because I don't like it or I think you shouldn't drink it--I do and you should--but I'm the world's biggest wine fraud. Whenever I'm out to dinner with a group of people, I automatically get handed the wine list, as though I'm going to exclaim, "They've got a '98 Clos du Gré Poupon! I wonder if they've cellared it correctly."
In 90% of restaurants, I can't even rely on the waitstaff to get me out of this situation, because they've got no clue either, so I end up picking a mid-range wine from a category I know I like (Pinot Noir, for example). Fortunately, I've only been embarrassed once or twice, and I am learning, but since my wife doesn't drink wine, my education has been limited to wines available by the glass.
3. I hate taking pictures of food.
When the food comes, I want to look at it for approximately four seconds before I attack it with my Eating Implements of Doom (much longer for those exquisite creations known as kaiseki dishes). I know every post on this blog here has to lead with a picture, and so I doggedly whip out my little digital camera, but I absolutely hate it. I'd rather write better prose and let you picture it in your head. If I can't do that, I haven't done my job as a food writer.
I also secretly roll my eyes as people who are better at photography than I line up the shot. I understand why they do it, and some of them take photos truly worthy of the term "food porn", but when we're sharing a dish and I have to hold the damn spoon up for two minutes so they can get a better shot, I secretly think, "Give me a break. If it's that amazing, you'll remember it without the photo later, and if it isn't, you should say so."
4. When I'm alone, I cook chicken breast hotdish.
That's right. I'm a huge foodie and a reasonably accomplished home cook with a penchant for screamingly fresh produce and artisanal, small-producer food products; I post a recipe every two weeks, I yammer on incessantly about what to do with the weird and awesome stuff I find at the farmers' market: and yet, when my family is away, I throw a boneless, skinless chicken breast into a can of Campbell's cream of celery soup and toss in some Safeway broccoli. Salt, pepper and milk are the only things that go in that recipe. I don't even put cheese on top. It goes on top of plain old American long-grain rice, cooked with just a pat of butter.
Something about that recipe is just homey and comforting to me. My grandmother, who was a very good home cook, made it occasionally on rainy days, and so when the weather turns cool, I want to sit down with a plate of this and a cup of coffee.
5. I don't like buttercream frosting.
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It's only the most popular cake topping in the entire country; it is so beloved that entire cupcake franchises have made money by drilling out the center of the cake and filling it with more frosting. Other franchises specialize in "frosting shots", which sounds like one of the upper circles of Alighierian Hell to me. It doesn't matter how perfectly made it is, buttercream frosting always tastes like sugary Crisco™, and I tend to scrape it off and leave it on the plate. The older I get, the less I like buttercream. I missed most of the cupcake craze because nobody was frosting with anything but gobs of buttercream.
I'd much rather have my cakes iced with a glaze (and please don't ask me why a topping made by whipping powdered sugar into milk is any better than buttercream, because I couldn't begin to explain it) or, even better, with flavored real whipped cream.