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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.