Food Notes

AKA, fun facts, discoveries and, as always, my opinion on some things.

After someone left some freshly whipped cream at my house on Thanksgiving, I discovered that it holds up for a good five days. I always thought it lasted less than a day.

_______

I will never understand fat-free half and half. Half and half is a mixture of milk and cream, both of which contain fat. You can have one or the other, but not both. Also, I accidentally bought some once (that will teach me to shop for food when I’m half asleep). The word “wrong” has never been more fitting.

_______

Mark Bittman wrote this piece for the NY Times after receiving letters about the size of his kitchen. I’ve been a Bittman fan for many years, and one of the many things I love about him is his ability to cut through the fuss over huge kitchens and expensive cookware, and get to what’s most important – the food.
I’m not immune to the appeal of a big kitchen with a six-burner stove and two ovens, and I would love to have a La Creuset dutch oven. Given the space and the money, I would have at least a few of those things. But I learned to cook on an old gas stove that had to be lit with a match; and I used to live in a one room apartment with a two burner stove and a refrigerator that was so small, all the dorm-sized fridges made fun of it. I’m sure anyone here can match those stories. I’m also sure that, if I’m making better food today than I was in that one room apartment, it’s because my skills have improved, not the equipment I use.

_______

I can’t be the only person who’s noticed that pop culture and the food media are always telling us that wine is acceptable and beer is not. Look at any issue of Gourmet or Bon Appetit. What we see is a bunch of (usually white) people sitting around a kitchen island drinking wine. In most movies and television shows, when women get together, what do they drink? Wine (maybe cosmos, or some sweet abomination that’s laughingly called a martini). Friends was often criticized for being unrealistic, but I loved that, on the rare occasion that the gang drank alcohol, they usually drank beer. (Although I suspect Phoebe would be more inclined to drink absinthe.) It seemed more fitting for them, even Monica, who was supposedly a trained and talented chef with, by implication, excellent taste in food and spirits.

This is not a diatribe against wine, and it’s not about personal taste. I’m no connoisseur, but I love wine. There aren’t many things better than a good cabernet savignon. And unlike Paul Giamotti in Sideways, I will drink some f-ing merlot. It’s about the implication that wine is somehow more civilized than beer is. I mean, either one will get you drunk. Because it’s alcohol. Who hasn’t seen someone suck down wine like it’s water, and get so sloppy drunk and uncivilized that you want to get as far away from them as possible? And I don’t know about y’all, but for me, a hangover from too much wine was always much worse than one from too much beer. (Thank goodness those days are far behind me.)

_______

Several months ago, the Times ran this article about and this recipe for a better chocolate chip cookie. Given my general crankiness and my constant irritation with the Times’ tendency to mess around with simple, classic recipes, I was surprisingly unskeptical about it. My only complaint was the recommendation that the cookie dough sit in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours. Don’t most people make cookies on the spur of the moment? When I start jonesing for a cookie, I don’t want to wait a day and a half before I can have one.

Yesterday I baked some chocolate chocolate chip cookies for Logan’s office holiday party. I was half way through the baking when my back started acting up. I had baked enough cookies for Logan to take into the office, so I put the dough in the refrigerator to see if the Times was right. I baked the rest of the cookies this morning. For scientific purposes only, I ate a cookie about 30 minutes after it came out of the oven. It was twice as good as the ones I baked yesterday – more chocolatey, with a more complex flavor.

Throughout most of the year, I probably wouldn’t make the dough ahead of time and let it sit in refrigerator overnight. But during the holidays I usually plan ahead anyway, I think it’s a great idea. Besides helping me work ahead, I also end up with a cookie that’s tear-inducingly good.

_______

I will be back next Thursday with a farewell post. In the meantime, I hope everyone has been having a lovely holiday so far.