by Mad Dog
to find a simple meal these days. The "More is Easier" school of cooking firmly
believes that theyve never met eight flavors they couldnt mix or a
non-poisonous plant they wont throw in.
|| Some people take
their food way too seriously. Hey, I like eating as much as the next guy (okay, I may not
like eating as much as the next guylook at the size of him!but I do
enjoy it the same amount) but that doesnt mean I get bent out of shape when my
radiccio touches my fennel root. Well, not unless it touches it like that, in which
case I demand to see its drivers license to make sure its of legal age.
The way people talk about chefs youd think
these cooks are spending their lives trying to cure cancer or promoting world peace rather
than putting excess pounds on our bodies while separating us from as much money as
possible while giving us as little food as they can get away with.
Dont get me wrong, I love good food.
Mouth orgasms are wonderful things. But the truth is a killer bowl of gumbo can be every
bit as incredible as pecan encrusted salmon with roasted mango chili butter served over a
bed of wilted coffee grounds and chocolate mashed potatoes. Okay, it can be a lot better.
That right there was an example of what is
perhaps the worst trend in food these days: overkill. The goal is to put as many
incongruous flavors together as possible, preferably using ingredients no one has ever
heard of. Well, outside a small tribe in a country you cant spell or pronounce,
Try to find a simple meal these days. The
"More is Easier" school of cooking firmly believes that theyve never met
eight flavors they couldnt mix or a non-poisonous plant they wont throw in. If
this trend continues it will reach its ultimate form in a food style that will be known as
The European Union passed a ruling saying Italy has to let companies import pasta
thats made with soft wheat. To the Italians this is equivalent to requiring
7-11s to stock vegetarian Slim Jims.
|| Closely related
to this trend is that of cultural cross-pollination. What they affectionately call wraps
are actually burritos filled with the most non-Mexican stuffing they can think of.
Im sorry, but pork satay, Caesar salad, and chicken soup with matzo balls were never
intended to be stuffed in a tortilla.
If you think Im being a food purist, you should check out the Italians. Everyone
thinks the French are snobbish about their food (be thankful, if it wasnt for them
we wouldnt have anything to accompany our hamburgers at McDonalds) but lately
its the Italians who are getting their pepperonis in a knot about food, and
its all about pasta.
First, lets establish that Italians
like their pasta. I know this is stating the obviouslike saying President Clinton
likes womenbut its important. Hell, they serve it with every meal, sometimes
having two pasta courses if theyre feeling particularly carbo depleted.
Some more background: Here in the United
States if you want to be trendy you look at your waiter and ask, "Is that a head of
arugula in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?" Just kidding. Actually you
ask for your pasta cooked "al dente", which is Italian for "you wont
be able to dent it." In Italy they always cook their pasta al dente. There if you
want to be trendy you ask for it "molto al dente", which means dont even
bother cooking it.
Recently, in the spirit of free trade and
general troublemaking, the European Union (motto: "Better living through
meddling") passed a ruling saying Italy has to let companies import pasta thats
made with soft wheat rather than the preferred hard wheat. Until now this has always been
To the Italians this is equivalent to
requiring 7-11s to stock vegetarian Slim Jims. Theythe Italians, not the Slim
Jimsclaim that pasta made with soft wheat cooks up gluey. You have to keep in mind
that these are the same people who have standards to define what a genuine pizza is.
What makes them think soups like Fresh Haddock or Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
wont sell here is beyond me.
|| The Italian
Standards Institute (motto: "If we had standards the trains wouldnt have run on
time during World War II") has not only issued a series of genuine pizza-making
guidelines, it also hands out a certificate to restaurants if they do it right. To
qualify, a restaurant has to use only plum tomatoes, mozzarella made from buffalo milk,
extra virgin olive oil, toss the pastry (no rolling allowed), cook it in a wood-fired oven
between 420 and 480 degrees, and put it in a square cardboard box that has a red picture
of Father Guido Sarducci posing as a chef on the lid so the crust will get soggy within
minutes. If they put barbecued chicken, potatoes, or anything even resembling sprouts on
it theyre executed without a trial.
This is a good thing. After all, if they didnt watch these things closely life would
become a free-for-all. The next thing you know theyd have restaurants without red
and white checked tablecloths, Chianti bottles without melted candle wax all over them,
and waiters who didnt try to pick up your girlfriend or wife. What next, anarchy?
Maybe the Italians should take a tip from
the English, who think food is something you eat to soak up the beer. Glencoe Food, an
English company thats getting ready to sell their soup in the United States under
the name New Covent Garden, is adapting their line to suit American tastes. While
well get soups like Spinach with Nutmeg, Carrot and Coriander, and Black Bean with
Green Chile, theyll be keeping their popular British flavors over there. What makes
them think Fresh Haddock or Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts wont sell here is beyond
But at least they arent going to
import a dish that was recently featured on the BBC television show "TV
Dinners." This particular episode showed a new mother preparing and eating her fresh
placenta, which she sautéed with shallots and garlic, flambeed, pureed, and then spread
It kind of makes you appreciate a sweet and
sour pork burrito wrap, doesnt it?
©1998 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them while eating genuine pizza.