There was an entertaining article on a women’s website recently, titled Tell Me Your Arbitrary Fashion Rules. The author had a strong hatred of flip flops and wearing black and brown together, while the over 800 comments ranged from “no Crocs” to a horror of shorts so abbreviated that their pockets hang longer than their hem.
I read another equally entertaining article about how there are so many “food rules” these days that soon enough, some people will only be able to eat air. Just think about it: Even just 10 years ago, we didn’t have to think about whether our food had dyes, whole wheat, whole grains, was organic or locally sourced before purchasing it. I’m not talking about justifiable concerns like gluten or peanut allergies, but all the other dietary dictates that come and go like the latest fashion trends.
It used to be that money, politics or religion weren’t discussed in polite company but these days, in some circles, talking about food can be fearsome. Paleo or Mediterranean diet? Vegetarian or vegan? Non-dairy or non-soy? Every trend has its devotees willing to fight fork and spoon in favour of their cause.
But these dogmatic dieticians are a bore; there’s no room for discussion. I’d rather focus on the arbitrary, those funny rules we’ve created for ourselves when we sit down to eat. For example, when readers comment on my columns, it’s often wives who say they find my recipes interesting, but that their husbands don’t like vegetables or anything new.
Call me blessed, but my husband’s favourite food is “a lot.” This allows me to fully indulge in my own quirk of seeking the unusual — and this comes through in my weekly recipe selection, though I try not to scare anyone. I’m always the person ordering the strangest thing on the menu: food is temporal, so let’s have some fun. There’s a world of flavours waiting to be appreciated (and if you don’t like it, you can discretely spit it into your napkin).
Despite my interest in new flavours, I’m perennially wary of what I can only call “foods with too many adjectives.” I’ll never order a smoky bacon ranch jalapeno burger, or buy triple chocolate S’more fudge cookies; I find that these foods — and they’re typically pre-packaged, processed goods — end up having no real flavour at all. I prefer the simple, strong flavours found in nature.
Many are too put off by the texture of food — like oysters or sushi — to try something new. I’m not usually one of them, but I am only now getting over my fear of egg salad sandwiches, after biting into one at a church meal years ago and getting a mouthful of shell. The texture of Jell-o does bother me a bit, but only because it reminds me of hospitals and the fact that I can’t make it correctly to save my life.
I love one-dish meals, like pasta or curry or salad, but if I’m eating disparate items, they can’t touch on the plate. The one exception is the holiday trifecta of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing; they will promptly be turned into a mucky mountain with the assistance of gravy. I’m being practical; my plate is scraped clean by meal’s end!
Do you have any unusual food quirks? I’d love to hear from you — if I get enough, I’ll include them in a future column. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you care to share.
For my Mom’s birthday recently, I made a delightful coconut layer cake that is “classic Andrea.” The flavour was rich thanks to coconut paste and extract, and toasted coconut garnish. That recipe’s too long to print, but this coconut cream pie looks like it would come close in intensity.
Best Ever Coconut Cream Pie
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
5 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
1 (9-inch) baked pie shell of your choice
1/3 cup toasted coconut
Whipped cream, for garnish
In a nonstick saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, coconut milk, and 1 cup milk. Scald mixture.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch together to make a slurry. Whisk egg yolks with salt in medium bowl. Temper yolks by adding 1/2 cup scalded milk mixture to yolks and whisk well. Add yolk mixture and slurry back into milk mixture and whisk vigorously over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add coconut, vanilla, and butter. Whisk until uniformly incorporated.
Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate completely, about 2 hours. To serve, top with toasted coconut and a dollop of whipped cream.