On Being a Food Snob

Foodie

Someone asked me just now if I’ve always loved veggies and gourmet food. Here’s my response that I thought I’d share on here:

No, I wasn’t always a foodie. In fact, I was a lot like you a few years ago. I’d eat Mac and Cheese all the time, hot dogs, and when I went out, I got the same old stuff all the time; hamburgers, pizza, subs, stuff I grew up with and knew well. I was never disappointed doing this, but I was never pleasantly surprised, either. I never explored, never ventured outside my comfort zone, never tried to be adventurous.

But then my sleeping habit went screwy, and I’d stay up all night and sleep most of the day. One night, nothing was on at 3 in the morning, I was switching around, trying to find something to watch while I ate some chicken wings. I stopped on the Food Network because they were grilling stuff, and what they were doing caught my interest. It looked so good, and suddenly I was enjoying my chicken wings more because what was on TV was making me hungrier.

I enjoyed that so much, I did the same thing the next night. Then the next night, and the next, and the next. So on, pretty much everyday, for 2 years. I would watch during the day, too. I started learning, and then I started to appreciate food I never did before. They SOLD me on everything! Their enthusiasm and passion wore off on me, on even the most simplest foods in the world. Corn? Pfftt, no big deal, I said. But no, they’d build it up and put it on a golden pedestal. They’d caress it and whisper sweet nothings into its ears. Told me why it was so wonderful, why it goes so great in certain dishes. They told me the love that went into growing it, cleaning it, cooking and then serving it.

I’d watch shows on Italian pasta creation, Southern grilling, Cajun seafood, anything that didn’t do with baking and sweets, I was into. I hate baking. It’s stupid. Casseroles? BORING. Anyway, I digress.

Basically, I was ignorant, and when I got the knowledge, suddenly a whole new world of happiness and pleasure and nutrition opened up to me, and I’m so, so glad it did. When I go to restaurants, I rarely order something familiar. I always try something I’ve never had, and 9 times out of 10, I’m pleasantly surprised and ecstatic.

My only complaint about this revelation in my life is that I can’t try all the good foods in the world before I die, but I sure as hell am gonna try my best to.


The Proper Way to Hold a Knife

Chef Knife

I thought I’d share how to properly hold a knife. This method is taught in all the professional cooking schools, and will prevent you from getting needlessly cut (or dicing a finger off), and also make cooking a more enjoyable, stress-free experience. I present to you two pictures on how to hold a knife:

The Proper Way to Hold a Knife

Notice how my middle, ring, and pinky fingers are curled around the handle. Where’s the thumb and index finger go? It’s pinching the blade. See the thumb? It’s right on the steel part, just off the handle.

The Proper Way to Hold a Knife

The other side of the knife. The middle, ring, and pinky fingers are still curled around the handle. Now you can see the index finger pinching the steel part of the blade.

Here’s a video if you need more than pictures, click here to watch.

This method essentially makes the knife an extension of your arm, a powerful tool at your disposal to make short, non-painful, work of your food. When pinching the blade, it doesn’t need to be a death pinch, but merely a sturdy pinch to keep the blade from wobbling from side-to-side as you move the knife around. The other three fingers hold the handle.

This is why it is essential to try out knives to see which is comfortable in your hand. You want the handle to seamlessly become a part of you. It should be comfortable, non-slip, resilient, and really attached to the blade. Another factor to consider is weight balance, you really want the knife to feel like a knife, but not too heavy that 30 minutes of slicing, dicing, and chopping is going to wear you out.

Even if you chop/slice/dice/julienne/whatever food once a week, it is still very important to throw away those set of knives you got for Christmas. No, no, don’t hesitate, do it now! That Chicago Cutlery crap isn’t going to cut it. In fact, the only knives you really need is a good chef’s knife (about $150) and a good paring knife (about $75). Some swear by santokus, and those are fine too (about $150 too). The rest is just … situational knvies. Don’t throw them in the dishwasher, hand-wash them lovingly, it only takes a few seconds. Then dry them lovingly. They will serve you well for so many decades. Have an expert sharpen them for you once every 12 months, they’re listed in the Yellow Pages. Do not confuse this with honing, which should be done at least once a week, by using a sharpening steel. They don’t sharpen, they hone. Remember that.

With this method, I went from cutting myself at least once a month to never in 5 years. I cook frequently, probably at least 3 times a week, and I love it. I wish every single person who cooks knows this method, so cooking becomes more enjoyable for everyone, no matter how good, bad, or disinterested you are.

Share this method, spread the word to everyone who doesn’t know it. The world will be a better place, and fingers will be safer.


Happiness in a Box

Wingstreet Restaurants

Growing up being into spicy foods and having a father that enjoyed sports bars meant that I got to try every imaginable buffalo wing flavors and heat levels. After so many years of that, only a few places stood out, with wings that had unique flavors or unbearable heat levels (usually these kind of wings weren’t even listed on the menu and the owner/manager of the place would come out to confirm you really want to bring on the pain.)

So, a year ago, when I discovered that Pizza Hut joined up with Wingstreet in co-location to sell their “award-winning” buffalo wings, I scoffed at the notion of a major franchise actually having anything both spicy and flavorful.

Oh, how so very wrong was I. Very, very wrong. My eyes nearly fell out of my skull when I took my first bite of Wingstreet’s Burning Hot Bone-In buffalo wings. My skepticism was wiped out by pain and sheer joy. Not only were they pretty hot (coming from a franchise, mind you) but they had, what I later officially declared, the best flavor on a buffalo wing I ever tasted.

I know I haven’t tasted everything out there yet in buffalo wing land, and I’m certainly trying, but I’m not exaggerating when I saw I’ve tried thousands of different kinds in the course of my 28 years of kicking it on this blue ball of a planet.

So fast forward a year or so later, and here I am tonight, scarfing down on what I now deem as Happiness in a Box, Wingstreet’s hottest and best tasting wings:

Wingstreet Wings


The Joys of Fresh Herbs

About a month ago, we planted a basil plant in our little garden walkway.  Normally I was buying fresh and dried herbs from the supermarket, and they were pretty expensive.  I always assumed to grow your own little herb garden, it requires a lot of attention and care, but that’s not entirely true.  Besides the planting and giving some fertilizer, that was it.

The basil plant originally had about 18 leaves on it, it was sparse, but now it has hundreds as far as I can see.  I was pretty amazed.  Now when I need it for cooking, like I did tonight to make herb butter, I just went out, tore a few leaves off, washed it under cold water, and chopped it up.  For someone who is lazy like me, this is awesome.  Now I’m considering trying out thyme and rosemary in the garden, perhaps even cilantro.  I mean, why not?

My favorite part is tearing the leaves off and smelling the aroma.  Such a pungent herb.

Fresh basil