Calling all foodies

I want to thank Times and Seasons for the opportunity to blog over the past two weeks. It’s been very interesting, and I’ve profoundly grateful to everyone who commented. I’m especially thankful for all of those who provided the many thoughtful, well-reasoned counter-arguments, as talking to people who disagree with you is one of the best ways to learn. I’ve also gained a great deal of respect for those of you who blog regularly. It’s not hard to start an active thread if you’re talking about a controversial topic; it’s much harder to be insightful on a regular basis.

For my last thread, I want to ask about something trivial but dear to my heart. When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I took over the cooking responsibilities. I kept cooking because I like it. It’s completely different from what I do at work, and I find it useful to have a hobby at which I sometimes succeed and often fail spectacularly; it’s very effective at keeping the ego in check. Come to think of it, it’s not that different from blogging. I know many of you are passionate about food. What was the best meal you’ve ever had? Or, if you prefer, what is your favorite recipe?

45 comments for “Calling all foodies

  1. The most memorable meal I have had was in the Gaza Strip with the women of a refugee family. We sat on the floor and ate flat bread, ta’amiyah, feta, labnah, hummus, tahina, and plenty of vegetables. It wasn’t fancy, but it was delicious and delightful.

    This also reminds me of the worst meal, which was at a little restaurant in Jerusalem. I had shwarma, which left me so sick for the next two days that I couldn’t eat or go to class.

  2. The best meal I’ve ever had? Very hard to say, party because I have a poor memory and simply am not capable of reconstructing and evaluating my whole history of food consumption, partly because “a meal” is more than the food–it’s the ambience, the company, the whole experience. Fine foods may be part of a great meal, but aren’t necessary to it.

    More narrowly speaking: what’s the finest meal I’ve ever had? Hands down, the evening with our mutual friends Scott Craig and Nick Zukin at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, last September. I promise I’ll blog about it someday.

  3. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the best meals. Only the horrible ones…Like the time my family, along with a refugee family we’d sponsored from Laos, butchered our own chickens, and the Laotians cooked the chicken head. The youngest son, who was about 8 years old, ate it. It actually wasn’t that bad, but I couldn’t eat any of that meal.

  4. Okay, since nobody wants to actually name some food, I will offer the first: black beans and eggs with fried plantains accompanied by either fresh corn tortillas or french bread. That was the staple meal in Guatemala (mission) which I hated when I got there and now crave it more often than any other meal. It’s not the best meal I’ve had, but it’s the best regular meal I have. There is a nice brand of canned black beans which is made in Guatemala called Ducal. Mmmmmmm… It’s also a lot of fun to make my own tortillas with Maseca mix. Fried plantains are hard to get just right. You want them mushy but crispy around the edges. Slop all that onto the tortilla and you’re set. I’m sure Danithew and Kaimi can back me up on this one.

  5. I enjoyed your stint as guest blogger. However hard you found it, you made it look easy. Nice work.

    When my wife gets pregnant, I also do a lot of cooking, and everything I cook nauseates her. And my personal taste still doesn’t extend far beyond dry cereal (mostly during sacrament meeting) and potato chips. Therefore, all I feel comfortable saying is that its hard to beat a bag of Lays, unless you want a dip, in which case go with Ruffles. But if you’re driving, Pringle’s a the best choice.

  6. A recipe:

    Stuff large pasta shells with ham, chicken, spinach, parmesan, ricotta, and mozzarella. Bake in a pan lined with sun dried tomato-infused alfredo sauce. Bake, top with dinely diced tomatoes and serve.

    A meal:

    anything from The Blue Nile in Berkeley.

  7. A meal is so much more than the food. Best meal with my husband’s family: My M-I-L’s chicken and dumplings. They’re not what most people expect. The dumpling is immersed in the chicken broth and forms a gravy then the chicken is added back to the mixture at the end. It is amazing, light fluffy dumplings covered with gravy and tender chicken. Best meal out: I haven’t had it yet, some have come close, however, like Australian Lobster Tails at King’s Fish House, Carlsbad CA.

    The best meal I’m anticipating is at Veritas in New York. The chef there is an amazing chef and my mouth waters just thinking of dining at his table. It should be sometime in 2005, probably Oct/Nov during the Fancy Food Show.

  8. Russell writes:
    ““a mealâ€? is more than the food–it’s the ambience, the company, the whole experience. Fine foods may be part of a great meal, but aren’t necessary to it.”

    Very true, and part of what I had in mind. Amira’s post about sharing a traditional middle eastern meal in the Gaza Strip is great both because of the cuisine (actually, mezza is one of my favorite meals too) and also because of the circumstances.

  9. Guatemalan ex-misioneros unite! I’ll certainly support what Rusty has said about black beans, eggs, bread, etc. To that I’d add morcafe, little sweet breads (panes — which I recently found were made at Harmons of all places) and tamales. I enjoy all those foods. Fresh tortillas with salty crumbly white cheese was always a great snack to eat while studying scripture in the morning. At least that’s what I used to do every morning for the six months I was in Esquipulas.

    Like Amira I’ve had some memorable meals in Gaza. My hometeaching companion and I used to visit a family in Rafah (southern Gaza) once a month for a couple of years and we would have a sacrament meeting with the Mormon family there. They always served lunch for us afterwards and every time it was wonderful to try a variety of authentic Arab-Palestinian dishes.

    My mom used to make the best whole wheat bread in the world and usually when it was fresh out of the oven, a loaf of that bread was a meal by itself (usually devoured with margarine and honey spread liberally across it).

    Bryce I.’s mom makes the best Sunday meals you could ever eat. Just ask him. She also bakes delicious pies. Actually she’s a fantastic cook period. It’s been years since I’ve eaten over there but as a kid it was always a welcome invitation to hang out with the Inouyes on a Sunday afternoon.

    Thinking of food I’ve enjoyed with Bryce also reminds me of some Boy Scout campouts and the foods we ate. Tin-foil dinners and hot chocolate while staring at a fire all night. I particularly remember an original gourmet mini-pizza concoction made with English muffins, mozzarella cheese, tomato paste and Oreos. On a more serious note, Dutch oven cooking is hard to beat.

    While in high school a Chinese family I was friends with took me out for a dinner of “real Chinese food.” It included a fish that still had the head and eyes looking at me. I really enjoyed the fish as well as everything else we ate and I almost ate the fish eyeball as they were daring me to do the whole night.

    So many great meals I’ve had in life … I could go on and on and on …

  10. My family has a Christmas tradition of eating Swedish ‘tunbrod’ (sp) and meatballs, prepared using the recipe my great-grandmother’s brought from the Old Country. The bread is made with buttermilk, oats, flour, and anise seed (among other ingredients), and the meatballs have about fifty spices in them.

    It is one of the finest meals I have ever enjoyed, and I look forward to it every year. For me, tunbrod and meatballs and a (decidedly un-Swedish) root beer float are _the_ tastes of the season.

    On the subject of mission food, I became a big fan of two dishes back in the day in Germany — 1) rolladen, and 2) gyros, preferably purchased piping hot on a street corner, with enough garlic in the tsatsiki that you could not in good conscience eat it unless you had no more appointments for the evening and were heading home, so stinky would be the breath thereafter…

    Geez, and now I turn my attention to the Junior Mints on my desk. Sigh.

  11. I’m glad you mentioned Junior Mints, Curtis. Junior Mints have been the main courses of some of the most enjoyable meals I can remember. They also compliment potato chips nicely.

  12. All this talk about food! I’m starting to have T&S food associations. The other day I was watching the first LOTR movie. Bilbo was at a table with a huge hunk of cheese while Gandalf talked to him. I immediately was thinking of Kaimi’s cheese musings and wishing I could have a piece of that cheese.

    Of course I’ll be thinking of this post from now on whenever I see fish eyeballs. :)

  13. “Junior Mints have been the main courses of some of the most enjoyable meals I can remember. They also compliment potato chips nicely.”

    They go particularly well with jalapeno pepper potato chips. Unfortunately in my neck of the woods these have to be mail ordered.

  14. RE: jalapeno pepper potato chips…

    Frito Lay used to make a thick-cut jalepeno potato chip called “Crunch Taters.”

    Best Frito Lay product ever. But I haven’t been able to find them around here (Calif.) for several years. In fact, it’s been over a decade. For awhile they seemed to be everywhere, and then they could only be found at truck stops/covenience stores along the I-5 and other main routes.

    Looks like I’m not the only one who misses them.

    It could be a regional thing — but the lack of hits in a Google search suggest that they may have been entirely phased out.

  15. I devoured my favorite meal on my mission in Northeastern Brazil: an enormous pot of shrimp slow-cooked in butter, coconut milk, and shredded coconut. As far as I know/remember, the dear member that provided this meal caught the shrimp himself, and harvested and shredded the coconut only hours before we feasted.

    I appreciated every plate of food put before me on my mission–members provided lunch nearly every day of my mission–often at great sacrifice. But this meal was particularly delightful considering all of the culinary horrors that I had survived in the preceding months.

    A few years later, I was delighted to find the Shrimp Chowder at the otherwise average restaurant at the Little America in Salt Lake. It was nothing like the meal on my mission (it was more of a Manhattan chowder), but the large tender shrimp brought back a sweet memory.

  16. RE: jalapeno pepper anything

    Why does it seem that anything food that isn’t completely bland gets discontinued?

    My parents put Tabasco sauce in my mouth whenever I said a bad word, and so I developed a strong affinity for the taste (seriously). One of my favorite everyday meals is saltines with a healthy dose of Tabasco.

  17. DKL,

    I’m imagining that at some point you liked Tabasco enough that you started swearing around your parents on purpose.

  18. “Why does it seem that anything food that isn’t completely bland gets discontinued?”

    Americans (or American food marketers, I’m not sure which) have serious problems with food that has actual flavor. Take meat — it’s almost impossible to get a decent chicken in a supermarket in this country, because apparently Americans like chicken that tastes like styrofoam. Same with lamb. Rrrr…..

  19. danithew: I’m imagining that at some point you liked Tabasco enough that you started swearing around your parents on purpose.

    How did you know? Of course, I never let on that I liked it, and they found it all quite discouraging.

  20. Recently I had a very lovely meal of hot Italian bread, grilled vegetables, and gnocchi with four-cheese sauce at a local Italian place. This was certainly not carb-correct but personally I think Atkins is the devil …

    Best one I’ve ever made is salmon glazed with a spicy maple-ginger-garlic sauce, mashed potatoes, and asparagus steamed and served with butter.

    Or maybe it was the omelet with fresh asparagus from the local farmer’s market, sliced market tomatoes on the side, followed by fresh figs and local honey for dessert. Oh yes, I’m thoroughly enjoying living in California.

    A few years ago I was riding in the car with my family of origin on a long trip. Finding “I Spy” no longer as satisfying as it was 20 years ago, we took turns describing gorgeous meals. For some reason, we were not tempted to stop for Big Macs on that trip.

  21. Glen,

    You write, “Americans (or American food marketers, I’m not sure which) have serious problems with food that has actual flavor.”

    That seems false. Salsa, some years ago, overtook ketchup as the number one condiment in the US. And the popularity of ethnic cuisines with big flavor (e.g., Mexican, Thai, Indian, Chinese, et al.) continues to grow. Tabasco is mentioned in the thread above. The sauce (an American product) went from its niche market to being a household name in the past twenty years. And, in addition to the traditional recipe, they now offer chipotle and habanero versions. Ten years ago, who (outside the border states) knew what a chipotle was? Or wasabi, which is sufficiently recognized so as to be the basis of a pun in a beer commercial?

    American tastes are not bland. On the contary, we tend to like flavors that are so bold and overwhelming that they arguably desensitize out palates. Of the four basic tastes, we do tend to favor sweet and salty over sour and bitter (with exceptions, of course). But the lengths to which we take those tastes in our food astounds many foreigners who come here. Americans are guilty of any number of culinary crimes. But an insistence on bland foods isn’t one of them.

    Don’t focus on the supposedly flavorless, non-heritage, factory-bred chicken. Look at what Americans *do* with that chicken.


    PS Thanks for the great guest-blogging stint here. Loved the stem cell material.

  22. Mmmm… Brains. Is there anything they can’t do?

    You have a good point. I stand by my original statement in a more restricted form, however: Americans like meat, but they don’t like meat that tastes like meat. Except for beef, for some reason. Or, again, this could simply be problem with food marketers, not Americans’ palates.

  23. Okay, so I guess I had better share my favorite meal. It happens to be a traditional southern breakfast, as made by my grandmother or mother, and includes buttermilk biscuits, fried apples, and grits. It’s my favorite meal because, well I was raised on it. My grandma milked her own cows and churned her own buttermilk. Those biscuits were something to remember, Recipes follow:

    Grandma Henshaw’s biscuits

    2 cups flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    3/4 tsp soda
    1/2 cup shortening
    3/4 cup buttermilk

    Mix dry ingredients. Cut in shortening. Add enough buttermilk to form a soft but not sticky dough. Form into biscuits and bake in a cast iron frying pan at 450 for 12-15 minutes. Serve with butter and honey.

    Fried apples

    5 cooking apples, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced
    5 tbsp butter
    3/4 cup cinnamon sugar

    Melt butter in frying pan. Place apples and sugar in pan. Cover and cook on low-med heat. Watch carefully. Flip after about 10 minutes. Cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot.

    Grits don’t need a recipe, and are traditionally served with salt, pepper, butter, and crumbled bacon. A Southerner would rather eat grits raw than put sugar on them.

  24. Grits? I’m impressed. Most Mormons of my acquaintance don’t even know what grits are. When I went to Utah, it was nearly impossible to find grits. (“Excuse me, but in what aisle might I find grits?” Response: blank stare.) And you’re dead right about the sugar.

  25. Danithew was nice enough to recognize my mother’s considerable talents in the kitchen, and I concur. Dan, next time you’re in New York, you’re invited to dinner. Let me know, and I’ll try to make it too.

    I can also attest to the fact that Oreo Pizzas are indeed tasty. Don’t knock it until you try it.

    One of my biggest regrets is that I went to Japan when I was 12, was taken to dinner at a crab restaurant where we were served five courses of crab dishes, and I have absolutely no memory of the occasion. I think I probably asked if I could have a hamburger. Such a waste.

  26. Glen —

    You’ve given a nice recipe, but you’ve left out the most important part. The words “Form into biscuits” don’t communicate the difficulty of this skill. I’ve worked at developing a nice biscuit hand, but with only moderate success.

    As for my own favorite meals, one of my favorite things to make/eat are gyoza (potstickers, Japanese-style). There’s no recipe as such — chop a bunch of different kinds of cabbage and onion, grate some ginger, add some sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce (not too much), and ground pork. Form and fry/steam. Dip in sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili oil, and powdered mustard or wasabi. Yum.

  27. Bryce, there’s a chance Diane and I will be in New York at the end of January. She’s applying for a pediatric residency in White Plains (as well as for a bunch elsewhere of course), believe it or not. I can’t be entirely sure I’ll come along but if I can get away I certainly will. I really need to get back and visit my old haunts.

    Remember your sort of jokey comment about Westchester having so many resident students that it wasn’t even a special category anymore? It was on that thread that compared various parts of Manhattan to the three kingdoms of glory. :)

    Anyway, if I’m headed towards Scarsdale I’ll certainly let you know.

  28. Dan —

    Even if you can’t make it, be sure and call my folks if Diane visits and needs a place to stay. And if you do go out, of course you should call.

  29. “On the biscuits, is it 1 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp baking soda? Or the other way around?”

    Oh, dear. Yes, it’s 1 tsp powder, 3/4 tsp soda.

  30. DKL wrote:
    “When I went to Utah, it was nearly impossible to find grits. (“Excuse me, but in what aisle might I find grits?â€? Response: blank stare.)”

    I had that exact same experience when I went to Utah. Finally had my mom mail me a box.

  31. Glen,

    Since I probably won’t have another chance to say thanks before the holiday: again, kudos for a tremendous guest-blogging stint. And thanks for the biscuit recipe–mine is essentially the same as yours, but it’s always good to fiddle with the measurements so things come out exactly right. Good biscuits will go with anything, but my favorite biscuits breakfast is with country ham and eggs. (Fried apples as a regular morning dish? Interesting. Obviously I’ve been living in the wrong parts of the South.)

    Speaking of country breakfasts, anyone here a fan of scrapple? I always used to grab some at the farmer’s market in Philadelphia whenever we visited. Great stuff.

    And speaking of Scott and brains: have him tell you about his experience with goat brain enchiladas sometime. He made it sound good. (Also, check out his website, if you’re looking for good food in Texas.)

  32. “(Also, check out his website, if you’re looking for good food in Texas.)”

    Almost makes me wish I lived in Texas.

  33. Glen,

    You write, “Americans like meat, but they don’t like meat that tastes like meat. Except for beef, for some reason.”

    A few comments. First, I think you’re right to raise the possibility that the quality of most supermarket chickens may be more a function of the supply than the demand. The criticism of the consumer, in that case, wouldn’t be that he prefers tasteless meat, but that he either doesn’t know there’s anything better (i.e., ignorance) or that he’s willing to settle for the inferior product for economic reasons (i.e., frugality). And, frankly, neither failing strikes me as worthy of too severe a censure.

    Second, I think Americans do like meat that tastes like meat. You’ve noted beef, which is a pretty noteable exception even if we grant your assertion. But Americans also eat lamb, goat, rabbit, venison, quail, duck, pheasant, pork, a variety of offal, and many assertively flavored fish and shellfish (freshwater and salt). Americans are a diverse bunch, ethnically and geographically, so preferences will differ. But, wherever you go, you’ll find a lot of people eating meat that tastes like meat.

    Third, culinary history is full of developments to control the quality and flavor intensity of meat. Take the paradox of fish, which is considered unappealling when it tastes “fishy.” Lamb is almost universally preferred over mutton, because of its milder, less gamy taste. Veal is prized for its subtler, sweeter taste and greater tenderness. Calf and lamb sweetbreads are delicious, while those of the adult animal are virtually inedible. Foie gras is preferred over straight liver, because of its delicate sweetness and silky texture. Those preferences predated America. The point isn’t to eat meat that has a strong natural flavor. The point is to eat meat that has a pleasing natural flavor, even if it means slaughtering the animal before its prime, conducting breeding programs to accentuate desireable qualities and eliminate negatives, controlling the animals diet, or using a variety of cooking techniques to draw the desired flavor from the meat.


    PS Russell is confusing cabeza with sesos. I don’t believe I’ve ever had goat brain. He’s probably thinking of some stewed goat head tacos (a Guanajuato specialty) I had during a hometeaching visit a while back. Cabeza (whether goat, pig, or cow) usually doesn’t have a stronger flavor than the more customary cuts from the animal. But when stewed or steamed (e.g., for pozole or barbacoa), it’s absolutely delicious. Just one more example of Americans (and Mexican-Americans) eating meat that tastes like meat…and loving it.

  34. Scott:
    “Americans are a diverse bunch, ethnically and geographically, so preferences will differ. But, wherever you go, you’ll find a lot of people eating meat that tastes like meat.”

    An excellent point; American eating habits are so diverse that trying to make any generalization about national food habits is probably pointless. It is my impression, though, that this is a relatively recent phenomenon, ignoring the handful of distinct ethnic groups who have been here for a significant length of time such as cajuns. In other words we’re a lot more diverse in our eating habits now than we were 30 years ago. So perhaps my beef with chicken (ha!) is just that chicken suppliers are either trying to hit a nonexistent middle ground, or they’re behind the times.

    Cabeza sounds wonderful. Unfortunately it’s doubtful my wife would allow one into the kitchen.

  35. Interesting how often mission food has made its way into this thread. As has been mentioned, I’d guess that it’s the intensity of the mission experience together with the flavor of the food that makes such an impression on the memory.

    In my first area in Portugal, Castelo Branco, my district would gather every Thursday at a churrasqueira (chicken grill restaurant) owned by members of our branch, where we would feast on (free) sizzling grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, local olives, and fresh pao (the incomparable Portuguese bread) drenched in local olive oil. Mmmmm.

    Another memorably delicious meal: after climbing and descending Mt. Whitney via the snow-filled chute called the “mountaineer’s route,” John and I feasted on hot ramen noodles with freeze-dried peas, hot chocolate, and chocolate sandwich cookies. Nothing ever tasted better.

  36. This is for all of those people who like a god cranberry sauce, and therefore eschew anything that comes in a can:

    DKL’s Holiday Cheer Cranberry Chutney


    1 c water
    1 c sliced white onions (approx 1 med onion)
    ¾ c brown sugar
    ½ c white sugar
    ¼ c apple cider vinegar
    1 lb frozen or fresh cranberries (approx 4 to 5 c)
    ½ t curry powder
    1 t ground ginger (or 1T fresh minced ginger)
    1 t ground cayenne red pepper
    2 t grated orange rind (approx ¾ of a med orange)
    ½ c orange juice (juice from approx 2 med oranges)
    1 t salt
    ½ c blanched slivered almonds


    1. Simmer the water, sliced onion, brown sugar, and white sugar in 3 qt sauce pan for 30 minutes.
    2. Add apple cider vinegar, cranberries, curry powder, ginger, cayenne, orange rind, orange juice, and salt.
    3. Boil slowly for 10 minutes or until cranberries pop.
    4. Remove from heat and add almonds.
    5. Add sugar (or artificial sweetener like sucralose on aspertame) to taste if chutney is too tart, but chutney should not be sweet.
    6. Refrigerate.


    Skip step one, discard sliced onion, use only ½ c water, and add water and sugars into step 2.

    Doubling the cayenne red pepper to 4t will make this recipe hot enough for people to taste a slight zing.

  37. Looks like the entities in the preceding post didn’t render correctly. Here’s the translation:

    fract12 = 1/2
    fract24 = 3/4
    fract14 = 1/4

    and so on.

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