March 30, 2005

Food, Religion and Contradictions

So the topic of pig bones from the previous post, which came from a mailing list I belong to has sparked a discussion thread about animals and food. (The list is teeming with achingly smart people, who I count on for education, entertainment, and occasional psychotheraputic conversation...though recently a discussion of the finer points of the use of subjunctives made me roll my eyes until my head hurt!)

Uh, anyway...One of the list members is vegan, and said something about the dichotomy of celebrating Easter (Jesus's return to life) with the "slaughtering [of] innocent animals". So, being a smarty-pants/smartass, I replied with the obligatory smarty-pants comment: "...animals are made of meat!" and for a half-hearted support, I looked into this contradiction myself and posted a couple of links:
>But anyway, God says it's ok:
> So does Jesus:
> And so does Uncle Cecil

After a bit of discussion this person wrote:
> LOL. I wasn't looking for Biblical justification (since I am agnostic)
(some stuff snipped out here)
> it is strange that someone would celebrate his [Jesus's]
> "resurrection" from death by taking the life of another living thing.

Despite my Italian last name and my reluctant-catholic upbringing, I don't believe in anything/anyone, and I actually take issue with a LOT of the bible's contradictions. In fact, the only thing I posted and that I agree with is that animals are made of meat. I see his point, though; it's just another of many illogical contradictions.

The fact that in US culture certain food-animals are associated with certain holidays seems like a marketing thing. Especially since other cultures have other foods. That, and Thanksgiving Tempeh doesn't seem like it would catch on.

I have a whole bunch of contradictory food issues: Tempeh grosses me out, but Brie/Camembert is fine, and Cabrales is fantastic. I eat all kinds of mushrooms, including huitlacoche and truffles: all types of fungus, which if I think about it too much, grosses me out. In the animal world, I will eat Calamari with marinara, but I avoid other non-fish seafood (things without scales & fins) because it's ambiguously "icky". (um...but monkfish and skate are delicious) I don't eat bugs. I don't eat reptiles. I don't eat rodents...but I will eat rabbit, which is way more like a cat than a rat, but I won't eat cat, or dog. I'd be willing to try horse, tho. Venison, buffalo, lamb, ostrich, all fair game. No pun intended.

I'm curious to know what readers of this blog won't eat... and what you will eat, even though it contradicts what you won't eat.

Last thing I ate or drank: I am addicted to spearmint tic-tacs.

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March 29, 2005

Dennis said "Pig Bones"

Post-Easter ham bones make kick ass split pea soup.

A paste made with garlic and roasted Chile de Arbol makes a good Red Snapper.

Mashed parsnip, carrot and ricotta cheese makes a nice ravioli filling.

An invitation to a glass of wine makes the Chef happy.

A happy Chef makes you things like Root Vegetable Ravioli with Scallion-Butter sauce as a surprise side dish.

Last thing I ate or drank: latte and a banana. I'm about to have toast. I love toast.

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March 28, 2005

My hands are so chewed up :-)

I used to spend a whole lot of time on my nails.
I used to have a collection of really cool nailpolish.
Glitteries, sparklies, color-shifts, and a few professional, pale colors.
I used to carry nail polish with me to touch up my nails.
I could even do my own French manicure -- freehand.

For the past two years, though, I've used drugstore clippers and try hard to remember to use hand lotion.

I'm not quite used to looking at my hands, but I'm not embarassed by them.
These hands are attached to a much happier person than the manicured ones were.

culinary ink

I don't have any ink, but I've always wanted some. Here are some others' culinary tattoos. Nothing inspires me, but the last pic freaks me out to the point of shivers. OUCH.

Last thing I ate or drank: oatmeal with cranberries, apricots and currants, topped with some sliced almonds. Yum!

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March 21, 2005

I'm a real person, not a marketing scam!

I have a teensy little problem with what I just read in this article, which I found on AdRants. Seems that Cocktails by Jenn is a marketing brainchild of a gi-normous company; there is no Jenn!

The article asks whether I'm outraged with what they are doing with this brand. Yeah, I guess I am... Not so much that I'm a potential customer being misled, but that it makes being a successful female entrepreneur a fairy-tale story, and cloaks the reality of what being an entrepreneur really is.

I'm a prime target for being taken advantage of in this case: I'd prefer to support a female entrepreneur than a huge multinational company -- and they seem to be intentionally misleading. When you find out she's a ficticious creation, and not a real person, it's such a chafe!

Here is this "girl" who allegedly pulled herself up by the, ahem, "ankle-straps" of her Jimmy Choo knockoffs, and started throwing cocktail parties out as a way to network and get ahead, and wow, gosh, they took off and her drinks were so great, she's abandoned her cherished internship and by golly is diving in to this pre-packaged-mixed-drink business with both dainty pedicured feet!

How on earth did she get funding for this project? Obviously not from her savings as a "junior fashion editor". No wonder she's got such fantastic packaging designed by an Art Director/Account Executive who used to be an ad executive for Pepsi.

Not to mention the cutesy Flash and Java encrusted website... Precious little Jenn the fashion intern did that all herself, too, right? Because we know she can't afford a hotshot web designer and graphic artist on her current low-level pay, right? She did it herself, just like me and my entrepreneur girlfriends did! Uh, no...Majestic Brands, Inc. apparently took care of that...seeing as how they're who made her up. **sigh**

I'm not saying there isn't a real person out there with Jenn's backstory who COULD work make great things happen for herself... I'm trying to do exactly that... I'm just saying I hate how THERE IS NO JENN and this "Fake Jenn" is making all the REAL Reginas, Kathryns, Ericas , Aileens, Elizabeths and yes, even the JoAnnas of the world wonder, "If Jenn can do it, why can't I?"

Last thing I ate or drank: bulgur with sautéed veggies

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March 20, 2005

Sadly, the Magic 8 Ball only answers "yes and no" questions.

My goal for the end of 2005 was to be three personal chef jobs per week and at three catering gigs every month. Well, it's only the middle of March, and I'm already reaching that goal. And it's important to me that I've reached it, but now I've got to set them higher and I don't know what I want to do.

I'm not into world domination, I'm not even into Southern California domination. I just want to do such a great job that my current clients keep calling, and be the kind of boss that people want to work for. I want to have a good time.

That's my ultimate goal: learn how to relax when I'm not working, enjoy myself when I am working, be a good boss to my employees, and get paid. In that order. It's not a question of not working hard...I have never shyed away from hard work, and I take a lot of pride in my work... it's more a question of keeping perspective. It's easy for me to forget everything else and never come up for air.

Oh, and I owe you restaurant reviews for Amuse (Venice), The Park (San Luis Obispo), and Mama Voula's (West L.A.).

Last thing I ate or drank: my usual latte

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March 18, 2005

Chef JoAnna's Rule of Eating Abroad

Long before I had even considered culinary school, I've had very good luck at choosing restaurants and with ordering food from strange places. I came up with a rather obvious philisophy after a trip to France. I will share the stories below, but first, I offer this rule, and this corollary:
  • RULE: If you see people of the ethnicity of the restaurant's cuisine both eating the food (as customers) and serving the food (as cooks & waiters), you're probably in good hands
  • COROLLARY: If you're still in doubt, order appetizers or a first course, and hold out on ordering the rest of the meal until you've judged the appetizers
When Kelly and I were in Paris in the Spring of 1999, we were near the Place des Voges and it was dinnertime. Since it was a 3-week trip, and we we'd had our fill of steak frites and sandwiches au jambon (pour lui) and au camembert (pour moi) we were looking for something different. We came upon this little Chinese restaurant, and even though I'm fluent in French, I was a bit anxious about eating food I didn't understand. My big fear on vacation is that I eat something that makes me sick, and causes me to spend vacation time in the hotel instead of at the places I'd rather be visiting.

We looked in the window and saw Chinese people animatedly enjoying their dinner, served by a middle-aged Chinese w. "That's a good sign," is said, but I was still anxious. I suggested, "Let's just order appetizers and see if we want to order real food after." Kelly agreed. Once we opened the door, and smelled the savory air, i knew we'd be happy. The appetizers were excellent, and we ended up having one of the most enjoyable and memorable meals of the vacation.

This rule was NOT followed when we went to an allegedly Mexican restaurant on Rue de Mouffetard. Before we even placed our order, the ubiquitous chips and salsa were offered by a skinny French waitress who looked very out of place. The chips were greasy and the salsa was little more than chunky ketchup with cilantro in it. We should have just paid for our beers and left, but we were tired, hungry, and it was late. We ate a comically bad replica of Mexican food (and consider, we were Chicagoans at the time!) and, uh, regretted it the next day.

We redeemed ourselves with a trip to a Greek place a bit further up Mouffetard, an spot with long tables and paper placemats with swarthy waiters and a couple of happy Greek fellows seated near the door with half-devoured plates of food. They couldn't have had a better advertisement if they had placed them as a prop. The place felt right, smelled right, looked right, and food was great.

The lesson has served me well since that trip, I hope it proves useful for you!

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March 08, 2005

short term workers create long term problems

I have had two events booked for over a month, and suddenly, one guy who was to have worked two events is backing out. grrr...

He got a job at a restaurant, but he said a month ago that there wouldn't be a conflict. Okay, fine. Today he calls and says that he suddenly can't work the days he'd already committed with me. So of course, I'm upset... and more than a little... YES I know that the restaurant is a steadier gig, and YES I know that the work I offer is temporary and occasional, but crap, if you make a promise, keep the promise!

Of course, he played the hand he's holding, which is to say that the promise of regular work at the restaurant means a lot more to him (and his wife) than the 2-3 days per month he'd work for me... and that he doesn't want to jeopardize the relationship with the restaurant by saying he can't work for them on those two days.

...but I bet he didn't even mention his previous commitment with me to his employer, which sucks. I'm sure he'd have tried to get out of it if it were for an audition, but priorities are different for each people.

I just don't know how I can get myself up on the priority list of someone who would only work for me those 2-3 times per month.

Anyway, long story short, I re-staffed the events in about two hours, and I'm pleased with the people who responded. I just don't like having to waste the time re-doing work I thought was done.

Last thing I ate or drank: egg and bacon breakfast burrito with swiss cheese, because that's the kind of cheese that was open.

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March 05, 2005

Jobs I wouldn't want: personal chef for an NBA player.

According to this article the Orlando Magic basketball team has recently employed a personal chef for Dwight Howard, their prize rookie, to ensure that he consumes at least 5,200 nutritional calories per day.

2.5 times what the US-RDA of calories is for the average man? That would be a full-time job... but likely this guy shares the same culinary persuasions as Shaq: Hamburger Helper, Kraft Mac & Cheese, and stuff like that. Sure, you're cooking for a celebrity athlete, but so what, where's the fun in that?

Last thing I ate or drank: a few bites from the chocolate crêpes I served to tonight's personal chef client. They probably ate 5,200 calories tonight!

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March 01, 2005

alton brown drinking game

Click here

Last thing I ate or drank: a handful of altoids. I'm hungry!

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"My test is tomorrow....can I have your recipes?"

On 3/1/05 9:10 AM, "Jon Doh" wrote:

Hello, my name is Jon Doh. I am currently enrolled at ____ Culinary Institute in Oklahoma City, OK. Tomorrow I have a final in my garde manger class. I was looking at your website and saw the Mystery Basket Composed Salad . It looks absolutely beautiful. Just by going from the picture I think I can figure it out, but I was wondering if I could use your picture as a guideline for part of my final? Also could you send me a recipe, should you allow me to mimic your work. Thank you so much for your time. Please respond to this email at thank you

Chef to be

Jon Doh

Dear Jon,

Thanks for the compliment. That salad is one of my favorite photos of my work.

The nature of a mystery basket is that there IS no recipe! I made it up on the spot. That was so long ago, I don't remember what I did, specifically. Each of the items was marinated in its own vinaigrette that complimented each specific veggie, I can tell you that much.

Consider this: If you aspire to be a chef, don't copy my work, be inventive and figure out how to make something attractive and delicious yourself! :-)

In my opinion, that's what defines the difference between “just a cook” and a chef. Cooks follow recipes. Chefs create them.

Good luck on your finals. Let me know how you do!

Last thing I ate or drank: latte. Today's latte had no gnats, so I enjoyed it a lot more than yesterday's latte!

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