Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Food Funnies

So, you hate to cook. As a matter of fact, you're tired of this whole "foodie" fad. You love your friends, but you really do wish you could go out to dinner with them and just enjoy the food without having to put up with this sort of conversation,

"Mmmm...that's so good! What do you think is in that? I'm pretty sure it's got some cardamom in it, but what's that slightly sour aftertaste that seems to be knocking at the roof of my mouth?"

"Cardamom? Are you sure? I'm not getting any cardamom. There's definitely some coconut milk in this, though, and I think the 'sour' you taste is lemon grass. It's awesome. I'm gonna remember this and try to make it next weekend when Frank and Helen are in town. They'd love it."

All you know is it's good, and you'll have some more please. You couldn't care less how it was made, and if you want it again, why bother trying to make it? You can just come back here (in fact, bring Frank and Helen), and chances are, it will taste exactly the way it's supposed to taste, as it won't be missing its cardamom. Or was it cumin?

I know, because I used to be exactly like you. I didn't start getting into cooking until I was in my late twenties, and, until then, I didn't understand the appeal at all. Sure I loved food, but why waste time making it when I could get others to make it for me? Even when I began to see the appeal, I only liked to cook on occasion. It took getting married to a willing guinea pig who seemed to rave about everything I made to get me truly into it. I've decided those of you who still aren't into cooking might enjoy a few food funnies of mine, so if you ever find yourself stuck in a restaurant with me, obnoxiously complaining because I could have made this much better myself, you can smugly respond, "Oh yeah, Ms. Where-Are-the-Pineapples? Shut up, and eat."

1. The first time I ever had cilantro was shortly after I'd moved to Connecticut. Some of my colleagues and I decided to go to this fancy Mexican restaurant in Greenwich, where we discovered cactus salsa on the menu. None of us had ever eaten cactus, so we thought we'd try it. It turned out that cactus had a very distinctive flavor that I loved. It also turned out that every Mexican restaurant I went to thereafter seemed to cook liberally with cactus. Indians seemed to be fond of cactus in their dishes, too, and I soon found myself eating cactus at a Thai restaurant. Like a child learning to talk who focuses on the blueberries when told he is eating a muffin and then proceeds to call blueberries "muffins" every time he sees them, I was mistaking cilantro for cactus. I don't know when I finally figured out my mistake, but I'm glad I did. I love cilantro more than ever, and I don't remember ever seeing any cacti for sale in the grocery stores I frequent.

2. Not only am I a self-taught cook, but I also hate to ask for any help anywhere. Despite the fact I have no problem (and certainly think nothing of it, except maybe how brave they are to talk to strangers like this) when a woman in the produce section asks me if a green onion is the same thing as a scallion or a guy standing in line behind me sees I've got corn and asks me how long he should cook the corn he's buying, I refuse to ask such questions myself. Thus, for years, I wouldn't make anything if a recipe called for cream of tartar. Cookbooks ought to come with guides for the beginner who reads "cream" and automatically thinks dairy. Doesn't this sound like something that belongs right next to the sour cream? It most definitely does not sound like a white, powdery substance found with the spices. Is it any wonder it took me so long to happen upon it accidentally (probably while looking for dried cilantro when I should have been looking for coriander) one day? And, yes, I was thrilled when I did.

3. This one is almost too embarrassing to admit, but Bob was as clueless as I, so I don't feel so bad. There we were on our honeymoon in Hawai'i, where we'd been for well over a week, enjoying deliciously fresh fruits, most especially the pineapple. We'd both read Michener's Hawaii as a prelude to the trip so were well aware of the pineapple industry and how pineapples grew all over those islands. However, we had yet to see any growing anywhere. Where were they? Well, you know, we might have found them much more quickly if we'd paid attention to all those fields all around us, tops of pineapples sticking up in nice neat rows, instead of looking around at all the trees, trying to figure out if any of them were "pineapple trees." Yes, two people, both over the age of 30, each with a post-graduate degree, and we hadn't a clue that pineapples didn't grow on trees like coconuts. I will never make fun of someone who comes to Lancaster County thinking corn grows underground or something while corn stalks tower over their heads all around them.

Anyone else care to share any food funnies?

12 comments:

BooksPlease said...

I don't often comment here, but always enjoy reading your posts. Yesterday you took me down memory lane with Cat Stevens - great stuff - and today you made me laugh. And I have no idea what cilantro is!

Emily Barton said...

BooksPlease, so glad to have given you two posts in a row that you enjoyed. Thanks for stopping by. Oh, and maybe you know cilantro better as coriander (same thing).

Stefanie said...

I loved your funnies especially the pineapple story. don't feel bad about the cream of tartar. I know it is a white poweder but the cream part always makes me stop and think about it for a second.

Here's a funny of my own. Having never read the Narnia books when I was a kid, whenever I'd come across a reference to Turkish Delight I thought it was a euphemism for opium or hashish or something. Not under about three years ago did I finally learn that it was a kind of candy!

litlove said...

What fantastic stories! The only funny that springs to my mind was when I cooked a caramelised apple tart. It's the easiest thing to do - an inch or so of dark brown sugar in the tin, then layers of sliced apples, then sweet pastry. However, idiot that I am, I put it in a tin with a removable base, so all the syrup leaked out through the teeny gaps and onto the oven floor and burned hard there. Not long afterwards we moved house...

mandarine said...

I do have issues with people discussing the technicalities of food. The worst is with wine. There is a huge fad of oenology among people my age around me, and I feel so frustrated, not only because I believe they are just showing off and they should just enjoy the wine and stop commenting, but also because I am really clueless as far as wine-tasting is concerned, beyond telling apart red from white from the difference in color...

Emily Barton said...

Stefanie, oh, that is a priceless funny. Thanks for sharing.

Litlove, oh man, if I went down that road -- using wrong kitchen equipment and gadgets -- well, I could probably write a whole book (if I could remember them all). I'll have to remember that little trick of yours, though: if it's too bad, just move house.

Mandarine, oh, me too! I just like a wine that, you know, seems to taste quite good.

Dorothy W. said...

Well, I had no clue about pineapples either; in fact, thanks for cluing me in ... I don't know when I first learned about cilantro -- probably from Hobgoblin -- but I love it too!

Emily Barton said...

Dorr, oh good. Now if you ever get to Hawai'i, you will know where to look for the pineapples, which I am sure has always been your number one priority when thinking about what you might do in that beautiful state full of mountains to climb and bike trails to ride.

Susan said...

Cilantro is coriander??? I didn't know! So for years I've avoided looking for it (just left it out of recipes, I'm famous for doing that).

I love the pineapple story, that is so funny!! though I wouldn't have known either.

the only story I know isn't funny, but true, the one about the bananas and how the tarantulas love bananas too,so on the banana boats the sailors would have to wear boots so that when the spiders smelled the salt water and felt the boat moving and came up on deck in droves, they could be killed easier.....sigh,that sounds like a good horror story, doesn't it? I can never eat a banana without checking to make sure nothing is inside it!!!! Hmm, not funny at all, but scary!!

How about the time I was boiling water and started reading a book, and burned the pot after the water boiled away, with nothing in it??? lol

Emily Barton said...

Susan, I never heard that about tarantulas, but yes, it sounds like a good basis for a horror story. And boiling water away due to a good book? That's completely understandable!

sarawithnoh said...

Well, I learned something tonight - pineapples don't grow on trees! Who knew? I'm trying to think of my own food funny and the only thing I can think of right now is the time I baked a loaf of banana bread for 3 hours and it was still raw in the middle. Obviously I did something wrong but I still don't know what.

Emily Barton said...

Sara, well that's a pretty good one. Sounds like the roast chicken I once made that roasted for hours, and when I opened the oven was still raw, and, yes, the oven was working. I still have no idea what happened.