Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Palate

I've been watching a lot of the Food Network recently, as much as I don't like the Food Network and what it stands for, it gets me thinking. How relative is the human palate exactly?

If you watch the Food Network enough, you will notice a pattern. Although in most of the shows there is a secret ingredient, or ingredients that will be required in every dish and from then on its improvisation. But, even though these competition shows require improv. many of the dishes will result in a certain flavor to get the 'perfect menu' in regards to FN's palate.

The Midwest American palate has failed. I don't travel outside the Midwest, but from what I've seen, there are too many people scared of 'fancy food' and too used to the well-done bit of leather with a side of ketchup. Where's the flavor?

The beginning of most of our lives we spend hating veggies and loving chicken nuggets. Our palates start to evolve and we start to enjoy better things, but at some point, the palate evolution becomes less of a 'nurture' aspect and more of a self starting method. From my experience, I started really enjoying food my senior year of high school. I was more willing to try new things. That, for me, was my self started palate evolution, and I'm afraid that's usually where it ends for some people. I started to enjoy the crunch and flavor of onions on my burgers(try a burger with red onion and avocado, awesome!), I tried new methods for new things, and read up on foods I haven't tried before. At this point in my life, I'm willing to try anything TWICE. I say twice because a past co-worker had a good point about not just trying things once, he says the first time you try it, you are going into foreign territory with a non-experience based first impression, but the second time you know what to expect and what flavors/textures to concentrate on.

A couple months back I had my first offal experience. First off, don't judge it by the name, but offal are the parts of the animal that you would never think to eat, like livers, brains, tongue, any sort of organ meat. I'm not sure why there has been this whole fear campaign about organ meats that make people so scared of it, because it is always delicious. Stop thinking about where it came from and start thinking about the flavor and texture, the fat content that can make something like Foie Gras melt in your mouth.

This brings me back to the 'nurture' part of the palate, the palate you were raised with. In countries other than America, that may or may not be less fortunate, they eat offal on a regular basis. Think waaaayyyy back in time, royalty would get the prime, muscle tissue cuts and the peasants would get the organ meat from the animal, this has been going on for centuries. It would be a waste to not use the parts that royalty didn't eat, the animal would just decompose and rot. In that time, you couldn't afford to waste any part of any animal because then you would eat nothing. This is the same in second and third world countries, if it weren't for organ mean people would starve.
So children in other countries are raised on offal and most likely think its delicious, its a way of life, they were raised with organ meats as quite possibly the only means of nutrition and had their palate trained accordingly. If every American (or any first world country) were raised eating things other than muscle tissue, it would save so many animals from just rotting away and being wasted.

What it's taken me so long to get at and try to explain is this:
Every singly palate is different and ultimately based on the way you were raised, at some point, it is up to YOU to develop a taste for newer things. What you think is delicious might not be the same for someone else; what the Food Network says is the best thing in the world to use in a dish, might be completely and utterly disgusting. The FN palate is extremely specific to the point it resembles a corporate restaurant. For years since it first started airing shows, it has been training people to make their food the Food Network way, and this is a very small and specific window.
So don't listen to the corporate giants who think they know what you'll like, YOU know what you like, and don't hesitate to try something new at every opportunity, if you haven't tried it, how will you know you don't like it?

Punish your palate, abuse it while you're young, as you get older your senses dull and you wont be able to taste as much.

There are some ways to develop your palate that I've found extremely helpful:

Eat many different fresh fruits: chew it, slosh it around, make sure it hits every part of your tongue and take note of the flavors

Smell fruits and vegetables: The majority of taste actually comes from your sense of smell

Drink wine: Here's your excuse to drink wine, there are so many flavors in most wines that you can even detect the dirt it was grown in (you dont taste dirt, but it gives the grapes a certain flavor)

Don't smoke: it takes 3 hours to get back some taste receptors, but ten days to 'unblock' your taste receptors after a cigarette, and also smokers don't tend to taste salt content as easily as non-smokers

I hope this has been a big help to you, and go to your local butcher, ask what they have for 'offal' (ironically pronounced awful) and how they suggest you prepare it. Its cheap and packed with nutrients, also extremely flavorful.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Job Hunt

It has been six days since I've done a minute of work, eight since I've cooked something even remotely home made and delicious.

I'm going crazy

This 'forced vacation' is much needed, don't get me wrong, but going from forty hours a week and nonstop movement to zero and being inactive, it can get to a workaholic like myself. The job hunt started today to no success, the same restaurant but different location I applied to has all positions filled, and told me to keep checking back, which isn't going to happen. I visited the other place that called me which was a cafe, I didn't get through the door without developing a "fuck this" vibe. Where I'm at right now, there are very few restaurants that would be a step up from some place like Biaggi's and even fewer at the same level. And with the impossible generalized rule of "Only come in between 2pm-4pm it makes this whole thing a more than one day adventure.

Considering I'll only be working at this(these) place(s) for three months, that makes me even more un-hireable as a cook. Employment turnover is insane for a server, but practically non-existent for cooks, which is unfortunate but there aren't many people who will do backbreaking work forty hours a week for ten dollars an hour.

My goal is at least one job by Tuesday, once I have that down, I will try to work the opposite side of the house (I.E. score an A.M. kitchen job, look for a P.M. serving/bartending job or vice versa)
I'm not excited about serving again, but this summer is about making and saving so I can be comfortable finding my niche in Chicago.

Tomorrow is a new day to pursue a job in this masochistic field, I might go across the river to see what Illinois has to offer me, but we shall see.

Your mission today: Go to your local foreign market and see what kind of goodies you can find. You'd be suprised