It’s been a bit of an up and down week; things got cold, and grocery shopping got much more daunting for those of us lacking a car. On the other hand, on my first time eating in the LDC I noticed a very welcome change, in the form of display platters of such things as eggplant, potatoes, and onions. I’m not sure whether people appreciate these as display items; I appreciate them as a convenient source of onions, should I ever run out. Here’s a philosophical query for the week: Is it ethical to take the foods clearly meant for display? From a utilitarian standpoint, I’d say yes. The enjoyment I get out of cooking and eating one of those items probably outmatches the happiness people get from looking at them. Of course, I’m basing this on the premise that no one actually enjoys looking at a bowl of onions. From a Kantian perspective, I also wouldn’t mind a world in which everyone took display items and ate them; it would make me feel more comfortable about it. Sometime in the coming weeks we may learn whether these are real food or if they’re only out there because they’re totally inedible. Stay tuned.
Besides a foray into stir-fried eggplant, and various instances of “quinoa with everything in the fridge added” (which can be really good at times) nothing especially innovative occurred in the last seven days; thus, this week, I’d like to discuss an unrelated but very important food-related fact that needs to be spread. It’s well known up north; somehow, though, it’s been missed by many Americans, and I’d like to rectify this now. Here it is.
Maple syrup goes with everything.
This first requires an explication of what maple syrup is. You cannot find it at Econofoods; try Cub, the Co-op, or, if you can get there, Trader Joe’s. It will most likely be in a glass bottle. It will be labelled “100% maple syrup” and will likely, but not always, have pictures of maple leaves. It will absolutely not have a picture of a friendly lady holding a stack of pancakes, or the label “Aunt Jemima”. I do not know who Aunt Jemima is, or what those bottles hold, but it isn’t maple syrup. It’s similar to that nasty stuff that Bon Appetit puts in tubs and serves in the LDC.
Back to the main point: real maple syrup goes with everything. This is not an exaggeration. I challenge anyone to name a food that I cannot put maple syrup on. Pancakes, obviously. Meat? Absolutely. In Quebec they love to douse ham with it. Name a vegetable, and I will declare that maple syrup is a key ingredient in many good salad dressings. Fruit? Yep. Pasta? Well, maybe not so much. But despite a few minor exceptions, this is a food item that is far too rarely used here.
If you’ve never put this wonderful condiment to real use, I strongly recommend giving it a try in a creative way sometime in the next week. For simple ways, try adding it to oatmeal, dipping a banana in it, pouring it liberally over steak, ham, or any other red meat; sweeten salad dressing with a dash of it; pour a dab on toast. You will not regret the experiment.
My second item of business this week is on a more negative note, and has to do with my relatively recent decision to give up wheat. Positive health effects aside, the most difficult part has been flour; the most inconvenient part has been bread. I’m not a bread addict, but every now and then everyone needs a sandwich.
Unfortunately, bread substitutes—rice bread, flax bread, and so on—are terrible. This is not an exaggeration. Rice bread is simply one of the worst food items I have ever encountered. It’s dry, crumbly, and tasteless. Toasting it only drains it of its last dregs of moisture and makes it worse. It cannot be redeemed even by being soaked in maple syrup, and this is truly saying something. You would be better off using lettuce to surround your sandwich fillings than rice bread. Life is kind of rough that way; sometimes there’s just no substitute. At times like these, you have to realize that maybe sandwiches themselves belong to the past, and the time has come to use silverware at every meal. I now have a freezer full of interesting seafood and have finally acquired a cutting board; more interesting, bread-free dishes are probably just around the corner.