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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy Birthday!

© 2015 Chris Terrell
Yeah, that's a big flask!
Today is my 45th birthday. And like last year, I was fortunate to celebrate my birthday over an entire weekend, highlighted by a wonderful dinner at The Inn at Little Washington
But mine was not the only birthday worthy of celebrating this past weekend. On Saturday, March 7, this blog survived its second year of operation. (Let's hope the terrible twos apply only to children!) 
And like last year, I wanted to list my ten favorite blog posts, with a brief intro about the post and my favorite passage from it. But unlike last year, these are not ranked. Rather, I listed them simply in chronological order. That way, you can put them in what ever order you wish. (Click on the title for a link to the full text of the post.)

This post addressed how food in America has changed since the 1970s, including my relationship with food since my childhood in the 1970s.  

I still remember my first “fancy” meal. My family had recently moved to the outskirts of Washington, DC, from a small town in southeast Virginia. This was my first foray into the big city. (Before that I had confused Richmond, Virginia, with New York!) We went to lunch at a now-defunct chain called The American Cafe. In keeping with its name, this restaurant sought, with typical American exuberance, to reproduce Parisian brassiere food for the masses. Being a 12-year member of the American masses, I thought this place was the bomb! I ordered the crepe suzette and discovered that there was more to food than bologna sandwiches and cheese doodles.

Meatloaf: Score! (March 5, 2014)

If my blog posts this past year have a common thread, it is probably nostalgia. There seems to have been a lot of writing about comfort food. Well, this one is about the ultimate comfort food: meatloaf! 

I must admit—I love meatloaf. No, not the early 80s arena rocker, but the other meatloaf. Yes, that much maligned all-American dish. How many times did we hear the refrain in all those family sitcoms from the 60s-80s in which one or more children is heard moaning: “Oh no! Not meatloaf…again!” But I think the hatred for meatloaf is urban legend; a falsehood; a conspiracy by the Broccoli Growers Association. Kids really like meatloaf. Why? Because it tastes damn good and it has ketchup in it; that’s why!

Cooking In French (April 6, 2014)

The next best thing to eating in Paris is strolling through her markets for your next meal.

It was a mild evening, so we kept the windows open. Candles, flowers, jazz on the stereo, and the rhythmic sound of the Parisian police car completed the scene. At one point, I thought: “How Parisian!”  But it wasn’t really Parisian, any more than it was Italian, Spanish, American, or even Russian. We were doing what everyone likes to do: have a nice meal with loved ones and talk about the day. This time, the day just happened to have been in Paris.

History Is Not Even Past In a City Like Paris

In 2014, I was fortunate enough to make another trip to the City of Lights. This is one place I'll never get tired of writing about, especially the cafes.

What makes a Parisian cafe such an institution, however, is its pace. While the waiters hustle about, the guests sit and eat and drink and talk deliberately. Time seems to stand still.  And of course, a demitasse of espresso is a down-payment for a long-term lease to sit on the sidewalk and people watch throughout the afternoon.

Medium Rare (May 5, 2014)

More nostalgia...more comfort food...

When I hear the word "steak," I recall memories of Saturday nights in the summer when my dad would fire up the charcoal grill, and my mom would make a wedge salad with her homemade dressing of mayonnaise and ketchup. I don’t remember the rest of it because I never got the recipe before it was lost. 

Play Ball! (May 15,201

OK, there's nothing gourmet about ballpark food, but the lowly deserves its share of the limelight from time to time, especially when it relates to America's pastime! 

The list goes on and on. These days, major league ballparks seem to be in some kind of gastronomic arms race—each trying to out do the other in the variety and “gourmet-ness” of the dishes offered. But for me, nothing beats a simple hot dog on a warm spring night, peanut shells piling up at your feet, and the crack of a baseball bat. 
Ground zero of the Republic my friend.

I did a lot traveling in 2014, and I discovered there's a strong connection between travel, food, eating, and memory.

On the flight back to Birmingham later that day, I got to thinking about the connections between travel and food and memory. Without traveling too far by modern standards, I had had lunch at a deli that served pimento cheese, reminiscent of home; an Indian restaurant thousands of miles from India that reminded me of a long-ago trip to London; and brunch at a French restaurant that brought back memories of leisurely strolls in the 5th Arrondissement. This notion of travel and memory was captured recently in a great travel article in The New York Times by Liesl Schillinger (Read article). In it, she returns to a small village in central France where she had stayed one summer as a young girl. She states that “[i]n the mind, geography converges; beloved landscapes, villages, cities, countries, all become one, in the borderless scrapbook of memory.”  

Her sentiments are equally true when it comes to food. And just like my memories of my travels will be no less idealized than Schillinger’s, I will also one day do the same about the meals I had one weekend in Washington, DC, in the late spring of 2014. As Anthony Bourdain once said: “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.”

I’m already journey proud for the next course!

Eggs Were Definitely First! (July 31, 2014)

I picked this post because it's about one of my favorite foods; its zen-like perfection; and its Miagi-esque complexity. 

At one point in his book Medium Raw, Anthony Bourdain lists several things that everyone should know how to cook. One of these is the omelet. I couldn’t agree more, but I would add one more item: scrambled eggs. Scrambled eggs are deceptively complex. Because of their simple preparation, there is little room for the aspiring chef to hide mistakes. And what is the most frequent mistake made by a home cook? Overcooking. Most folks scramble eggs until they are devoid of any last ounce of moisture or silkiness, leaving dried tasteless clumps better served to the condemned. Simply put, scrambled eggs require a lot more attention than most would think. As M.F.K. Fisher noted: “This concoction is obviously a placid one, never to be attempted by a nervous, harried woman, one anxious to slap something on the table and get it over with.”

This was one of my more self-deprecating entries—needling the foodies of the world (including me). 

The increased culinary emphasis of authenticity is a blessing and a curse—the product of the increasingly diverse nature of culinary options in America today. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t have talked about an “authentic” Indian or Vietnamese restaurant because we were lucky to have a third-rate Chinese restaurant serving lo mien. Now, we have cafes offering banh mi sandwiches with southern style barbecue sauce. But does that make that banh mi any less authentic than one served from a truck in Hanoi? 

And no blog about food would be complete without a post about the uniquely American insanity that is Thanksgiving!

Our journey had begun propitiously enough in Birmingham when we sailed through a hassle-free, friendly TSA screening, with an on-time departure. After a smooth flight with prompt drink service, we landed early in Charlotte! As we walked off the plane into Concourse E, with its all-too-expected smell of fried jalapeƱo poppers from Chili’s Too, we were hit with the cold reality of modern air travel, posted in white Helvetica type: FLIGHT DELAYED! 

Our flight was at least an hour late, though it turned out to be more like an hour and a half. But the real kicker was that there was only one bar in Terminal E, obviously added as an afterthought. It had about as much square footage as an Airstream camper and a line of about 25 people waiting for over-priced, precisely-measured, cheap well drinks. After waiting without success for about 10-15 minutes for the privilege of commandeering a mere 18 square inches at the bar, I gave up.

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