I don’t like blueberry bagels, and other arbitrary food musings

This post was originally published on Geek Force Network, December 5, 2014.


A lovely picture from Think Fooditude.

When I was in grad school, one of my professors once said, “There are only three kinds of bagels in this world: plain, poppy seed, and sesame.” Well… two out of three ain’t bad. But my dislike of poppy seed bagels (too many damn seeds to get stuck in your teeth!) reaches nowhere near the height of my abhorrence for blueberry bagels. Oh, I’ve tried to quell my hatred – just the other week I purposefully added two blueberry bagels to my grocery store stash just to see if my opinion had softened. Nope. They were still yucky. I think it has to do with the fact that they don’t taste at all like blueberries. In fact, I really don’t care for any baked goods that contain blueberries – muffins, scones, cookies, cakes, pies, even pancakes. Not only is the blueberry flavor never all that pronounced in these items, but it seems that they end up extra sweet to make up for that lack of taste. Plus, when you cook blueberries, they tend to disintegrate into mush. When I want blueberries, I want that extra-fresh *pop* of flavor that only comes from them being fresh. I can handle fresh blueberries in salad or on top of cereal or oatmeal. But in a bagel? Never.

The exact opposite is true of raisins. The thought of eating raisins straight out of the box is perfectly vile. The chewy/gritty texture is one thing, but their heady, sweet n’ sour taste makes my stomach churn. Cook them however, and they become magical. In fact, I l-o-v-e- cinnamon raisin bagels. Yep. Had one just this morning with cream cheese, and it was perfect. Cinnamon raisin bagels aren’t nearly as sweet as blueberry bagels (if you have to go with fruit bagels, that is), and the taste pairs really well with a nice, slightly bitter cream cheese. See, most of the time, raisins rehydrate slightly when they are cooked. So you’re not left with complete mush (like blueberries) or hard, inedible bits (like, well, raisins) when you add them to cookies, bread, pies, etc. They become plump and moist and lovely-tasting. The same kind of goes for yogurt-covered raisins. At least covered they stay more moist than usual.

I was on the hunt for yogurt-covered raisins at the store the other day. Didn’t find any, and I ended up bringing home yogurt-covered cranberries and yogurt-covered peanuts, just because. I’m not sure what fool enjoys eating dried cranberries straight, but I’ve never been so silly. They are solely for making pumpkin-cranberry bread in my house. Covering them in yogurt makes for an okay snack, but they are oddly sweeter than yogurt covered raisins, and are also extremely tart. Like a Sweet Tart covered in yogurt. Hmm…no thanks on that front. As for the peanuts…icky and insipid. I was hoping they’d fall in the sweet n’ salty realm, but no. They taste just like you’d expect plain peanuts covered in a slightly sweet yogurt shell would taste. And that taste would be bland.

Speaking of bland, as a vegetarian, some people think that I live in a world of free from flavor. That because I’m not cooking everything in bacon fat and chicken grease, I’m stuck with boring vanilla vegetables and cardboard-y fake meats. Well…I can’t really deny that latter because some vegetarian “meat” is pretty rank. (And this after many advances in the science of creating said fake meats, which must be a college major by now.) But some of it is very edible and even delicious! I’d offer you some of my fake bacon, but I won’t because I like to too much. Also, you’ll hate it. So, win-win! But going back to the bland factor, I have a cupboard full of spices, which are quite easy to obtain. Want to punch up your broccoli? Add a couple dashes of garlic powder. Hate cooked carrots? Go with some dried sage or curry powder to spruce things up a bit. Wish that your coleslaw tasted like anything other than cabbage? Then you need a good palmful of celery seeds. There’s absolutely no end to the flavor combinations that can turn any boring foodstuffs from bland to brilliant! I’m fully aware of the flavors that I’m missing by not cooking my black-eyed peas in bacon or making my split-pea soup without ham hocks. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make black-eyes peas or split-pea soup. I can, and I do, and it’s all just as flavorful.

Around this time of year (i.e. the “holidays”), one family member or another will always ask me if I miss meat. I really don’t. Except…for one thing. My mom’s sausage and peppers. Boy oh boy…if I think about it long enough, I can start to smell it. The sweet and hot Italian sausage cooking away in a crock pot with a glorious array of bell peppers, all in a hearty tomato sauce. At dinner time, warm up some hoagie rolls (Amoroso‘s, please) and spoon out the delectable mix of meat and veggies. Mmmm, mmm, good! Though it’s been 20+ years, the thought of that meal makes me smile.

*****

Care to share any favorite food musings/memories so I don’t feel like such a dork here?


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

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J’s Philosophy of Food and Cooking

Heya everybody!

A big thank you to Liore for the invitation to this blog where food and games meet.

If there’s something food and games have in common, it’s a great way for global barriers to drop. I remember being extremely impressed in my online games to discover one person was from such-and-such country, and yet another from somewhere across the globe.

The topic of food is another such unifier.

So who is Jeromai?

A long-winded wall-of-texter when it comes to all things games, and as you’ll soon find out, of food, and practically everything else.

I hail from Singapore, and if there’s one thing you should know about my country, besides the well known “facts” that it’s “very clean” (I guess?) and that it’s got something to do with China (it’s not, it’s nowhere in China, it’s a tiny little speck of an island on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, its population is predominantly Chinese, yes, but there’s a good mix of Malays, Indians and other ethnicities… much of whose food culture has ended up borrowing from each other making us fairly multicultural…)

…it’s that we’re all obsessed with food.

Every person you ask will have their own opinions on the best places to eat, and what the best rendition of a particular dish is, in an island a mere 50 kilometers (or 31 miles) across.

The sheer density of restaurants and food stalls is quite stunning.

This does, of course, have an effect on the average waistline and the preponderance of obesity in the country.

This is especially obvious when one hears about low-carb diets and goes around staring at every stall in the usual hangout of the typical Singaporean – the hawker centre – to realize that every meal comes loaded with a big bowl of rice, or noodles, or rice noodles, or bread, or fries, or some other starchy variant thereof.

Bah.

I’ve kinda slipped off that wagon lately, and gained some kilos as a result, but one thing I do try to do when I cook at home is to skew towards healthy cooking and eating.

  • Good quality, raw ingredients.
  • Not too much refined carbohydrates, though I’m no stickler and probably follow a more moderate carb sort of eating style when all is said and done.
  • A focus on cramming in more vegetables and fruits whenever possible. because if left to my old habits of eating out all the time, I simply don’t ingest enough.
  • Meat-wise, I know unprocessed is best, but it’s so much more of a pain to prepare and ham and sausages are so… nommy. (Still working on changing lifestyle on this point.)

I’m a big fan of the science of cooking – books by Harold McGee and Alton Brown dot my shelves, and Serious Eats’ Food Lab is on my Feedly.

I try to prepare simple stuff most of the time, because I’m lazy / don’t like to wash up 50 pots and pans and plates just for one meal / I’m not likely to cook and eat it on a regular basis if it takes too dang long, which defeats the purpose of healthy-ish home-cooking and all of that takes time away from game time.

However, I do cook like a traditional Asian grandmother… in that I tend to wing it and eyeball my ingredients and adjust to taste.

Measuring is not really my thing. I will no doubt make a lousy baker.

It’s a good thing I like savoury foods more.

My theory is simple. Understand the WHY of cooking, read a bunch of recipes and figure out the similarities between them and what the approximate ratios are, and you can pretty much cook it and then later, if you’re so inclined, add your own unique spin to it.

You do get the occasional accidents with this method, where you over-salt something because your estimations sucked or something turns inedible (so don’t try it when you’ve got other hungry mouths on the line waiting for it) but these things generally only happen once because, dang, do you learn from it. :/

But what you get in return is a lot of flexibility and confidence in producing something passably edible from whatever is left in your refrigerator or pantry, and every now and then, a beautiful conjunction of flavors that make you close your eyes in ecstasy when eating and marvel why chefs in gourmet restaurants haven’t figured this blend of ingredients out yet.

Without further ado, let’s get cooking.

In the next post – A Newbie’s Guide to DIY Vinaigrette and Lazy Person’s Salad.