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Posted by Peter D'Adamo for Sante_J.
I won't mince words: I'm on a junk jag. I'm feeling lazy and choose to order in or go for quick meals. I'll touch upon four "avoid" foods I've tasted -- truly tasted -- recently.
The first is popcorn. I've gone many years in a row with no popcorn. I don't miss it. But now that I've had some, I've discovered that it has a powerful taste with which I'm no longer familiar: It's CORNY! There's just no other way to describe it. The interesting thing about popcorn is: It's easy to eat without tasting it. You can focus on your movie or TV show. You can perceive it mostly texturally (a sensual marvel in itself). You can enjoy the butter or the salt or the herb-sprinkle. You can mindlessly scarf it down by the handful. But if you stop and focus, there's just no way around its sheer corniness. It's quite miraculous, really, that corn, burst from its kernel, tastes the way corn on the cob tastes, the way ground corn in chips tastes: Corny. And nothing else in the world does, or comes close.
The second is root beer. This is a subject worthy of its very own blog. I "discovered" root beer this spring. I'm sipping one right now. It's rather a delicacy for me, as an "avoid", and I relish it. A good root beer (this one is "Barq's Famous Olde Tyme...Since 1898")(it also contains corn syrup - I know - and it doesn't taste corny) brings out my inner perfumer. It has a dark, musty patchouli-like base, the requisite hint of birch, a vanilla roundness, and a spiking of clove. A sophisticated cordial, if well blended and properly appreciated. A top-notch root beer syrup could be a cocktail ingredient, extended, perhaps, with rum or certain whiskies.
Third is arabbiata or "fra diavolo" tomato sauce. The "diavolo" is in the peppers, and they're essential to complexifying a good marinara base, especially if undergirded by such suitable foils as crustaceans or a beneficial ocean fish such as halibut. Linguine marinara is fine, but just as easy is a jar of Rao's Arabbiata or Classico Spicy Pepper tomato sauce. Another way to add interest is to do as my Nana so masterfully did: Go Garlicky.
Fourth is vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt. No: I don't like them lately. Haagen-Dasz vanilla frozen yogurt, Breyer's vanilla ice cream. Taste: Sugar, sugar, sugar (and probably corn syrup too, again!). A single note with no complexity. These might silkily enrich a fine root beer (as a "float") or take a brandy- or rum-based saucing, but alone they are no longer (Hooray!) a temptation. They'd do well to take on a textural garnish component, such as particularly raspy walnuts, with that rum sauce, or to be founded upon a spiced cake. Of the four recent avoids, solitary vanilla ice cream is the low scorer, by a wide margin (Then again, I'm not exactly advocating solitary tomato sauce!).
I could easily have hidden from you my little vices. But what I wanted to share was the art of fully experiencing one's food. Avoids are foods we may be better qualified to truly taste, for their being relative rarities in our long-term programs. And if you're going to "cheat", make it good!
Dr. D'Adamo says he waits all year for his wife Martha's stuffed cabbage, an avoid for him. I'll bet he really tastes it, too.
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