About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

5 Things That Will Make Anything Taste Better

As a newly wed, I couldn't figure out why my Mother's vegetables always tasted better than mine.  I later uncovered her secret of adding just a pinch of sugar to improve the taste of the bland squash and string beans we ate so often.  Learning to season is an art and too often we just rely on recipe measurements rather than our senses.  I'm often asked "how much do you ..." and my answer usually is "just taste it and see what it needs".  Over 45 years of cooking, I've decided there are 5 things that will make anything taste better.  The sad part is not one of them is deemed good for you but used judiciously, your food will taste better.

#1 Salt  Salt brings out the flavor in most anything.  Kosher is my choice when cooking but you should always use table salt when baking.  It's a matter of accurate measuring when it comes to volume.  It's the first thing I reach for when a dish needs flavor direction.  Salt has become popular and fashion conscious as it comes in a variety of colors and flavors based on its mineral content and where it comes from.  Fancy Pink Himalayan or Black Hawaiian are eye catchers on upscale menus.  Salted caramel and other sweets boasting a salty side have become very popular lately.  There's no way to get around salt except by choice.

#2 Sugar  How can something so good be so bad for you.  Sugar is on every medical and wellness hit list but it's fair to say sweets are an undeniable pleasure.  Why?  Two reasons; because we are primate descendants who ate fruit from trees and our taste buds only recognize salt, sweet, sour and bitter.
Glucose is the simplest form the cells of our body use for energy and that tells our brain it is a good thing.  Our genes have also predisposed us to interpret bitter as poisonous and sweet as safe to eat.

 Well, take a good thing and ruin it.  Things got out of hand with high fructose corn syrup, vending machines and so forth so I try to take this approach to sugar, use a pinch now and then like my Mother did to improve a bland food but if you're going to sin, sin BIG -  just not every day.  Save the ice cream and cake for birthdays but make it the best ice cream and cake anyone ever tasted.

#3  Butter  As Julia Child said, "don't be afraid of butter" or Paula Dean saying with a smile, "add more butter".  Butter has never ruined anything!  Somehow in the past, we got confused and misguided thinking margarine was an improvement.  Now we know the truth, butter is a sacred and holy thing.  Olive oil may be best for our hearts but nothing will replace butter in our hearts. When I complained of hunger before bedtime as a child, my parents had a simple remedy - bread and butter.  A great feast!

#4 Bacon  My parents loved bacon, ham and all forms of cured or smoked pork.  Regrettably, they deemed it necessary to eliminate most of it from their diets as the years went by.  At 90, it didn't seem to matter and they went back to bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning.  Hallelujah!  There are some benefits to old age.

Just yesterday, I innocently ordered a dish of tricked-up Hoppin John made with jalapeño and tempeh bacon.  I found out tempeh bacon is fermented soy beans!  Was the jalapeño suppose to disguise it.  Can't fool me.   I mean, what would a BLT be without the B?  I rest my case!

#5  Cheese  If you want to polish up your vegetables, grate some parmesan over them. Cheese is one of the most flexible ingredients at our disposal.  It comes in so many delightful forms I'd be hard pressed to name a favorite.  Who doesn't love a good grilled cheese.  What would pizza be without cheese? Pimento Cheese and mac 'n cheese are part of the basic food pyramid in the South.  Cheese is served as a final course in France instead of dessert.  I'm telling you, cheese is as important to culture as it is to diet.  Nobody's certain when making cheese got started but it seems to have been a way of preserving milk in Europe, Mid East and Asia.  Then cheese snuck it's way into our American hearts via cottage cheese and Velveta and now it's sophisticated, imported and artisanal.


An all-American favorite meal is a bacon/cheese hamburger, French Fries and a milk shake.  It covers  all if the bases if the bun is buttered.  I didn't say it was healthy, just popular because it taste better than a quinoa, Kimchi, roasted chickpea grain bowl with a Sriracha finish.  Just imagine what a little cheese and bacon could do for that.

Ok, the next blog will be a grain bowl.

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