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February 25, 2021


Brussels sprouts are now really good!

Once you make sure they don't touch water (the same for zucchini) brussells sprouts really are good!

I am so unutterably bored with my own cooking, and thinking about what I'm going to cook, that it's not even funny any more.

Someone sent me Nigella Lawson's new book Cook, Eat, Repeat which is well written, and contains some decent, not too troublesome recipes. I don't normally buy cookery books, or use recipes, but I read a lot of them and they all go into my brain's central processor which generates my rather improvisational (but usually pretty good) style of cooking.

I had great food in Santa Fe, and really liked lots about it (probably because I was staying with friends who lived out in the country), but was brought up short when a particularly woke friend said to me, upon my return to the UK, "What next, fun eating trips to Auschwitz?" Not entirely coincidentally, that person has now fallen out with pretty much all his friends, but I still sometimes think about what he said.

i always turn zucchini into fritters.

sprouts get halved, tossed with smoked paprika, salt and pepper, cider vinegar and OO, then baked.

one thing i've recently discovered is 'pickle chicken'. if you finish a jar of dill pickles and have a cup or so of brine left over, get some chicken breast, slice it thinly (maybe pound it a bit), then marinade the chicken in the pickle juice for a few hours. then bread and fry the chicken, schnitzel style.

if you want to get really fancy, take a dill pickle, mince it and make a lemon, butter, pickle sauce. basically chicken piccata sauce, but with dill pickles instead of capers.

...but with dill pickles instead of capers.

Perfect! I love pickles and can barely tolerate capers.

What hsh said.

Funny, I have recently become rather turned on to capers, particularly making caponata (which I got very into in Sicily - I never make ratatouille any more).

cleek's mention of chicken breast reminds me to say that I never order or cook chicken breast, much preferring brown meat, and when roasting a whole chicken I prefer to share with breast lovers so there is no leftover breast (although when there is I make it into Vietnamese style salad with lots of crunchy julienned veg and a dressing made of fish sauce, lime or lemon juice, grated garlic, sugar, chillis etc - it takes the curse off the breast). But there is one exception, and I have tried it with boneless thighs but to my surprise it's better with breast. It is for what turned out to be my absolutely favourite sandwich: you sear a chicken breast on a ridged griddle (or if I had an outside I would do it on the BBQ grill), then slice it on the diagonal into juicy slices. You dress good country style or sourdough bread with plentiful homemade ailloli, layer the chicken on, and then heap tons of fresh water cress on it, more ailloli, then top with the bread. It is divine, and as I say, better with breast than thigh.

The Brussels sprouts talk, and then the capers, reminded me of this recipe for caramelized cauliflower. My daughter and I went to a talk by Lucinda Scala Quinn a long time ago, and this was one of the recipes she presented.

Not liking raisins, I've never made the fancy version quite as she describes it, and sometimes I leave out not only the raisins but the capers too. Actually, most of the time I leave out the capers, because they're not something I like enough to keep on hand. Anyhow, all you really need is the garlic to make it good. ;-)

Capers, meh. But caperberries are great.

I use them in my vegetarian lasagne - alternating layers of red wine/tomato/aubergine/sage/oregano/caperberries and cheese/spinach/nutmeg.

boneless thighs are the best for schnitzel, too!

all you really need is the garlic to make it good. ;-)

True for so many, many things.

"Everything should be rubbed with garlic, including the chef" is the advice I've heard.

My Italian grandma was a great cook of the "you use-a what you got" school. She had no recipes, you either had to watch her do it or ask her to tell you out loud, and she didn't always say the same thing from one recitation to the next. My mom, who wasn't Italian, learned to cook a lot of the foods my dad liked from my grandma. Unlike my cousins, I never had a stint of living at Grandma's house where I could actually watch her a lot, so my knowledge of her cooking has mostly been filtered through my mother, who was a much plainer eater from a culture where, and in an era when, Italian food was still considered rather foreign and exotic....

For whatever reasons of region or family tradition, we ate macaroni, almost never spaghetti. "Sauce" meant tomato sauce; my grandma and my aunts made the sauce and meatballs for the week on Saturdays. "Cheese" meant parmesan or maybe romano, grated fresh. I'm not sure pre-grated cheese was even invented when I was little, but if so, we didn't have it around. We loved to grab the little chunks of parmesan that sneaked through the grater. We also loved to grab tastes of the raw meatball mix. (I wish worries about food safety didn't prevent me from doing that now!)

Meatballs: soak some stale-ish bread ends, then squeeze the water out of them. Crumble the bread into a bowl with the ground beef, break an egg into the mix, add cheese, parsley, garlic, oregano, salt, black pepper. Form balls, fry on all sides, add to sauce. Quantities: well, you just know, right? ;-)

Sauce: though my grandma had a garden, I don't remember that she canned tomatoes or sauce in my childhood, though I assume she did in earlier years. Sauce was some mix of canned tomato paste and canned tomato sauce, plus parsley, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. My dad didn't like basil so that was never included.

I said we ate macaroni, but our most favorite pasta, which we had only rarely because it was always handmade, was cavatelli, which Grandma (and therefore we) pronounced something like "cuh-vuh-DILLS." I've seen frozen cavatelli in any old grocery store in my adulthood. People sometimes inform me that what I really mean is gnocchi, but no, what I really mean is cavatelli.

My mother's version of Grandma's recipe, which I would like to upload a photo of, but I don't have the patience or time right now:


4 cups flour
2 tablespoons salt [!!! - jm.]
Hot water - enough to make a dough
Roll in strips [snakes, about the diameter of a penny - jm.]
Cut in small pieces [slices, maybe 3 or 4 pennies' worth thick? - ed.]
Shape by rolling under first two fingers.

Then you boil 'em and put sauce and freshly grated parmesan on 'em and my oh my, I wish I could have some right now.

My memories of how good the food was might be exaggerated, but I'm sure part of what was in play was freshness -- both my grandmas had big gardens when I was young -- and simplicity. Plus nowadays, who knows what "flour" meant in that recipe, i.e. it was no doubt whatever kind of white flour was on the grocery store shelf in those days. No options, nothing fancy. And certainly nothing whole wheat-ey.

Footnote on gnocchi: I'm pretty sure I never heard of gnocchi until I was well on into adulthood. I certainly never had any pasta made with potatoes as a kid. Probably some regional thing. Anyhow, the recipe for "Spinach and cheese gnocchi" in the second Vegetarian Epicure cookbook is to die for, as long as you don't eat too much of it at one sitting. I might try to upload a snapshot of it later.....

In the sauce recipe, I left ambiguity about what "canned" means. We all made sauce with store-bought canned paste and sauce, not home-canned.

For all my bread-making and yogurt-making and rice and flour in fifty-pound bags during my hippie commune years, I never did any canning. Too damned much work. :-)

We also loved to grab tastes of the raw meatball mix.

Me, too, when my mom was making meatballs. She also ate some raw meatball, and your recipe sounds almost exactly like the way my mom made them, except she used breadcrumbs instead of the soaked bread.

...pronounced something like "cuh-vuh-DILLS."

Classic Southern dialect, y'all. ;^)

My wife (Japanese American ancestry) has posted this on the kitchen door:

If you can't stand the garlic, get out of my kitchen!
American melting pot in action.

I do wonder if raw eggs are more likely to make you sick nowadays, or if we're just more aware of the possibility.

But if one felt comfortable eating raw eggs, there would never be any reason to bake chocolate chip cookie dough. Just freeze it and cut off a slice (or six) for dessert, or whenever a treat is required. Mmmmmmm good.

I used to throw a couple raw eggs in a blender with milk, sugar, and vanilla extract and drink it as a shake when I was a kid. Nothing bad happened as far as I know, other than that weird little ear
that started growing out of my back.

hsh -- :=)

That does remind me: I stopped eating raw meatball mix when my kids were little, because one day I ate some and then got very very sick: lost five pounds in twelve hours and took several days to recover. But it was more likely the raw meat than the eggs, I'd guess. And I don't tend to cook eggs to the hard-boiled point, so I'm probably eating raw-ish yolks all the time.

I used to eat scrapple and love sausages, but have given up mammal meat for the most part. Every once in awhile I'll have a few bites of something, and it's a treat. A friend of mine made cassoulet (with pork) for an outdoor (and very cold) distanced dinner party. Delicious. I make cassoulet without mammal meat (I do use duck though) and it is quite acceptable.

As to southern food, it's amazing how tasty some dishes can be even without red meat or even poultry. My favorite BBQ place in town (my even more true favorite is 1/2 hour out in the country) has wonderful breakfast biscuits with fried green tomatoes, pimiento cheese, and a choice of many spicy sauces. Other faves from the mid-Atlantic South? Collards! Fried oysters! Shrimp and grits! Fried trout! Shad roe! Crab cakes! (I don't think I can ever give up fish, and trips to the beach are a special kind of food-fest.)

Yes, southern food is good, but I love to sample food from all culinary traditions - it's my favorite thing about traveling. I can't wait to get back to New Orleans as soon as I'm vaccinated. My agenda is New Orleans/Vietnamese food, which is supposed to be amazing.

Beyond Meat has been a fun way to satisfy cravings for some old favorite comfort foods. I made piccadillo recently. With raisins and olives, Sam Sifton's NYT food newsletter was an inspiration to try that.

As for grits, anything corn mush with butter (especially served alongside shrimp!) is most satisfying. Polenta!

Your general taste in food seems very close to mine, GftNC, except that I love green peppers. I grew up with them in everything: to me, they have an almost olive-like essence. I envy your (soon-to-be I hope) food exploration of the Deep South.

Capers are great on a scandinavian style sandwich: crispbread, sharp cheddar with mustard seeds, smoked trout, capers, mild Swedish mustard, fresh dill.


My other warm weather mutant sushi/sandwich go-to is onigirazu. This one has a mixture of sushi rice and forbidden black rice (seasoned as for sushi), piquillo peppers, micro greens, nova lox, and cornichons with a mustard aioli drizzle.


I use crumpet rings as the form for loading the layers onto the nori. Arrange by colors. Slide off the forms. Wrap the nori sheet around gently, then wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a bit to let it set. Cut in half to show off the layers.

Also very good with fried chicken breast slices, gochujang, and pickled radishes, or with cold smoked ahi and quick pickled apples.

Oops, that first link should be:


Or nevermind...

Sounds/looks good, nous.

-- Yeah, nous, wanna come cook for me?

-- Also, Sundays at Moosewood has a fantastic recipe for "Vegetable Jambalaya" -- I used to make it now and then, half-hour-stirred-roux and all, before I stopped eating tomatoes.

OMG. Something to experiment with this weekend, nous! Looks fabulous.

i've been watching a lot of 'Chef John' videos on YouTube, lately.

last week i made what he called "Chicken Littles". which is a half Cornish game hen filleted except for the leg bone, filled with compound butter, wrapped around itself so that it quite resembles a pear then roasted.

t'was awesome.

Mrs giggled with delight when she saw it.

also made his layered pork katsu creation, which is a pork tenderloin halved, pounded out very thing, stuffed, breaded and fried. i filled mine with a mix of bunapi mushrooms, green onion, ginger and garlic. little soba noodle salad and some stir-fried cabbage to go with it. bam!

By the way, I only starting enjoying capers when I started using the very small nonpareil type. And whether preserved in salt or vinegar, they do need to be rinsed very well before use.

I still use raw eggs to make Caesar dressing, mayonnaise and ailloli. Never had salmonella poisoning yet (touch wood).

I make a good chicken thigh fillet dish which I think I originally read from Melissa Clark of the NYT, using capers, lemon juice and slices, in the winey-evooish sauce. Very quick, and very good.

Cassoulet - yum. With duck yes (although Serious Eats says it's as good with chicken - I have my doubts) but I do think it needs some meat in it for perfection. Toulouse sausages, for preference.

I'm very resistant to "pretend" food. I often make vegetarian food (usually Italianish, and often pasta based), but the idea of meat substitute is very unappealing to me, on a sensuous level and an intellectual level (except in the sense that obviously eating less meat is much better for the environment). But of course, I grew up eating a lot of Chinese food, so tofu in its many manifestations is delightful to me. And recently young vegetarian friends have introduced me to nutritional yeast, which I can see does give the umami kick I would desperately miss with e.g. vegan food where I had to give up parmesan.

The roast cauliflower dish which Janie links above, in its simplest manifestation (florets roasted with Evoo and salt and pepper) has now been my go-to cauliflower dish for a couple of years. But my more "fancified" version (and hardly any trouble at all) is to bash a bunch of cumin seeds, chilli flakes and Maldon salt flakes in a mortar and pestle, then add Evoo to make a spicy slop into which I tumble the cauliflower florets (and most of the stalk), and then roast. I was inspired by a Northern Chinese dish where these flavours are used on lamb ribs etc, but when I made it with cauliflower the first time my husband's eyes widened, and he said to me "Jesus Christ, I had no idea cauliflower could taste as good as this!" It was very gratifying.

I often make vegetarian food (usually Italianish, and often pasta based), but the idea of meat substitute is very unappealing to me, on a sensuous level and an intellectual level (except in the sense that obviously eating less meat is much better for the environment).

That had been my feeling as well for a long time, but I found myself missing a couple of comfort foods that I grew up with, and Beyond Meat (including the sausage version) works for the purpose of satisfying an occasional craving for those recipes.

The caper caper....aren't they required on bagels and lox? Isn't that a Judaic Law?

I use garlic in just about everything I cook. Add hot red pepper to taste.

Roasted veggies are, well, sublime.

The caper caper....aren't they required on bagels and lox? Isn't that a Judaic Law?

Only for some sects. My own favors sliced red onion.

I think the capers, red onion etc version of bagels and lox is more American-Jewish.

Our version here seems to be more purist: Scottish smoked salmon (more like Nova) on bagels and cream cheese, and maybe with a squeeze of lemon and some black pepper. I have to say, I only enjoyed the American version better with American smoked salmon, even Nova, because it seemed inferior (coarser in taste) to Scottish. I only found out recently that true lox is not even smoked, but that Nova is, which is why I guess it generally has a higher reputation.

Garlic: both my father and my husband were believers in the adage that there is no such thing as too much garlic. I don't go quite that far, but I certainly use enormous amounts of it, despite finding its preparation one of my most annoying kitchen tasks.

Sadly I am allergic to hot peppers.

For vegetarian umami hit, black garlic is very good.

If I were doing a truly ambitious Swedish style onigirazu, I'd want to do my own gravad lax with fresh salmon refrigerator cured in citrus, brine, and spices (dill, clove, juniper seeds, a bit of anise) with maybe a splash of akvavit to help the chemical cooking along.

Homemade gravad lax is one of the easiest and most delicious things you can make, which still feels really luxurious. I used to make it every Christmas to have in the fridge for visiting friends who came for drinks etc. My method (Jane Grigson I think) did not involve brine, but did involve salt, sugar, pepper, vodka, akvavit or even brandy, and tons and tons of dill. It used to get weighted down, marinated and turned every day or so in the fridge for about 3 days, during which it made its own brine, and changed texture completely to be more like smoked salmon than raw salmon, and I used to serve it with black bread and a dill mustard dressing. Mmm, I could just use some now. Seafood is the thing I crave above anything else during lockdown, since although I use a really good grocery delivery service I just don't trust fish or shellfish unless I actually see it at a fishmonger. So it will have to wait til we can go out again.

Sadly I am allergic to hot peppers

Gosh, Nigel, that is sad. Does that include hot paprika, and every kind of chilli? If so, how do you substitute, apart from different kinds of pepper (e.g. Szechuan etc)? And are you actually fully vegetarian?

I've read about the deliciousness of black garlic, but have not actually tried it yet. I get an awful lot of my umami (to which I am addicted) from anchovies, and parmesan.

Parenthood has made me rather lazy and unimaginative in the kitchen - though I did make a goose this Christmas - so this dish is perfectly simple, but good:


Don't use the blender but grate manually. Serve with apple puree and sour cream respectively.

Does that include hot paprika, and every kind of chilli? If so, how do you substitute, apart from different kinds of pepper (e.g. Szechuan etc)?

I'm not actually allergic. Just have zero tolerance -- I characterize it as still having all my taste buds still alive and working. And if there is even one chili flake in a dish, I will inevitably get it.

I don't substitute at all (although I can tolerate a little black pepper, if necessary). I just avoid those dishes. There are plenty of other great tastes and great dishes out there.

I can tolerate a little black pepper, if necessary

Crikey. I would characterise this almost as a disability. Sorry wj.

But seriously, I have only ever encountered this phenomenon in people who were brought up in homes where all the food was pretty bland and unseasoned, so they never developed a taste for strong (and particularly hot) flavours. Did this apply to your family? From everything else about you, I would be rather surprised if the answer was yes.

Homemade gravad lax - yum. Started doing that too a few years ago. Love it.

But I love all manner of preserved food. Pickled, fermented, dried, salted, whatever. I like having something bubbling or pickling at all times.

My favorite thing to do with hot peppers from the garden (any kind) is to subject them to lacto-fermentation for as long as I want (until I get around to doing something with them), then turning them into homemade sriracha or just hot sauce (made with vinegar and garlic). The fermentation adds something wonderful to the flavor. Not for wj, I guess. Mixing it with mayo makes a wonderful dipping sauce for shrimp or spread for a banh mi.

I like to dry garden herbs (especially tarragon and sage) with kosher salt for use during winter. Freezing herbs as pesto is also nice.

Canning tomatoes, and sometimes peaches, is something I do occasionally, but I make many jars of pickles every year: cucumbers, of course, but also other veggies. White fish spread is lovely with pickled radishes. I love serving chicken liver pate with salad and pickled green beans and other veggies of all colors.

I love Indian food, and sometimes crave mango pickles. I don't make them though.

I mostly grew up on stuff we grew ourselves. (Farm kid) It had real flavor without added seasonings -- I figure I was ahead, on balance, compared to those whose food was bland without seasonings. That includes both vegetables and meats. Store-bought, in those days, but to a depressing extent still today, is pretty awful.**

I have at least learned good enough manners not to point out to others that the original (and only real) reason for using pepper is to conceal the fact that the meat has gone off. (Not bell peppers. They're real vegetables.) But the thought is still there. ;-)

** How anybody can stand to eat McDonalds of Burger King is simply beyond me.

I have at least learned good enough manners not to point out to others that the original (and only real) reason for using pepper is to conceal the fact that the meat has gone off.

Funny unintentional (?) rejoinder to my comment directly above yours, wj. I delight in techniques that make old food taste good. No, I wouldn't say that to my guests (nor would I serve them rotten meat), but that's part of what makes cuisine so amazing. Confit? Lasts for weeks or more.

I'm not actually allergic. Just have zero tolerance

we have a friend who has zero chili pepper tolerance. this complicates our group dinners at the beach, but not as much as my shellfish allergy does :)

sapient, yeah cross posted there.

Does that include hot paprika, and every kind of chilli?

Pretty well.
And there’s no substitute, really.
I’m fine with heat - but stuff like mustard or wasabi just doesn’t fill the gap.

And no, not vegetarian, though my wife is. Black garlic is great as it adds umami to dishes without the salt that comes with miso or soy sauce etc.

I can tolerate a little black pepper, if necessary

There are cures. Take up smoking. Good bourbon.

Some might find this to be extreme...but. both sides.

I think most food today (unless you can afford to go to good farmers' markets for fruit and veg, and get proper rarebreed meat which hasn't been fed on antibiotics etc) is even more tasteless and nutritionally degraded than it used to be, particularly in the US which is why there's such a brouhaha over here about the fact that post Brexit the Tories might do a trade deal which would force us to accept US food standards. And I'm totally with you on McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. But I believe, in a way, you have answered my question in the affirmative. No matter how good the raw ingredients, herbs and spices can still improve the taste in certain (but not all) dishes. I myself prefer certain things very plainly cooked - for example I make it a point to get exceptionally good chickens, then roast them fast and hot with the sole addition of olive oil and Maldon sea salt. But that doesn't mean that other chicken dishes can't be fabulous with complex flavourings. I love (in the MacNeice sense) "the drunkenness of things being various". Or, to put it yet another way, "in my father's house are many mansions".

But, regarding your crack about pepper's original use, you will have noticed that I am far less polite than you are!

Garlic: both my father and my husband were believers in the adage that there is no such thing as too much garlic.

Unless you're taking blood thinners. Or along with the garlic, you're consuming other foods and/or dietary supplements that thin the blood or lower blood pressure. Once, when consuming garlic, chili peppers, and a couple of other items, my blood pressure dropped to about 80/40.

After graduating from college my dad (then age 20) went to India as a missionary for the United Methodist Church, 1949-52. So in my childhood I was introduced to curry at a time and place (Tallahassee/early 70s) that I otherwise would likely have not encountered it. It was very Americanized, so not very hot spicy. Didn't start getting in to hot hot stuff myself until college (Hello, Three Mile Island hot Buffalo wings).

Now I make my own hot sauces a few times a year, including a sweet-then-hot mango-habanero sauce that is especially good with seafood (fish tacos, fried grouper fingers).

I love Indian food, and sometimes crave mango pickles. I don't make them though.

We have a dear friend, Jennifer Burns Bright, who is a food educator, writer, and culinary wizard. She cans and sells the most amazing jams and chutneys, all locally sourced and/or foraged from her area of the Oregon coast. Her smoked hot peach chutney is exquisite, as is her apricot bourbon jam and rhubarb ginger jam (the latter is stunning on fresh baked cardamom rolls).

You can get a taste of her writing here: http://oregonhumanities.org/rll/magazine/feed-fallwinter-2020/preserving-food-cheating-death/

I loved that, nous. Thank you!

I'm not actually allergic. Just have zero tolerance

I buy dried chili peppers by the pound. One time I had built up enough tolerance that I put over an ounce in a smoothie and consumed it with no problem. I only did it once as I didn't want to chance overloading my liver and kidneys.

Yes, great piece nous, thank you.

Just so everyone who cares knows:

Honey is a food preservative:

Honey is very acidic (although different nectar sources vary in acidity). So putting garlic in honey for a long period apparently doesn't give you botulism!* (You heard it here, on the Internet, so caveat emptor.)

*Unless you're a baby, under one year old, in which case honey itself can (rarely, but possibly mortally) give you botulism, and you best not have it with or without garlic.

I buy dried chili peppers by the pound.

Stick a few of those peppers into a jar of honey (out of which you'd served yourself a few teaspoons in some tea or on yogurt). Wait a couple of weeks. Then make this (or just have some): https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018182-hot-honey-shrimp

I've got about 7 lbs. of honey in the cupboard right now, but 5 of those are reserved for making mead. I've got two 750s of a semi-dry green tea mead from last year still in the cupboard, but I have to get a batch put together at the spring equinox to make sure that we have some on hand for winter solstice.

Mead is the easiest thing to brew. So much less fuss than ale (at least all-grain brewing, I've never brewed from extract).

So much we share, nous.

Wasn’t until I started brewing beer in the early 90s that I learned where the term honeymoon is derived from.

Wasn’t until I started brewing beer in the early 90s that I learned where the term honeymoon is derived from.

Without reciting details, I toasted a close relative of mine with my mead, and a brief historical narrative of the honey moon. She, the bride, a classicist/archaeologist, later laughed (in a most happy and celebratory way) at my "folk history". And she loves me, so it's all good.

Me and my brew partner made one batch of mead in 94, my not liking honey meant it wasn’t a priority for me. In the late aughts he was dating (later married) a woman who had become a mutual friend, and she was a good friend with Amy Carter, she made Amy’s dress for her second wedding. My friend had made a batch of mead and presented some, together with the folk history, at the after party (ceremony was at the Carter Center with Secret Service doing their thing). Amy and her husband had a male child a few years later.

There are cures. Take up smoking. Good bourbon.

Some might find this to be extreme...but. both sides.

I could consider a "cure" involving bourbon. Presuming I felt the need of a cure.

But anything for which the "cure" is to take up smoking seems like something to be embraced. I've never had any use for smoking. Even before my father trashed his lungs, and spent his last decade hauling around an oxygen tank. These days, I simply avoid spending time in proximity to smokers. Or in any room whete smokers have been spending time -- they continue to reek/outgas months after the last smoker is gone.

Great story, Priest! Yes, it seems to be somewhat effective.


Now I make my own hot sauces a few times a year, including a sweet-then-hot mango-habanero sauce that is especially good with seafood (fish tacos, fried grouper fingers).,/i>

Sounds great. Care to cough up a recipe, or is it a priestly secret?

One should always preview even the briefest comment.

Alternatively, one might expect a contemporary platform to close any unclosed tags in a comment.

Once, when consuming garlic, chili peppers, and a couple of other items, my blood pressure dropped to about 80/40.

Hmmm... This has me speculating. I have what almost certainly can be categorized as essential hypertension - that is it isn't clearly caused by some other condition. I don't have any other medical problems known to cause it, I'm not obese, I get lots of exercise, and my diet isn't particularly poor. This seems to leave genetics as the obvious reason for it. (It's controlled with medication, so no worries!)

Back to speculating - I wonder if there's a mechanism in my body chemistry that makes me crave very spicy food as a natural way to reduce my blood pressure. Mexican, Indian, Jamaican, any of the East Asian cuisines with spicy dishes, chili, Buffalo wings, arrabbiata sauce ... you name it. I'll eat it until I'm sweating like I ran 3 miles. I even put cayenne pepper on mashed potatoes.

Am I like an anemic person who eats dirt?

hsh -- it's the kind of thing that I wouldn't be surprised to see confirmed someday. Because of things that are going on with a family member, I'm ever more sadly aware of how much we actually don't know about how the body works. Plus, having lived this long, I've seen a lot of diet notions that seemed to make sense at the time (and/or made plenty of profits for one sector of the food industry or another) debunked, and vice versa.

If we could come back 100 years hence (assuming the infrastructure to continue doing research isn't destroyed by climate change or Qnuts), I think we'd be amazed to see what we didn't know in 2021.

On the other hand, the fact that my cholesterol is far too high for my doctor's comfort, and yet I constantly crave more saturated fats than I should be eating (esp. good cheeses), is the opposite of an anemic person eating dirt.

I don't eat much spicy food anymore -- my aging gut can't tolerate it. But when I was younger I was like you, and I wonder if some of it is just habituation. It tastes so good...and as you get used to it, you need ever more to keep the high going. ;-)

I used to be able to eat peppers so hot they'd drive my friends screaming from the room (e.g. the little dried hot ones in Kung Pao chicken).

At the back of hsh's and my comments is the interesting notion, which I think is being taken more seriously these days, that where diet is concerned, one size does not fit all.

As I understand it, spicy foods trick your body into reacting as if it is burning, but there is no actual damage, just a false signal. It triggers an endorphin reaction and euphoria. The drop in blood pressure is likely related to that.

In the concentrations found in peppers, capsaicin is generally safe. But in concentrated form, it's a nasty and dangerous alkaloid. Capsaicin affects blood pressure by dilating arteries.


It's adapted from a recipe in this book:


As you might guess from my mead comment, I leave the honey out. I am at work right now, when I get home I can take a picture, post it on my blog and share the link. I had to see if I could remember how to get to the blog and log in, the last post is from August 2009.

libido, libado....

Smelt and Tasted

The nose and palate never doubt
Their verdicts on the world without,
But instantaneously condemn
Or praise each fact that reaches them:
Our tastes may change in time, it's true,
But for the fairer if they do.

Compared with almost any brute,
Our savouring is less acute,
But, subtly as they judge, no beast
Can solve the mystery of a feast,
Where love is strengthened, hope restored,
In hearts by chemical accord.

W.H. Auden

This entire thread goes into my favorites list under "Recipes".

I'd be very interested to try grits, because I love polenta*. But for me, polenta has to have plenty of butter and parmesan stirred into it at the end of cooking (the latter of which, or any equivalent, I gather is not usual with grits). And I also serve it with very flavourful sauces (ragu made with pot roasted lamb or game, or mushroom sauce made with garlic or shallots, dried porcini as well as normal mushrooms, the porcini soaking water, madeira or sherry, and a little of what you call heavy cream (our double cream).

However, I am very keen to try grits, and particularly shrimp and grits. This tour of the South will happen, sometime, if I can make it!

*The Serious Eats method for cooking it takes all the aggro out. 5 parts water to 1 part polenta - not instant - soak for several hours or overnight, then cook in the same water. Stir from time to time but not obsessively, and it cooks in half the time it would have without soaking.

When I make grits, depending upon the accompaniment, I stir in plenty of butter and various cheeses.

Grits can ride with just about anything. I made a Peposo some months ago, (add more black pepper than any of the recipes call for, AND cook it longer until goodness overwhelms) and served it, to myself, with a cheesy grits.


On your tour of the South, GftNC, +while there are plenty of great shrimp and grits to be had far and wide, the most sublime version I've eaten was at Husk Restaurant in Nashville.

I ordered it for dinner .. and dessert.

There are Husk restaurants in Charleston and Savannah as well.

Chef Sean Brock's, (the founder) middle name is heirloom ... seeds, grains, herbs .. though he may now have moved on to a new venture.

Thanks JDT, for the reassurance on the cheese aspect of grits!

I've only had Peposo once, and didn't love it. BUT it was cooked by one of my best and most beloved friends, who is definitely not one of the world's best cooks. He has been putting up with (and soliciting) my opinion of his food for many years, with good humour, and it has definitely improved with practice, but I would never base my opinion of a dish on his rendition alone.

I'd love to go back to Nashville - I had a hysterical time there once attending a conference for Romance Writers of America (I'm not one), and also had one of the all-time best steaks I've ever eaten. I disgraced myself when buying postcards to send home because when I handed the cashier the pile and she saw the one of the replica Parthenon she asked me "Oh, the Parthenon! Have you seen it?" and, caught on the back foot, I said "Not this one!" My companion afterwards remarked that this alone showed I could never be a politician (she worked at the White House) - when I asked what I should have said it was "Not yet, but I can't wait to!"

the latter of which, or any equivalent, I gather is not usual with grits

In grits as I have known them, butter in generous amounts is de rigueur, and cheese a popular and common option. And in foodie circles, it goes off in any of directions from there.

My favorite is lots of butter and mashed up with a soft boiled egg. Side of bacon and toast, if that suits.



IS there other good stuff in the book? It's $4 on eBay, so it wouldn't take much to justify it.

More cheesy reassurance! Thanks chaps.

A Southern *California* version of shrimp & grits that I love prepares the grits with sriracha butter and habanero jack, hits the shrimp with a red ale deglaze during the searing, and adds avocado and cilantro as garnish.

It's a good book even though I've only used a few of the recipes, easily worth the $4.

It's dated in the sense that it came out before some the new varieties of hot peppers (ghost, Carolina Reaper, etc.) were around, and at the end of each section (it's organized by sauce styles) it lists commercial sauces that are examples of the style, many of which may no longer be available. Although to be fair, many of the listed brands were not widely distributed at the time.

Well, one of the (I thought) obsolete hot sauces mentioned in the book that I haven't seen since the 90s has made a comeback:


Interesting interview with a hot sauce freak featured on Patagonia's blog, The Cleanest Line:


The mildest sauce I make would be similar to sriracha. I have some Capsicum chinense varieties in my garden, like Trinidad Moruga scorpions and Carolina Reapers, that are pretty silly hot; a ghost pepper is probably a third as spicy as those. If I eat a raw chunk my whole face goes numb, but they also have a really unique flavor. Some of my recent sauces have been an attempt to tone down those mega-hots to where they’re approachable and people can actually taste them.

Recipe included at the end.

Seeing the mention of cilantro (coriander to me), causes a mild shudder.
I am one of those with the genetic disposition to find that it tastes of soap. That, and my allergy to chilli makes Mexican food, which my wife loves, inaccessible to me.

Food likes are another of those nature/nurture things. You can overcome childhood dislikes, but you can’t argue with your genes.

"you can’t argue with your genes."

SURE you can. It's just likely that you'll lose the argument.

Still, you can QUESTION your genes, as in

"do these genes make me look fat?"

I have no answer to that.

Nigel, chillis and coriander! Damn. The friend with whom I hope to do the Deep South trip also tastes coriander/cilantro as soap. Happy with chillis, though, thank God. I can't decide whether if I had to choose I'd choose your deprivation, or cleek's of shellfish, both a huge sacrifice. But not as bad as my current bro-in-law, who is allergic to garlic. Luckily for him, my sister is an excellent cook, and I have directed their attention to "Elephant Garlic", which although it looks (and tastes) like garlic, is sufficiently unrelated that with any luck it shouldn't trigger his allergy. But because the taste and smell is so similar, he's rather disinclined to try it.

That, and my allergy to chilli makes Mexican food, which my wife loves, inaccessible to me.

Similarly here. Except for me it's avacado rather than cilantro that's the other problem. (Not to mention not being particularly fond of corn.)

Until recently I did not have much in the way of food difficulties. In the last year, though, I started to have problems with both peanuts and tree nuts*, which makes Thai and Indian, and a bit of Chinese food a challenge. So now I am figuring out when to deploy pine nuts, soybeans, sunflower seeds, pepitas, or sesame as the best substitute in recipes featuring nuts.

Looks like I'm not going vegan any time soon.

My wife has issues with avocado. In So Cal. It's so cruel.

*Not epipen level problems, but definite inflammation.

I'm in the opposite situation. I don't have any known food allergies and I'm not a foodie. I don't have much interest in a varied diet and can eat pretty much the same thing every day for days or weeks at a time.

so, um.... why is the CPAC stage shaped like a Norse rune used by Nazis as an SS badge and by modern day 'alt-right' groups ?


a total coincidence, i'm sure.

i mean, the National Socialist Movement literally switched from the swastika to the Odal Rune in 2016.

and now it's CPAC's stage.

<OKHandSign />

I'm really not sure what to think about that CPAC stage. Part of me thinks it's just too f**ked up to have been purposeful. Another part of me thinks that's just how certain segments of the GOP (or the "conservative" movement) roll these days. A wink's as good as a nod to a blind man, aye?

But BLM was founded by a Marxist, so both sides and all that. Sorry, McK hacked my phone momentarily.

Sorry it took me a bit, but recipes for Bernie:


Sorry about your allergies, Nigel, so this won't be for you, I guess.

But I recently bought coriander pesto by mistake and it was a refreshing change from the usual pesto.





As I mentioned earlier, I leave the honey out of the recipe; perhaps as I result I tend to use only half an onion and less than the full tablespoon of dry mustard. As with any recipe, personal adjustments to taste.

The coriander thing isn’t an allergy, but appears to be a genetic predisposition to detect the unpleasantly soupy taste.

I’m pretty sure it’s a real thing, as I’ve learned to like plenty of foods I initially disliked, and I have tried with coriander.
I’ve never tried the pesto, but the Bature article suggests that the crushed herb might become more palatable.

This account gives some flavour of the complexities of taste.

... Nearly three years ago, I completely lost my sense of smell following a parainfluenza virus infection, which was confirmed by DNA testing.

I was completely anosmic for three months, and since then I have had a slow partial recovery. I would say that I am now 5 or 10 per cent recovered.

Before the infection, I had an unusually good sense of smell, and I was able to discriminate a lot of smells that other people seemed to be unaware of. Each of the roses in the garden had its own scent, for instance.

Now there are whole classes of things that I can’t smell at all, including all body-related and animal smells, most spices and all fruit except for rhubarb and cooked limes.

While there are some things that smell the same as I remember them, such as cloves and chilli, most of what I can smell is greatly simplified, such as tomatoes, cheese, cooked meats and onions.

I imagine what is going on is that I can detect the main substances that characterise these foods, but not the vast number of additional chemicals that provide the subtlety and variety to their flavours.

Sadly, I am no longer able to enjoy fine wine, which can be an intense pleasure like nothing else, although one that not everybody gets. These days, I find it difficult distinguishing a decent claret from black coffee; both have become equally repulsive.

Curiously, there are some smells or tastes that are completely different from how they should be. Cucumber, for instance, now has a strong and unpleasant smell that is unlike any food at all: something like gloss paint with an undertone of slightly off mackerel....

Gosh, Nigel, it's a bit unclear, but if all that follows your last link is about you, what a shame. I hope it isn't....

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