Saturday, January 26, 2008
Culinary Crimes, Part One (One Man's Crusade Against Evil)
Somewhere along the line, paprika became the culinary equivalent of teal in the late 80's: a gaudy, vulgar, embarrassing affectation mistaken by the hopelessly middle-class for some mark of sophistication and upper-class élan. How did this happen? What cook came up with the idea of finishing off his dish at the Middle Class Family Restaurant, by dumping paprika all over everything? And why did anyone ape him? Why did anyone think he knew anything?
And if dumping paprika all over dishes which have NOTHING to do with paprika wasn't unforgivable enough, not mentioning the paprika dump on the menu must be. You never know anymore when that prime rib, or veal cutlet, or three cheese omelette, or fish and chip plate, is going to show up at your table with that rotten orange powder all over everything. So now, out of a sense of justice, culinary sense (I like to imagine), and because I hate the stuff, I immediately send everything back which has the paprika dump, and then I deliver a cutting two minute speech to the manager or waiter about why they should respect paying, hungry customers by telling them ahead of time that the dish they ordered will have weird crap that totally alters the taste dumped all over it - and "why do you dump the stuff on there anyway?", etc.
Reactions vary. One guy said once, "they do that to add color". (WTH?) I'm like, "Color?! What about the TASTE? Would you spread tomato paste or blue tempera paint all over everything just for 'color'?". Another lady, at an otherwise nice Greek restaurant, said, "I don't know why the cook started doing that. And I've told them a million times to put it on the menu, but they won't". I heard something similar a few months ago here in Victoria when my perogies and sausage showed up showered in the loathsome dust. I rolled into my speech, and the waitress - SORRY, "server" - said that she had told the managers to announce it on the menu repeatedly, as more and more customers had been sending the "Paprika Surprise!" dishes back ("let us begin the revolution, comrades!"), but that they hadn't changed it yet. (In any case, they did make me up another plate of [untainted] perogies and sausage, so - deo gratias - I was able to calm down...).
But what about a high-class culinary crime? What about...(shudder)...the rejection of big, sloppy, gloriously sinful chocolate cake by high-falutin' restaurants all over the place? For going on a decade now, the chocolate "cake" these pretentious tombs serve has been getting drier, harder, denser, and tinier. It's like the Big Bang in reverse or something. (There's something really wrong when you need a STEAK KNIFE to cut a piece of your chocolate cake). Where is the AIR, people? Where is the FUN? Where is the SAUCE? Where is the MOIST, MELT IN YOUR MOUTH FROSTING? Where is the OOOOOOZE?! ("Hallelujah"). "Where is the LUSCIOUS, PEOPLE?!" ("Amen!"). "WHERE IS THE LUUUUUV IN YO' CHOCOLATE CAKE, BRUTHAS AND SISTAHS?!" ("Amen, Lawdy!").
All that stuff is gone now, not just in the high-end joints, but even in many middle class pubs and diners. We are experiencing a veritable apostacy from the one, true chocolate cake. All you can get now in most restaurants is something resembling a miniature hockey puck, which tastes vaguely like one of those little Ex-Lax wafers your grandma used to eat (and is getting to be about the same size [as the Ex-Lax wafer, not your grandma, that is]). About the only place you can still get True Chocolate Glory (TCG) anymore is at Denny's, or low-end mom and pop family restaurants which are so "out of touch" they've never even heard they're not "supposed" to be serving it anymore.
There IS hope, however. For years, mashed potatoes were abandoned by fine restaurants around North America (what idiots these people are....) Now, everyone has them. So maybe the fancy places will get their Choco-Mojo back on soon. It doesn't hurt to hope.
Please add your nominations for culinary crimes in the comments section. Together, we can destroy these monstrous expressions of evil BEFORE THEY DESTROY US.