Pulled pork is the metaphor for a healthy relationship

pulled pork

Maybe? I don’t know. I’m just spitballing here.

Pulled pork is forgiving. You can undercook it, or leave it in the crock pot for a little too long. It will still come out falling off the bone, juicy and delicious. It also looks good in a variety of outfits:

  • Hawaiian: Salt, pepper and brown sugar
  • Texan: Chili powder, garlic and thyme
  • Mexican: Cumin, cayenne and oregano

And even if pulled pork didn’t actually look good in one of these outfits, you’d still say it did. Because you’re that kind of caring individual.

Pulled pork also doesn’t believe in starting fights or turning every argument into a pissing contest — mostly because pulled pork is incapable of human speech. Also, although pulled pork does get quite heated (you wouldn’t want to risk eating it raw, now, would you?) it always has its chill.

What I’m getting at is that I should strive to be more like pulled pork — the version that can still do human things, I mean.

Pappadeux? More like “Pappa-no.”

When being “better than Red Lobster” is still a low bar

Every year, we go out for my father-in-law’s birthday — usually to Red Lobster because he’s a fan of crab legs. And every year, without fail, the food I order at Red Lobster either leaves me cradling the toilet or straddling it. Maybe I have a weak stomach. Perhaps seafood just isn’t my bag.

I don’t know.

This year, I got a reprieve, or so I thought. The family collectively decided to go to Pappadeux instead of Red Lobster. As we pulled into the parking lot, I could see it was packed. Yet, there was no wait to be seated because the restaurant itself is the size of a mall food court. I was immediately apprehensive, however, because the interior of the restaurant looked suspiciously like Red Lobster. The murky lobster tank, strip club lighting and overdressed waiters – it was all there.

And the menu was enormous. My experience with surf and turf at Red Lobster steered me away from the $45 version here (there’s only so much gristle I can handle in a steak I’m not preparing myself) and toward the Pappadeux Platter, a sampler containing every kind of fish the restaurant serves, but deep-fried.

They might as well have brought it in a wheelbarrow. Piled high on a white plate, and resting on a bed of fries, was the most unappetizing array of fish I had ever seen. Fried to a light brown but, luckily, devoid of visible oil, the Pappadeux Platter does for seafood what Chik-fil-a does for garbage-tier cuts of chicken: mask it in just enough breading to make it palatable.

I was not taken to Flavortown. I did not savor every bite. Really, I ate just enough bland, breaded fish to ensure I wouldn’t need to go sneaking off to Nadia’s Jack-o-Lantern full of candy she’s not allowed to eat. The last insult was the bill. My wife’s family loves Red Lobster, and they left Pappadeux disappointed. You have to mine really deep into the pits of mediocrity to charge more than Red Lobster, yet serve inferior food.

At least I haven’t felt the first signs of food poisoning — yet.

A fire inside

”I’ll have it Thai hot.” With those five words, I sealed my fate. Though the Pad Thai placed in front of me only bore flecks of crushed pepper, from the first bite my tongue began to burn. The tiniest of needles danced on my lips. My nose became a fountain.

But I loved every bite. If sweet foods are indulged upon and savory foods, well, savored, then spicy foods are meant to be endured. I guess in some Clive Barker, Hellraiser-esque way, the pain of eating spicy food can become so intense that it loops back around and becomes pleasurable. There’s also a perverse sense of accomplishment in torturing your taste buds and being able to get up from the table none the worse for wear.

Eating spicy food is a non-stop thrill ride. To put it another way, it’s the culinary equivalent of the bungee jump.

Unfortunately, I don’t get equal amounts of pleasure from whatever intestinal aftermath usually follows a spicy meal. There’s also the intense, nagging need to lie down for a nap. But at least my sinuses are squeaky clean.

Is it Turkey Day yet?

Turkey Day

Forget about Christmas. Honestly, once November 1 rolls around, all I can think about is Thanksgiving

But I wasn’t always like this. Years of waiting until late in the evening to eat because stuffed turkeys take longer to cook, sinking my teeth into dry dark meat because stuffing a turkey leads to over cooking and, well, just eating plain bad turkey had conditioned me to loathe Thanksgiving and the overeating that accompanies it.

When I started cooking for myself, a whole world of opportunity revealed itself. Brining turkeys? Awesome. Separating the meat from the skin and stuffing seasoning I into the crevices to amp up the flavor of the meat? Even better. Sweet potato gratin. Charred Brussels sprouts. Fresh cranberry sauce. Bourbon-infused pumpkin tart. Man, I’m getting giddy just thinking about them.

And the best part about hosting? Taking all the leftovers and shoving them into a sandwich. Yes, seriously, every course except dessert — in one sandwich. Friends, that’s how you achieve nirvana. The big day can’t come soon enough.

Morning coffee

Coffee

And one before lunch, some right after and another in the late afternoon…

Basically, what I’m getting at is that I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee — to the point where I wonder if it might be more effective to just walk around with an IV that delivers coffee directly into my bloodstream at set intervals. I’d never actually do that, though. Unlike most people, I enjoy the taste of straight, black coffee. Why mess with perfection?

From my desk, a yawn,
but am I really sleepy,
or just crashing hard?

An ode to eggs

Nature’s perfect food

I could eat eggs at every meal. Like, my ideal restaurant would serve nothing but breakfast. Eggs and bacon, Eggs Benedict, omelets, scrambles — heck, even French toast has its place (it is soaked in eggs, after all).

My love of eggs goes back to childhood. One of my favorite dinners growing up was hard-boiled eggs and potatoes. My parents w0uld do them in the same pot. When the eggs and potatoes were peeled, I’d get a plate with a bit of both, mash them together and slather the whole thing in ketchup. It sounds simple — and it is — but simplicity is the essence of comfort food. And who doesn’t want eggs for dinner?

For the most part, however, I save my eggs for breakfast. Four or five days a week, I go for a run, shower and then hit the kitchen. I toast up some sourdough bread, and while that’s going, I preheat my non-stick pan. Into the microwave goes the sausage (sometimes I’ll make bacon on the stove if time allows).  When the pan’s hot, I drop in just a touch of butter. Four eggs go in. I cook them until the whites are just set, kill the heat and flip the eggs over. The toast gets buttered while the eggs hang out, usually for about a minute. Once the toast is done the eggs go right on top.

The beauty of this whole setup is that when you slice into the egg, all of that awesome yolk goo saturates the toast. When you get a bit of egg white together with that yolk-soaked bread, it’s like a one-way trip to Flavortown. Variations for this breakfast abound: sometimes, instead of butter, I’ll mash up some avocado on the bread and let the egg go to bed on top of that. When I’m feeling luxurious, I’ll do a slice of smoked salmon – almost a poor man’s Eggs Benedict. You could probably melt some cheese on the toast, too. I don’t know. You do you.

Unfortunately, my wife isn’t into eating eggs at every meal because she’s a normal person with regular tastes, so I only get to indulge my obsession with eggs when the dish calls for it, such as when I make spicy Chinese noodles. But I’ll always have breakfast.

Fool’s Gold Loaf

Fool’s gold loaf

If it’s good enough for Elvis, it’s good enough for me

Hollowed-out bread, with
PB, jelly and bacon —
you’ll be all shook up.*

*Like, seriously, this sandwich is 8,000 calories. Elvis didn’t mess around when it came to food — or amphetamines.

California Avocado Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t understand “healthy” substitutions in baking recipes. Fine, if ingesting even the slightest amount of gluten sends you into fits of agony, go ahead and make cookies without flour, or whatever. But if you’re doing it because saturated fats are the devil, or you really need your abs to pop to keep your Instagram followers, maybe consider that cookies probably shouldn’t be part of your diet to begin with.

I don’t know. Just saying.

But I’m willing to excuse the subbing of avocado for almost all the saturated fat in this week’s cookie recipe because the state to which I’m paying homage, California, is kind of known for avocados. It’s totes aprops, or whatever the kids are saying these days. I’m hip.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t take a (horrible) picture of this week’s creation, it’s because a) the cookies look like The Hulk’s loogies and b) they taste kind of like avocado. As anyone who has ever baked or cooked anything can attest to, fat equals flavor. And when you sub out fats like butter and egg whites, which impart no discernible flavor into the finished product for one that imparts both color and flavor, you’re going to have a bad time.

In short: these cookies are what would happen if avocado got into bed with some chocolate chips. At least they’re edible. I’d feel more than a little bit bummed about having to trash two dozen cookies. It would be, dare I say it, the pits. God, that was awful. I’m sorry.