The Internet calls this a “distinctly American” treat. (There’s even a catchy jingle.) Still, it took me nearly four decades to run across one. And I’m pretty sure this nutritionally suspect white-bread snack doesn’t do anything for our country’s reputation. But it’s really not half-bad. Kind of like eating a candy sandwich, if you’re into that sort of thing. Maybe I’m coming around to out-of-context sweet? Baby steps.
This stuff is great. I don’t think I can go wrong with any interpretation of cabbage. I’ll have to experiment with some of this in my soups. But it seems like I’m doomed to stumble a bit as I grope through the dimly lit aisles of culinary knowledge. With Kimchi, I accidentally picked up an extra-spicy version. And, wow, they’re not kidding. So next time I’m going to tone that down a bit. (Although, when I opened the jar, I think my husband found the second love of his life. He’s been hitting it pretty hard.)
Nope. Can’t do it. I thought that, as long as I’m on a roll with cheese, I’d try another goat product. (My imaginary donor is to the left.) Coated some little disks with garlic-laced bread crumbs and fried them up. Looked good, smelled good. Wasn’t good. Too chalky/tangy. I think it’s time to take a break from cheese.
Another cheese experiment. Came in a little cup of pasta salad at a conference. Normally I would eat around any type of cheese chunk. Especially one that came from a goat. (That just adds another layer of weirdness.) But I didn’t realize feta is the equivalent of a salt bomb. And I love salt. So this is a winner — at least when it’s cut into tiny chunks.
This was a triple threat. I’m on iffy ground with cheese in the first place. And this one shares a name with a family of weirdos. Besides, should anything sporting the label “curd” be ingested?
But these little wonders had one thing going for them: they were, unlike many of the foods I’ve tried, the absolute best example of their kind. The creative director at our regional magazine scored a couple brown paper sacks of them on a tour of the McCadam Cheese plant in Chateaugay, New York. They were little nuggets of buttery goodness. So fresh they squeaked. Unfortunately, that will be my first and last encounter — I guess Muenster cheese curds don’t ship well, so they’re not sold in stores. We’ll have to file this under ill-fated love story.
Sometimes called “Mexican turnip.” I didn’t get the memo that it’s often eaten raw, like in salads and slaws, so I sauteed some with garlic, onions and cayenne. It was good, but never lost its crunch, even though I julienned it (further research on the internet confirmed that it’s a great substitute for water chestnuts in stir fries). I’m a crunchy fan, so it worked for me. But the peanut gallery said I should have cooked it longer.
I wanted to whip up some figgy pudding this year, mostly because my 11-year-old thinks Christmas carolers demanding this obscure treat (with a very silly name) is a hilarious moment in music history. I picked up some dried figs at the grocery store, thinking that figgy “pudding” should be pretty easy. It’s not. (And it’s really more cake than pudding.) After scanning some rather baffling recipes on the Internet, I settled on a faux version that relied heavily on carrot cake mix. Not very traditional, but pretty darn good. I didn’t even have to eat around the figs — they’re easier to stomach than raisins. And rum-soaked almonds are always in season. So Merry Christmas. And pass the pudding.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that some of my samples are maybe not the best examples of their kind. In my defense, I live in a teensy town in Upstate New York, and my choices are limited. (My county is even classified as a “food desert” by the USDA, where folks have “low access” to sustenance.) So these little guys came in a Pepperidge Farm box. Sure, I could have baked some up for Santa instead of the traditional chocolate chip, but that would have caused an Attica-like riot, courtesy of my five-year-old, who likes to chow down on Santa’s leftovers.
Pepperidge Farm knows their business, anyway. I can’t figure out why I’ve always avoided gingerbread (maybe it’s hard to eat mini body parts?), because it’s pretty yummy. A Christmas Eve miracle.
I grabbed one of these cookies off a tray without knowing what the heck it was. It took some bravery to bite into it — there could have been anything underneath that confectioners’ sugar exterior. It could have even been jelly, for heaven’s sake. (I have a complicated relationship with jelly. I can eat grape jelly, as long as it’s a very thin layer on a peanut butter sandwich. And, in recent years, I’ve branched out into a couple other seed- and chunk-free varieties for my PB&J, like apple. Amazing personal growth.)
Anyhow, after a bite I still didn’t know what the heck it was. I asked the coworker who brought them in, and she had to cop to buying them. (Sorry, Linda, for exposing you.) So I did a little dumpster diving, or at least office garbage can diving, and found the wrapper. Pfeffernusse, by Archway. Now I had a name, but I still didn’t know what to think. It’s like a little spice cake wrapped in powdered sugar. Which would have been fine, except for the hint of black licorice. The molasses? A potential deal-breaker.