My friend Toby over at Plate Fodder suffers from a dire affliction: He has an advanced case of Food Fad Fatigue.
I relate. I spent New Year’s Day canceling email subscriptions and unliking Facebook pages of food magazines and newsletters I once enjoyed. Goodbye Bon Appetit, goodbye Tasting Table. I think they’ll miss me about as much as I’ll miss them, which is to say, not at all. It’s been quite a long time since I read any of their posts, mostly because what I want is dinner, while what they are trying to do is entice me to try something trendy and inedible.
Please click, they beg repeatedly, but I don’t want to and eventually I get tired of being asked. Unlike, unfollow, breathe deeply and exhale.
Toby’s approach is less passive than mine; he’s threatening to write a book called Quinoa, Kale, and 50 Other Foods that Taste Like Ass. He wants to know if I’d buy a copy, and the answer is, of course I would, and not just because he’s a friend. I refuse to eat things just Because They’re Healthy. I like to eat healthy things that taste good.
The food faddists are rapidly ruining those, too. I like cauliflower; in fact, I love the stuff, as does The Child. But somewhere along the line, cauliflower became a substitute for carbohydrates (cauliflower rice, anyone?), and somewhere after that, someone decided it was also a good substitute for lime sherbet. I’m joking, but only a little. The PBS blogger who wrote that article, oddly, appears to be serious.
Also being serious is the blogger who gave us Frambled Eggs, a post that Epicurious, in a cruel jab at people with some knowledge of basic culinary skills – not to mention, good food – filed under “Expert Advice.” If rubbery eggs are your thing, then by all means, use his technique. Bon appetit!
I feel like I’m in a small minority that is getting smaller every day. I went to an actual bookstore not long ago (remember those?), and spent some time checking out the cookbooks. Pioneer Woman? Check. The Minimalist Baker? Check. In fact, there were lots of pretty cookbooks by familiar food blogger names, while actual cookbooks by trained chefs (Dorie Greenspan, Mario Batali) were in somewhat short supply. No, the cookbook section in question was not a small one.
Turmeric may well have healthy properties, but that doesn’t mean anyone can or should eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, even if one truly believes it is sourced from the Fountain of Youth. Given its increasingly frequent appearance in recipes and food blogs, it must be. But if I die an early death, will it be because the only bottle of turmeric I’ve ever owned has never been opened and dates to the pre-barcode era?
I’m willing to take that risk, and opt for a bit of cumin, or oregano, or some variety. Variety, I hear, is the spice of life. Not turmeric.
Another minority I belong to: American Citizens Against Zoodles. I’ve never used a spiralizer, and I’ve never eaten a zoodle. As much as I like zucchini, it isn’t a substitute for spaghetti, and at my house, never will be. If I want to be hungry an hour after I eat dinner, I’ll order Chinese food. It’s much less work.
I love to see classic recipes improved upon, and there are many good reasons to do this, such as simplifying a technique or using ingredients for that can be found easily by a home cook. This is not the same thing as throwing a new ingredient into an old classic and pretending it’s a wonderful, modern update. The world needs both dill pickles and chicken piccata, but it most assuredly does not need a recipe for Dill Pickle Chicken Piccata (something Toby swears he saw the other day but which Google, in its merciful and infinite wisdom, refuses to find for me).
My cookbooks aren’t full of pretty pictures of recipes that don’t work, so they don’t live on the coffee table next to a stack of pristine copies of Architectural Digest. Instead, my cookbooks live in the kitchen and sometimes find their way back to the shelves, usually when I run out of counter space, or back to the library, usually when one been overdue for so long that the library stops sending email notices (which I never see in all the email I receive) and starts sending actual letters (which I always see and am still kind of thrilled to get).
Yes, there is a point to all this, and I hope you will appreciate the irony.
One of the last Facebook posts I saw from Tasting Table was a banana bread recipe by Dominique Ansel, a name you might recognize as the man who gave us one of the largest food fads of recent memory, the Cronut. The banana bread recipe was accompanied by Tasting Table’s standard, overly effusive praise – Ansel took something that, when made by mere mortals, is “pretty good,” and turned it into an “insanely good … delectable treat,” rescuing overripe bananas from a terrible fate at the same time.
I’m always skeptical when someone is presented as a culinary Superman, but as it happens, I had four embarrassingly overripe bananas (I wish the grocery store would send me mail about that, just once), and as luck would have it, when I looked up the recipe, it called for … four overripe bananas. I haven’t had a good kitchen disaster in a while, so I gave it a try, fully expecting my beloved Fannie Farmer standby to win the day.
I’d like to say I’m sad about that, and of course part of me is, but the other part of me was too happy about eating a joyfully moist cake with a rich banana flavor and a heady dose of nutmeg, and did I mention the butter? Yes, it was there, and lots of it. And while these things are all wonderful, they are not the most wonderful thing about this banana bread. That honor goes to the thick, sweet, caramelized, crunchy top crust that forms as this giant loaf bakes.
It is, in a word, magical.
Here, dear reader, is my point: Life is complicated, but good food is really quite simple.
Go enjoy some.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 4 overripe bananas
- 14 tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
- Grease a large loaf pan, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas thoroughly, then crack the eggs in and combine. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix together. Stir in the melted butter until fully incorporated.
- Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan and bake until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes, depending on how cooperative your oven is.
- Allow to cool for 20 minutes before slicing.