Simple Tastes

I wrote recently that I have fairly poor eating habits despite much effort on the part of my parents who do have better sense with regard to food. Part of the problem may have been a counter-lesson involving food-as-reward. We were fairly poor growing up, so getting a pizza (which was a fairly new thing back then) or ice cream was our reward for good grades in school.

I always got pretty good grades in school (although not really for the food reward; I just really liked learning).  But food did become associated with good times, not that there’s nothing wrong with that. I seem to have dodged the bullet of using food as comfort, but I have discovered I eat more when bored or frustrated.

On the other hand, in the last few weeks, I seem to have reignited my childhood love of Kraft Mac and Cheese. It’s a dish most kids love; I was no different. The cafeteria at work has been offering a version they make with smoked Gouda cheese and bits of bacon.

I’d forgotten how much I loved it, so I’ve been buying the Kraft versions lately. I suspect looking for some sort of comfort from the work situation does play a role here. Pasta and cheese; hard to go wrong there, and you can add things to it for variety (toss in some chunks of white meat chicken, and you have chicken pasta alfredo).

Back in the day, on Sunday after church, my mom would make the traditional fried chicken supper complete with potatoes and a side dish of formerly fresh boiled vegetables (the boiling possibly explaining a bit about my dislike for veggies). With that in mind, I thought I’d connect back to those days with Simple Sunday and write about food ala Me.

I’ll warn you now, it will make many of you cringe. I have very simple tastes in food, nothing too fancy for me, please. I was also a very picky eater as a kid. When I saw pizza for the first time (a home pan recipe my mother tried; remember, this is back when it wasn’t a commodity food), I sniffed it for five minutes before I would eat it. (Turns out it became one of my favorite foods, second only to Tex-Mex!)

I’ve also been on my own most of my life, so I’ve been the main chef (well, the only chef usually). As I say, my tastes are extremely simple. Some Triscuits, some cheese, some raisins, a couple of beers, and I call that dinner. Or a nice bowl of popcorn tarted up a bit with Parmesan cheese and spices.  (Even my margarita recipe is simple and easy to remember!)

Over the years I’ve developed a few ways of making simple things just a little bit more fun and delicious. I thought I’d post some here on Simple Sunday.  As I say, some of you will cringe.

We’ll start with breakfast and work our way through the day…

Thompson Breakfast Bagels

Toast a bagel and then make a sandwich using cream cheese and salami. When I first heard of this (apparently available in a vending machine at work), it doesn’t sound good. Cream cheese on a toasted bagel, of course. But cream cheese and salami? That sounds… weird.

Turns out they’re delicious! I use onion bagels (good ones, real ones, not bread pretending to be a bagel), the Philadelphia Chive & Onion and three or four slices of a nice hard salami. (As I was exposed to more of the food world, I learned that sausage and cream cheese is actually a common combo.)

I call them Thompson Breakfast Bagels because that was a common breakfast we made on our fly-in fishing trips on Thompson Lake.

Cayenne Melt Sandwich

This one goes way back to my college days when a friend of mine opened his own health food store. He had a sandwich bar, but none of the sandwiches quite tickled my fancy, so I invented a new one.

Toast some good whole wheat bread and then melt Swiss cheese on both slices.

Sprinkle a bunch of cayenne pepper on the cheese (or use a good spicy salsa) and then a big bunch of mung bean sprouts for crunch and contrast. You can use the alfalfa sprouts in a pinch, but they don’t have that nice crunch.

Sautéed Hot Dogs w/ Swiss

Grilling hot dogs is wonderful, but not always possible or easy. So I start by boiling them in a frying pan with beer (real beer, something with flavor). I throw in a bit of butter and boil until the beer is gone. You finish them off by sautéing them in the butter for a “grilled” outside.

Meanwhile, toast some hot dog buns (this is a rare place where you do want to use white flour buns) and then melt Swiss cheese on the buns (toaster oven works good for this and the sandwich above).

Serve with a good brown mustard; the kind that looks filled with pebbles.

Plain Old Pasta

A fast and delicious hot dinner. Angel hair pasta cooks in four minutes. I throw some olive oil and pepper (black and red) into the water.

Drain. Stir in a few pats of butter and serve with Parmesan cheese and some spices; some fresh garlic is nice. (I just picked up a spiced Parmesan cheese, Mama Francesca, that I’m going to try tonight!)

Brown Sugar Fudge

Homemade “maple sugar” candy. Melt brown sugar with butter. You need high heat to melt the sugar, but don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with caramel, and if you really overdo it you’ll ruin the pan (the stuff hardens quickly and can be impossible to get out short of chisel and hammer).

Take it off the heat and stir in a bit of milk and lots of confectioner’s sugar. Whip it up good into a smooth, firm mixture and pour onto cookie sheets or tin foil. If you did it right, it’ll harden into a melt-in-your-mouth smooth sugar treat very reminiscent of maple sugar candy.

I can sense all the real cooks out there shuddering at my incompetence in the kitchen. Well, we can’t all be chefs. I can design & build computer systems or build a dog house or bookshelves that last for years, so I’m not ashamed. (At least it beats ordering pizza every night!)

In closing, a favorite bit from a movie I’m very fond of.

To say I was a picky eater is not to say a squeamish one. I’ll try anything once, so I’ve had rattle snake (yep, exactly like chicken) and octopus tentacle (rubbery) and those little tiny squids you get in some seafood salads (kinda tasty, those). And I’ve learned that snails, when done right, are pretty good (garlic and butter mostly).

If you’ve seen the Stallone/Bullock movie, Demolition Man, you might recall the scene where Stallone gets an underground burger. It’s the first decent food he’s had since they thawed him out from his deep freeze prison. He learns the burger is actually made from rat (“Do you see any cows around?!”).

His response matches what mine would be (and I’m so glad they played against the “Ew! [spits]” trope). “Not bad,” he replies, “Best burger I’ve had in years.”

If it tastes okay and won’t kill me or make me too sick, then it’s fine with me.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

20 responses to “Simple Tastes

  • It's only P!

    The cringing wasn’t half bad. 😉 Thing is, if you’re bored or frustrated, cooking is such a good therapist! A glass of something nearby and good music while cooking so that you can dance to the beat while stirring – unbeatable!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      You’re right! I did use to enjoy making spaghetti sauce by hand.

      Chopped all the peppers and onions with a knife and so forth. Had Italian sausage in it along with a bottle of Chianti (well, almost a bottle… the chef got some, too). And the green onions made it sweet enough people thought I put sugar in it (hell, no!).

  • Chyina

    Must resist urge to take big bite of of non-edible computer screen.

  • Lady from Manila

    Had I known you possessed carpentry skills? You can build a dog house and bookshelves ?! 🤩

    Not crazy about kitchen tasks too so, like you, I prepare easy meals. Since I love anything pasta, I just mix a few herbs — oregano, turmeric, cilantro, paprika, grounded flaxseeds and meat seasoning (I feel guilty utilizing the last as I’ve gone plant-based this year). Yummy meal for me 😊.

    Wyrd, food is my weakness as well. A binge eater that I am, I try not to stock anything I might regret pulling out from my ref when I get hungry. Anyway, in connection to our longevity discussion recently, we needn’t do anything extra special or hard. In the two years that I’d had the opportunity educating myself on health matters, I’ve learned the magic of intermittent fasting, limiting carbs consumption, staying away from processed foods especially meats, sugared drinks (I was a Coca Cola addict 🤫) and controlling high-in-sugar products. I’ve heard and seen testimonies of people in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s who turned their lives around by not-so-major tweaks in their eating habits. I figured if they could do it, why can’t I?

    I used to suffer from insulin resistance and had felt like some dying candle. Now aches and pains are mostly gone and I feel better than I did in my 30’s.

    Just try for one week (specifically IF and cutting down on carbs) then see how you feel. You might really like it. You needn’t thank me 😊👍.

    Take good care, Wyrd! Have a great weekend! 🌿🌾 🌱☺️

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I have enough basic carpentry skills for simple things but am not a wood worker by any stretch. That’s another one of those fields where there’s a huge spectrum between rank amateur and highly skilled. I’m much closer to the former, especially considering the size of the spectrum.

      Health is another huge spectrum, and it’s been a long road for me. In college, my nutrition professor got me off sugar and red meat. I missed beef, so after three years of chicken and fish, I put it back on the menu. I still don’t eat a lot of processed sugar other than occasional candy binges. Never was much into sugared soda (makes my teeth feel coated) but I’m not sure the artificial sweetener in the sugar-free stuff I consume isn’t bad neurologically (but I love my Diet Mountain Dew). Something else I’ve learned is the power of the placebo effect, good and bad. Some studies indicate placebos work even when the patient knows it’s a placebo. Power of the mind over body. I’ve long wondered if my mom remained to vital to the end because she knew she needed to be there for my dad (who had Alzheimer’s). I’ve seen many times what a determined mind can do when it really believes.

      But I guess my bottom line is that I’m a hedonist. I would rather live a (possibly shorter) life of sensual enjoyment than one (possibly longer) of self-denial. In part because I’ve seen too many who lived that “better” life get cut down by auto accidents, cancer, or brain aneurysms. I’ve always been a flaming meteor rather than a dying ember kind of guy. There’s a great line about how the goal in life shouldn’t be to arrive at the grave in good shape but completely burned out, cigar in one hand, scotch in the other, yelling, “Wow! What a ride!”

      Another thing is that the world isn’t set up for the old. It moves on to new things for new people. In the 1980s, I knew the music scene. These days, not a clue. More importantly, don’t care. Especially since I think society is headed in a bad direction.

      Finally, I’m tired. I’ve had a rich life and growing old sucks. It’s a process of loss. You can try for a holding pattern, but landing is inevitable. (And the plane could break at any moment!) I do what I can given how tired I am. I try to go for a walk every day. I do fast from midnight to noon, for whatever that may be worth. (I’ve read how triggering your hunger signals like that might help prevent diabetes, and, given how needle phobic I still am, diabetes would really suck.)

      Frankly, I think I’d hate being 80, and being 70 doesn’t sound at all fun. In the end, for me, it’s balancing living a life of enjoyment with whatever just makes good sense. What is sometimes hard is that I live so much inside my own head that it’s easy to get negligent sometimes.

      • Lady from Manila

        I wish I could click Like to your reply but it isn’t available on my fone.

        Oh, so you’ve been practicing intermittent fasting all this time 👏! Let’s shake hands, companyero 🤝. I’ve always known you take walks 🤩☺️. And you don’t have diabetes, Congrats 😊! (Ain’t sure if I have it, I wouldn’t want to know. But I’m positive I suffered highly from insulin resistance bcz of Coke and my sweet tooth).

        But, Wyrd, we can have the best of both worlds. Mixing hedonism with healthy living is possible and doable. You’re a thousand times smarter than me so you can come up with a hundred ways to do that. Now now, don’t give me the “I’m tired” line. I’ll keep pulling you up from your couch and together we’re gonna join the race to better health.🏃💪🙌

        Seriously, I’m already tired of life, too, these days and my heart is weary. But reading spiritual books makes me somehow believe on faith in God, hope for the morrow, and love for life. After my heavy losses recently and in previous years, I’m aware more than ever of my mortality (in spite of my determination and efforts to achieve longevity). I go out every single day and I could be hit by a speeding jeepney anytime. Or I may simply be ignorant of my actual physical maladies. Merely weeks ago, bcz of my sorrowful heart, I had planned to just read my (unread) books and clippings, arrange my few stuff, and from then on it really doesn’t matter what happens next anymore. Still, I continue trying to eat healthy, doing workouts, and watching YouTube health videos.

        I very much agree on the placebo thing. But it has been working for me and has given me lots of energy (considering my age 😀). And what’s been most exciting is I can wear clothes I couldn’t don when I was in my 20’s. At my current middle-age! 😃

        C’mon, Wyrd. I’ve seen people in their 70’s and 80’s having a great time. We can only die trying. Be with me on this, dear bud. 👍😇💃☀️

And what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: