I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cuisine Americaine

The disclaimer to this is that I spent my time in California (SoCal) and a bit in Hawaii and a bit in Monterey ... so it's possible my opinions on this topic are slightly skewed from those locations. I'm willing to believe things in other parts of the US are different. Plus, I'm going to make a whole lot of sweeping generalisations, knowing full well there are of course exceptions to every rule.

In no particular order, here are my observations on Cali-merican cuisine, of the every day variety (so no, I didn't get to go to the French Laundry or Beso or anywhere else fabulous, but I DID eat 1,233 bagels and visit at least a half dozen different supermarkets of varying financial standing.)

1. Among endless articles about the American obesity epidemic, children getting fatter, people having higher cholesterol and basically loads of media attention surrounding the whole WE ARE FAT AND SHOULD PROBABLY DO SOMETHING issue, the cheapest food to eat is high fat, low nutrition fast food. Drive down Ventura Blvd and see how many things you can buy for 99c or less - 3 different kids of burgers at Carl's Jnr, and entire meal of things of the McD's $1 menu, pizza slices the size of your head for 99c and so on. It amazed me that our whole family could eat a substantial meal at a fast food joint for less than it costs me (alone) to have a reasonable lunch here in Melbourne. Anyone else see a small hypocrisy problem with this?

2. There seem to be endless excuses to eat, even in situations where you don't really need to. Shopping for toilet paper at Costco? Here! Have a sample of a burger/granola/drink/hot dog/whatever. It's free! You don't actually need to go out to dinner any more ... just get a Costco membership and eat out between aisle 11 and 18 every night. Going to the movies? Here, have some free samples and also a burger. Food is literally everywhere. I realise this in part is because of the population ... but sheesh, do I really need to eat while getting my hair done?

3. Wait a sec, wait a sec. You want fresh, healthy, good quality, well presented food? Let me introduce you to a small place called "Whole Paycheck" (sometimes also known as Whole Foods). Nowhere else can you buy overpriced exotic Indian incense sticks with your organic pomegranate juice...but nowhere else would you want to, either.

4. There is a guy named Trader Joe's and he is apparently some sort of deity.

5. Food at Disneyland was expected to be overpriced, unhealthy, and be made up of small portions of deep fried crap. Surprisingly, none of that was true as there were plenty of healthy, well priced, family friendly eating options all over the park and we could obtain fresh fruit, water, and vegetable matter without even trying hard. I'm not sure why the rest of SoCal has not yet gotten the memo. It's also the scene of the amazing cancelling out food: when you buy a corn dog, they give you a free bag of apple slices. I wonder if they think the apple cancels out the corn dog, or the corn dog cancels out the apples? Hmmm.

6. Drinks, drinks, and more drinks...oy the endless drinks! Bottomless this, Snapple that, 'lite' this and 'zero' that and my god, drinks are everywhere. Americans are obsessed by giant drinks with free refills and an obnoxious amount of ice in the cup thus garnering you no actual drink per se. On the plus side, iced tea is available everywhere you go and I for one was bloody grateful as I love that stuff (and I also love ice, except when it means by 415 oz drink only has 3 oz of actual liquid in it.)

7. BACON. It's a wonder the Ford company has not yet come out with a hybrid car which runs on bacon grease. Watch Food Network for a couple of hours and you'll realise that there is no food in the world which cannot be improved with some bacon. Or so say the chefs of America anyway. Bacon is like...the national foodstuff, or something.

8. Iron Chef America: It's total bullshit. A whole pastry kitchen, sous chefs, a required number of dishes, ingredients which are a) not that hard and b) kinda stupid (milk AND cream? what, milk wasn't a good enough ingredient?) They don't really seem to be trying all that hard, you know? It all is so very planned out before they even get to find out the ingredient. Alton Brown, I totally adore you - but this show isn't a patch on the original so I think it's time you stopped assaulting the American public with crap shows like this.

9. Paula Deen, in ONE show, cooked deep fried lasagna, and deep fried battered barbeque pork ribs. She had an entire audience split into two, cheering for either the 'BAHHHR-BEE-QUUU" or the "FRAAAAHHHHDD." They were shouting and waving banners and stuff. Either she's a total genius or has some sort of kick-back deal going with the makers of heart medication...and speaking of...

10. Is it just me? I don't really want to watch an ad for *ahem* women's business medication - which may cause itching, redness, infection, pus-filled pimples, discomfort, wind, irritable bowels and 34 other side effects ... in the middle of a cooking show. Food and pustules? No, no, and NO. You have to do something about all those drug ads. They're revolting, no matter how many happy looking people there are running through fields of yellow flowers. Also food and bodily functions do not belong on the same channel.

11. Bread and salad BEFORE a meal. This is a very American thing which I actually think is a good idea and a bad idea all rolled into one. Good idea: You eat some vegetables and grains before your meal. Bad idea: You eat so much butter and dressing on both of those, you negate the value of the vegetables and grains.

12. Have I mentioned the bacon?

13. There is just no substitute for Hebrew National hot dogs in a fluffy white bun with ridiculous amounts of Heinz ketchup. Simply the best food EVER. (As usual the chef-slash-hippie in me dies a little each time I eat one of these, but the lazy junkfood eating beeatch loves the damn things to death. My tastebuds are doing a happy dance just thinking about them.)

14. Crappy bagels. Los Angeles is awash with endless crappy bagels...and they're multiplying! You can buy crappy bagels everywhere from donut shops to pharmacies to car washes to bookstores. The crappy bagels are like Gremlins...pour a bit o' water on them and the damn things can't be stopped! (nor can they be swallowed.)

...and finally...

15. Did I mention the bacon? Enough with the bacon, people! Enough!

(and by the way, I did take the time to visit 3 cupcake bakeries...all sadly disappointing...and I did watch endless episodes of Ace of Cakes...Oh, to be able to charge what he charges!)


M.B. said...

First I must say I'm a former INCIIDER participant and read your blog everyday and have for I don't know how long and I am also a friend of yours on Facebook. Now......

I have lived in the USA all my 39 years (okay, I spent ten days in Canada...happy???) and I agree 10000000000% with everything you said! In your Cuisine Americaine blog entry.

I don't know if I could eat a Hebrew National product. I used to work for a law firm and two of our clients worked there...father and son. The Dad came in first and then the son a few months later...both charged with soliciting a prostitute. That is what I think of when I see the Hebrew National label, even though I *know* it is probably the greatest.stuff.ever.

Speaking of dogs, I had a Jody Maroni hot dog yesterday and I will never call those things from the grocer a "hot dog" again. Who knew the casings could "snap" when you bite? ::drool::

Bacon...as Emeril says, is a food of love. Might kill you but what a way to go! Have you seen this article?


Cameron said...

EmZee, you are SO right on! Isn't it funny to come to the US and see it through Aussie eyes?

re: 1 - it's ridiculous, really. We go to the grocery store, try to feed ourselves and our children healthy food, and we check out and realize that we could spend far less money by going out to McDonalds for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The reason, unfortunately, that these bad-for-you products are so cheap is that wheat and corn are heavily subsidized by the US government so we pay far-below-market prices. It's also why you can barely find a product sweetened with actual sugar in the US. Real soft drinks have to be imported from Mexico. It's also a big reason there are people in third-world countries starving. They cannot compete for price selling food products to the US. We would help solve so many horrible problems if we would just stop paying taxes to make ourselves fat. Of course there would be fewer corn farmers in Iowa buying lakeside mansions, but I can live with that.

3. I've been praying to Trader Joe for him to come to Denver, but he tells me there are some obscure blue laws on the books since the 1800s that prevent him from coming to Colorado.

6. I think the number 1 factor in losing 60 pounds since college was drinking water and black coffee almost exclusively.

7. Some guy in a garage in Kansas managed to do it: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/120/motorhead-messiah.html so I am holding out hope that Detroit can manage to pull it off too. Did you hear about the doctor in Beverly hills that got arrested for making biodiesel from the fat he liposuctioned?

8. Amen!

10. Advertising pharmaceuticals on TV is wrong is soooooo many ways. It will be a very sad day in the near future when my oldest daughter starts asking what Viagra is for and what Irritable Bowel Syndrome is. I'm hoping that TiVo can delay the pain for a few years.

15. Bacon, like beer, is God's way of telling us that he loves us and wants us to be happy, in moderation of course. :)

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

MB and Cameron:

Oooohhhh, how I love being right. :) Actually it really was an interesting cultural exercise, but to prove I'm not biased, I did write a post about weird Australian foods a while ago.

Interestingly here most things are sweetened with actual sugar (as opposed to corn syrup) AND advertising for pharmaceuticals is not allowed. You can advertise, but not for specific drugs and not nearly in as much detail so they aren't quite as assaulting on the senses.

...as for me, time to go solicit a prostitute, eat a Hebrew National hot dog, make a bacon pinata and then have liposuction so that I can drive my car.


momzen said...

Hi emzeegee (is that also mzg?),

Yes, you are absolutely right about everything. I'm an American living in France, and TRYING to re-teach my children how to eat properly. Except of course for number 13. These, DH and I keep for ourselves. Wouldn't want to confuse their young tastebuds. Hee Hee.