Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Submit, or else


Images courtesy of Wikipedia

A number of years back we finally got around to visiting a local historic site, Fort Point. It is situated on the tip of land by the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is a Civil War era fort constructed to defend against enemy warships and is now administered by the National Parks Service.

In what was once the kitchen area there is a sign with text from cooking instructions from the Civil War period, stating quite authoritatively that vegetables should be cooked for several hours until they are soft and tender and easily digested.

I don't remember if we were initially gobsmacked or sent into gales of laughter but it certainly explained one (rather fallacious) theory behind much American cooking. Having discovered the joys of vegetables that still have color and texture and flavor (i.e., vegies that are lightly cooked or undercooked), we viewed this notice with humor and abhorrence.

My friend Bill's phrase for such 19th century cooking methods is vegetables "cooked into submission," the result being described as "gray." This latter is because the original bright greens (usually) have been lost.

The crowd at work, or many of us (this anti-social hermit included) went out to a restaurant last night. This exhausts my extraverted sociability budget for the quarter so it won't happen again on this project. Anyway, the broccoli arrived in mushy pale green and carrots "melted in the mouth." No crunch, almost no flavor, certainly few vitamins left. Very sad.

The lowliest line chef in California would be fired for doing this to food. No one around me seemed to notice.

I am in an alien land here.

If you ain't into fried you're somewhat out of luck. The thought of super fresh with minimal but very thoughtful preparation and fabulous presentation is not part of the general culture.

And I am reminded of how radical the "California cuisine" movement was and remains. Blessed be Alice Waters.
--the BB

4 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Where did you eat? It sounds awful.

If you ain't into fried you're somewhat out of luck. The thought of super fresh with minimal but very thoughtful preparation and fabulous presentation is not part of the general culture.

That is wrong. You're eating at the wrong places, love.

Paul said...

Well of course I am.

I know there is good food in New Orleans. I just haven't gone out to the right places, as you rightly note. It would help if I loved seafood, given the location on the Gulf and all the riches that affords.

My comments are really about last night. I have no complaints about my everyday meals, though they are generic, adequate, and nothing special. Just eating to stay fueled and avoiding the truly awful.

There were some good experiences last night by some other folk with salads and some other dishes. My main dish was tasty. It is just that I am so overwhelmed by a crime against vegetables that I have trouble getting over it.

In New Mexico where Velveeta is stacked in the stores in almost pallet-sized quantities and convenience food is as much a part of life as everywhere else ,one does well not to cast stones.

Which has not stopped this SF Bay Area foodie in the least.

Paul said...

PS: Lunch with Mimi at the Palace was truly lovely.

susan s. said...

Ah, yes, it's the old "cook 'em till they're dead" method. That works with Collard Greens, but not much else in my humble opinion.