Like every other human being on this planet I hate Brazil nuts. Whenever I buy a can of mixed nuts, I pick out the Brazil nuts and feed them to the crows. They seem to like them, so I will concede that there are at least some creatures on earth that like them, if not any humans. The question is, if nobody actually likes Brazil nuts, why do people insist on making and selling them?
Now some people may protest that I am exaggerating and there are people out there who like them. My only response to such people would be to ask them to show me a can of Brazil nuts. They can’t do it. You can buy cans of peanuts, almonds, cashews, pretty much any nut, but you will never see a can of Brazil nuts for sale. The only way they can be sold, if not eaten, at all is by piggybacking off of other nuts. They are to a can mixed nuts what pretzels are to a bag of Party Mix.
If you know that you can’t sell a can of Brazil nuts, why would you ever get in the Brazil nut business? If you want to grow nuts and you had some business sense, you would pick any other nut but that. I understand that some people might have inherited a Brazil nut business, but over time one would expect those to gradually be sold off for land development or more lucrative crops. Brazil nut producers should have virtually zero leverage in price negotiations with buyers. How can you drive a hard bargain with buyers when sales of cans of mixed nuts would increase if they stopped including Brazil nuts?
Brazil nuts should be in the same category as crab apples. There is no reason to cut the trees down and if there is one growing in your backyard you might even try eating couple just for the hell of it. Teenagers might sneak onto your property and steal them just to say they did. But there is no reason why these terrible tasting nuts should be sabotaging cans of mixed nuts in your grocery store.
Ketchup chips are revolting. I get that ketchup and potatoes go together, but whatever vile tomato inspired concoction they put on these chips is a crime against nature. I love potato chips and can eat pretty much any chip if I have to in order to be polite, but I draw the line at ketchup. I’m not a judgemental person by nature but I instantly form strong opinions about a person’s taste and judgement if I find out they like ketchup chips. If I was invited to dinner party hosted by a lover of ketchup chips I would fake sick and cancel.
- All Dressed
The enormous popularity of all dressed chips is baffling to me. Based on their prominence on every chip rack in the country there must be all kinds of people who like them, but for the life of me I can’t understand why. The best potato chip flavours are those that naturally pair well with the taste of potato. Roast chicken would be an example of this. Even though I hate ketchup chips, I at least understand what its creators were trying to do. With all dressed it seems like the chip company just gathers up whatever leftover spices and flavours they have lying around and throw them all together. The chip is an incoherent mess.
- Salt and Vinegar
I get why some people like this chip. People put salt and vinegar on potatoes so it makes sense to try it on a chip, and unlike ketchup, you can make these chips without a lot of mysterious alchemy; just coat some chips in salt and vinegar. Though vinegar works well with the thick cut French fries, it tends to overwhelm the lighter potato chip and can leave you with a terrible aftertaste, particularly if you eat a bunch of them. The problem is that these chips taste just good enough that you will find yourself snacking on them at a party only to regret it afterwards when you have that vinegary aftertaste in your mouth. There are also few more unpleasant culinary experiences than biting into a chip that you believe to be regular only to find out it is salt and vinegar.
Is there a sadder flavour of chips than bar-be-que? Though nobody wretches at the thought, there isn’t a person on earth for whom this is their favourite chip. How did this chip get made in the first place? It’s not like people were in the habit of putting bar-be-que sauce on potatoes. Bar-be-que chips are the physical embodiment of mediocracy. They should be the official chip of the St. Louis Blues.
- Reduced Salt
Is there anything more disappointing and joyless than eating a reduced salt potato chip? You get all the calories and fat without any of the taste. If I’m looking to eat healthy at a social gathering I’ll just have a strawberry or a carrot. Potato chips are meant to be an indulgence and trying to make them anything other than that just ends up in a depressing lose-lose situation for everyone involved.
- Miss Vickie’s Original Recipe
If you want to stay inside on a snow day and binge on chips there is nothing better than plain, salted, kettle cooked chips. They are thick and crunchy and don’t turn to dust in the bottom of the bag, and most importantly, they are not so loaded with artificial flavourings that you will feel (quite so) sick after an afternoon of eating them.
- Lays Roast Chicken
Everyone loves roast chicken and chips, so roast chicken flavoured potato chips was the most obvious flavour combination ever. These are heavily salted so you should always have one six pack of beer available per family size bag.
- Ruffles Loaded Potato Skins
This is a hidden gem of a potato chip. The only reason this chip isn’t more popular is its poorly designed bag; on first glance they look almost exactly like sour cream and bacon.
- Pringles Jalapeño
This is the perfect chip for parents who hate having their small children swipe all the chips on snow days. You can a bowl of these on the table while you shovel the driveway for an hour and you won’t lose a chip. Kids can’t handle the heat of these things until they reach 13 or so, at which point all bets are off.
- Dill Pickle
This is the potato chip connoisseur’s chip. If you are picking up chips for a group then you might want to stick with one the selections above, but if you are entertaining those with sophisticated potato chip tastes, this is the way to go. Its intense flavours need to be savoured and eaten in small batches rather than binging.
I wrote some time ago about the declining quality of the Food Network (the Canadian version) and it has since continued to get worse. It is increasingly overrun with reality shows and the actually instructional cooking shows that you see are not just reruns, but often pre-high definition re-runs from a decade ago. I love Chef Michael Smith, but if you are going to show reruns of his show, do you have to show me the low budget standard definition reruns from 2007? They had a fantastic high definition, well produced version a couple of years ago but that wasn’t picked up and the channel seems strangely reluctant to even show the re-runs. The same goes for Roger Mooking’s show. I was starting to think that it was just me; that everybody with an interest in food would rather watch competitions where people try to make soup without pots rather than an old fashioned cooking shows where someone explained how to cook things. Then this new channel called Gusto appeared on my TV.
To be clear, I am in no way connected to Gusto or anyone involved with the channel. There have several shows which are completely uninteresting, such as one about British people buying or fixing up rural holiday homes or whatever. The Wine Show sounds like it should be great but isn’t at all. But the channel is actually making an effort to provide some shows that are of some practical use for the home cook. All of Jamie Oliver’s shows are on the station, as is Martha Stewart’s, and I think the only show I’ve seen on it that isn’t in high definition is Julia Child’s show. I love that they have thrown this black and white show from the 60s right in the middle of all these high definition shows.
I have a feeling that I am not alone among cooking enthusiasts in being sick of all these cooking reality shows and wanting some old fashioned cooking shows. People who watch reality cooking shows are more fans of reality shows than cooking, and there are much more interesting reality shows out there than what you will find on any cooking channel. The people who actually have a serious interest in cooking, who would be the most coveted audience for advertisers, are going to watch shows that are both entertaining and help them cook better. Someone who likes watching people sabotage each other in a kitchen may not have any interest in any of food related commercials during the show. In year or two I have a feeling that the Food Network will either disappear or start showing more new, practical cooking shows.
I’ve been watching a lot of cooking documentaries on Netflix lately, many of which focus on a particular chef or restaurant. Without exception, whenever there is an interview with a chef the first thing they talk about is the insane hours that they HAVE to work in order to keep their restaurant going. They have to work all day, every day, and their romantic relationships always fail because they never have any time to spend with their wives of girlfriends. No other professional people in the world, including active duty combat soldiers, make their profession out to be as difficult. This is complete bullshit.
When a chef talks about the hours they work they are often exaggerating or outright lying. I saw one documentary where they guy claimed to work 16 hours a day. He lived in a huge house clearly nowhere near his downtown restaurant, so when you factor in driving and taking time to be interviewed by documentary makers, the person would essentially have not slept for several decades. Though chefs exaggerate, they do work long hours. The reason they work all these hours, in my opinion, is partly because they love being at their restaurant and partly because they aren’t good managers and delegators.
If you watch enough cooking documentaries it is easy to lose sight of the fact that cooking isn’t actually the most difficult thing that human beings do. In fact, there are all kinds of things that are just as difficult, or even more difficult, then running a kitchen. Launching a manned rocket into space for example. Building a hydroelectric dam in a remote area would be another good one. If there is one unifying characteristic of all the most difficult projects undertaken by human beings is that they don’t instantly collapse in failure if someone takes Friday off.
Believe it or not, it is possible for a head chef to hire competent cooks and train them to the extent where you can come into the restaurant in the morning and make sure all the ingredients are in stock and the prep is going smoothly and then go out to a movie with your girlfriend that night and let them handle the dinner service. If a chef can’t manage to do that once a week he is either a compulsive micromanager or is sleeping with the pastry chef.