The Anti-Mayonnaise Activists Are Becoming Emboldened

Mayonnaise is one of the world’s greatest condiments. It goes perfectly with almost any sandwich, goes great with burgers, and if you are feeling sophisticated, can be easily mixed with garlic to make aioli sauce. Every burger joint and sandwich shop goes through gallons of the stuff every day, yet if you listen to some people on Twitter you would think that it was some disgusting sludge with which unsophisticated gluttons desecrate their food.

Everyone who has ever worked in an offices knows of that one person who hates mayo and always requests that whenever sandwiches are being ordered for a working lunch that there be some sandwiches ordered without mayonnaise. For most of human history the common practice was to tell such people to pack their own lunch if they want to be so picky. The person would then be forced sit starving at the end of the table gnawing on carrot and celery sticks and feeling like an outcast. Everything worked perfectly until the Internet and social media came along.

Now that we live in an age where several billion people have access to social media, it is now possible for people with even the most extreme views, be it justifying terror attacks on civilians or hating mayonnaise, to easily find thousands of people who agree with them. Now that the anti-mayo crowd are connecting with likeminded culinary deviants they are becoming emboldened and have started conscripting the anti-egg yolk crowd into their cause even though most anti-mayo crusaders eat eggs with yolks all the time.

Part of me thinks that it is best to just ignore these fringe lunatics and take comfort in the fact that mayonnaise is as ubiquitous as it has ever been, but as recent events have shown, a lunatic fringe left unchecked can spiral out of control with disastrous consequences. It is time for the silent pro-mayo majority to find its voice and start standing up to the anti-mayos before their movement reaches a critical mass.

Stop Putting Bacon on Everything

Bacon wrapped everything is awful. Bacon wrapped scallops, bacon wrapped pork loin, bacon wrapped chicken, bacon on pizza; all terrible. Bacon isn’t like eggs; you can’t poach it, boil it, or bake it, so why on earth would anyone think it makes sense to put it in an oven? It’s like steaming a T-bone steak.

I love bacon and take pride in cooking it properly; not too crispy but no pieces of raw fat either. When you cook the bacon in a frying pan and the fat renders out and then helps cook the strips of bacon evenly. When you wrap bacon around something and bake it in an oven there is no such effect and you end up with a pile of disgusting half raw bacon fat.

Wrapping something in bacon is essentially just a way of saying that you either don’t know how to add flavour to a chicken breast or scallop or are not interested in making the effort. If you really want to add some flavour to something using some salty and flavourful meat then use something thin that cooks quickly like prosciutto. Or you could just google “scallop recipe” and pick one that doesn’t involve bacon.

Though wrapping things in bacon is the worst misuse of bacon, putting bacon on pizza is not far behind. Even in the hottest of pizza ovens the bacon will still be half raw. There is absolutely no reason why you would ever need to put bacon on a pizza. If you want a salty meat on your pizza just use pepperoni or ham.

Bacon is meant to be eaten at breakfast with eggs and toast. If you want to be adventurous and use it outside of breakfast than make yourself a BLT or club sandwich. If you ever feel tempted to use bacon for anything else than stop what you’re doing and go buy yourself a cookbook.

The Art of Not Following Recipes

Perhaps the best skill for any home cook is learning how not to follow recipes. That may seem like an odd thing to read in a book that contains a bunch of recipes, but I would very much encourage you to not follow the recipes in this book, or more accurately, to not follow the exact recipes. Recipes should be looked at not as a rigid set of instructions, but as a source of ideas and inspiration.   If you want to get the most enjoyment out of any recipe, you need to learn how to customize the recipe best appeal to you and your dining companions.

The most important thing you need to understand about recipes is which ingredients you should modify and which you shouldn’t. Building a recipe is a little like building a house in that there are some ingredients that are structural and some which are cosmetic. If you get a set of house plans, you can easily change the colour of the paint or the type of moldings without consulting with the architect, but if you start making changes to the foundation or the roof trusses you may find your house collapsing on top of you after you build. The same goes for recipes; if you tinker too much with the structural ingredients you may find your recipe collapsing into an inedible mess.

Every recipe has a foundation of recipes that make up the underlying structure of the dish as well as some flavouring ingredients like herbs and spices that give it some added character. Provided you have an understanding of what herbs and spices pair with various foods you can go ahead and modify quantities or make substitutions without any worries of ruining your food.

Understanding the structural ingredients in baking is particularly important. You generally should stick pretty close to the recipes ratios of things like flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. While cooking may be more like an art, baking is much more of a science, so you should not be too much a maverick when it comes to the structural ingredients in baking recipes. You can feel free to aggressively add or take away flavours. For example, you can take any recipe that calls for raisins and substitute chocolate chips, or double the amount of chocolate chips. One of the most reliable rules to live by in baking is to always substitute chocolate chips for raisins. Don’t like walnuts in something? Then use another nut or no nuts at all. It won’t make a difference.

When you are identifying structural ingredients, you need to look at what that ingredient is doing to the dish. Is it adding flavour, is it carrying flavour, or is it assisting the cooking process? When you add flour or cornstarch to a stew, it is doing little or nothing to alter the flavour of the stew; they are just meant to thicken the liquid in the stew. You can choose not to use any thickening ingredients in a stew, but you need to be aware that you will be fundamentally altering the look and texture of the stew. Substituting sage for rosemary will only affect the taste, not the structure. It is the culinary equivalent of changing the colour of the kitchen.

Later in this book I will provide a great recipe for baked chicken wings that uses baking powder. The baking powder makes the wings attain a level of crispiness that you might have thought was only possible with a deep fryer. You should feel free to modify my recipe by using spices with more or less heat or going with some more savoury spices, but if you don’t want to use baking powder, then you should just look for another recipe. It is the use of baking powder that distinguishes the wing recipe. Likewise, using these same ingredients with ribs will lead to spectacularly awful results.

You may have noticed that I have not referenced onions or garlic as structural ingredients. That is because I do not generally consider them to be structural ingredients, and even though most chefs seem to think that onions and garlic must form the base 95% of all recipes, I believe that in many, if not most cases, you can easily alter or omit these from recipes without hurting the taste. In some cases you may even improve the taste. Of course, there are recipes like French onion soup, garlic butter, or aioli sauce where onions are garlic are clearly the foundation of the recipe, but for many recipes their importance is overstated.

After understanding the structural ingredients of a recipe, the next most important thing to understand is what you like and what you don’t like. Some people like fiery hot spices while others will get physically sick from so much spice. If you don’t like too much spice and a recipe calls for jalapeño, then you can substitute poblano for it. If you prefer things the hotter the better, then substitute a serrano pepper. Garlic content can also affect people in different ways. A lot of professional cooks have built up a tolerance for garlic that the average home cook simply does not have. You will routinely encounter recipes that call for an entire head of garlic, but unless you are roasting the garlic first, most of your dinner guests will be overwhelmed. Personally, when I see a recipe that calls for an entire head of garlic I just use a clove or two.

Recipes are suggestions, not commandments. You are not going to turn a great recipe into a vomit inducing mess just because you used a half a teaspoon more thyme or left out a clove of garlic. Not only should not worry about altering a recipe, but you would be better off if you actively looked for ways to alter recipes, even ones that you enjoy.

Don’t Serve Egg Salad Sandwiches at Parties

The Egg Salad sandwich is to sandwiches what the Hawaiian is to pizzas. It doesn’t matter how many guests you have, how many sandwiches, or how many types of sandwiches you serve, if you have egg salad sandwiches you are going to have a bunch of festering warm egg salad sandwiches lying around at the end of the party. In the history of parties and get-togethers, there has never been a single recorded instance of any kind of social event where egg salad sandwiches were served and not left over. If you want to serve an egg based food at a party then bake a cake.

Eggs are meant to be eaten hot off the pan with bacon or ham in the mornings. They are not meant to be mashed up with mayo and left lying around at room temperature for hours. I like eggs and eat them all the time, but that does not blind me to the fact that egg salad sandwiches are disgusting, and become increasingly so every minute that they spend lying around in an overheated living room on a Sunday afternoon.

I understand the temptation to make these awful things. They are inexpensive and easy to make; you can whip up a hundred sandwiches in 10 minutes with a jar of mayo, a dozen eggs, and a couple loaves of Wonderbread. And if you are planning the type of afternoon social gathering that lends itself to sandwich trays, there will no doubt be a 60+ year old woman who loves egg sandwiches who has taken an active role in the planning of said social gathering. She will almost certainly offer to make a hundred sandwiches for you, which will help her feel like she made a great contribution of a hundred sandwiches. You certainly don’t want to be ungrateful or unappreciative, but this situation can be easily diffused by saying that someone at the party has an egg allergy. If you don’t want to run the risk of being caught out in that lie, just say that you already bought a pile of ham on special and ask her if she wouldn’t mind making them for you. That way she gets that satisfaction of helping without having to spend any money. It’s a true win-win.

If you are going to serve sandwiches at a party just stick with some combination of grocery store sliced meat. Cured meats like ham and salami would be at the top of the list since they are designed to be able to lie around in a warm living room for a while, but the reality is that all grocery store sliced meats are well salted and will hold up just fine no matter how long your gathering drags on. To be on the safe side, this might be one of those times when you might want to avoid the more expensive versions that claim not to use preservatives.

Stop Saying “Fee and Chee”

In recent years, Newfoundland has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, helped in part by a great advertising campaign, a popular TV show set in St. John’s, and more recently, the cheap Canadian dollar. One of the things that tourists find interesting about Newfoundland is our unique accent and vocabulary. While most English speaking Canadians speak almost the same way (Nova Scotians’ annoying use of “somewheres” notwithstanding), Newfoundland, since it is an island and was among the first places in North America to be settled, has maintained a unique dialect.

The best example of Newfoundlanders’ unique version of English would be its continued use “ye”, the plural form of you. Anyone who has read Shakespeare knows that English, like almost all other languages, used to have a singular and plural version of the word “you”, such as tu/vous in French. For some reason this died out in most of English speaking world but has been preserved in Newfoundland.  The worst example of Newfoundlanders’ unique version of English would be the phrase “fee and chee”, which some townies have started using as slang for fish and chips.

There is not a historical term that has its roots in 16th century English, it is an invention of 21st century townie hipsters with an irrepressible longing to be different just for the sake of being different. If you could go back in time to the 1890s and asked someone for “fee and chee” you would starve to death before anyone figured out what you were asking for. Same goes for the 1990s for that matter. The expression has no roots in Newfoundland culture or history. It was probably invented by some guy in Southlands five years ago and somehow has spread faster than the Zika virus.

Just to be clear, I actually like the invention of new words and phrases. Google should be considered a verb because it is useful and makes sense. “Fee and Chee” is not useful and makes no sense. It has the same number of syllables as fish and chips, so why would you create a slang phrase that is no shorter than what it is replacing? The only valid reason for anyone to use the phrase “fee and chee” is if you forgot to wear your hemp necklace and want to make sure people know that you are a hipster.

There is No Reason for Risotto to Exist

Of all the things you can make at home, risotto provides by far the worst return on your investment of time and effort. Not only does it take a lot of active cooking time and effort, but even if you are successful, all you are left with is some soggy rice. With most things that are cooked in a pot, you simply throw in the ingredients, bring it to boil or simmer and then you either just wait until it’s done or give it the occasional stir. Frying on a pan usually requires constant attention but whatever you are cooking is usually done in a couple of minutes. Risotto is unique in that it combines all the time of boiling with all the effort of searing.

Rice is generally one of the easiest things you will ever make. You throw some rice in a pot with some water and gently boil it until the water is gone. You can throw in some herbs and spices, you can fry it in some oil; whatever way you prefer you will end up with a decent tasting side dish. There is simply no compelling reason for risotto to exist as a dish. Why would you invent a rice cooking technique that requires ten times the effort and just leaves you with a glob of soggy rice? If you’ve never seen risotto, just imagine your dog eating an entire pot of rice, taking a nap for 15 minutes, and then waking up and vomiting it back into the pot. If you’ve never seen a risotto recipe, it essentially involves cooking rice in a pot by adding a little bit of broth at a time and stirring repeatedly. Apparently there is some reason why you can’t just dump in all the broth at once and boil it off like any other rice, but I have no interest in learning what that reason is.

I’m not one for reality cooking shows, but a few years back I watched bits and pieces of a couple seasons of Hell’s Kitchen, and if memory serves me correctly, ever episode involved at least one scene where Gordon Ramsay was screaming at some chef for messing up the risotto. Keep in mind that all of the contestants on that show cooked for a living, and they were still regularly messing it up. If you try to make this at home you will probably mess it up, and even if you don’t your dining companions will probably hate it anyway. If you do like risotto then go out to a nice Italian restaurant and let someone else worry about cooking it.

Stop Ordering Vegetarian and Hawaiian Pizzas

Pizza is far and away the most popular food for parties and casual get-togethers. There are all kinds of pizza makers who will deliver pizzas right to your door, you can eat it with your hands, and your guests aren’t left with any bones to discard. Just order up a bunch of pepperoni, deluxe, and cheese pizzas and everyone will be happy, yet for some unfathomable reason virtually everyone orders the two most universally hated pizzas in the world; Hawaiian and vegetarian.

No matter where you have your party, whom you invite, or how many pizzas you order, the leftover pizza will always include Hawaiian and vegetarians. If you ordered a hundred pepperoni pizzas and one each of vegetarian and Hawaiian, the pepperoni pizzas would be the least likely to be left over. Everyone hates these two pizzas yet everyone insists on ordering them. If you ask your guests if they want either of these pizzas they will all nod yes, but when the pizza arrives they will all dive into the good stuff first. Only when there are no other options will you see people grudgingly reach for the veggie or Hawaiian. 90% of these pizzas are eaten at room temperature or below.

The greatest marketer of all time is the person who convinced the world that they needed to put pineapple on a pizza. Pineapple isn’t a pizza topping, it’s a desecration. Putting pineapple on pizza is like putting an ice cube in glass of fine red wine or mixing single malt scotch with Pepsi. What is the purpose of Hawaiian pizza anyway? At least vegetarian pizza has some ostensible purpose; to provide a pizza option for vegetarians. There is no need for Hawaiian pizza to exist. It’s as if it was invented for the sole purpose of ensuring that there would be some leftover pizza at parties. I am not a betting man, but if I were, I would bet that no pizzeria anywhere in the world has ever had a person purchase just a single Hawaiian pizza. It is only ever sold with a bunch of other pizzas to someone holding a party or event who has fallen for the myth that there are people who actually like Hawaiian pizza.

As I mentioned above, vegetarian pizza at least has a reason to exist, but that is still not a reason to ever have one at your party. I want to be clear that when I say that you should never order a vegetarian pizza, I am not saying that you should never order a pizza that has no meat on it. The problem with vegetarian pizza is that it is typically just a bunch of random vegetables thrown on without any thought as to how they go together. The hallmark of any truly great pizza is that it does not have too many toppings, but people who make vegetarian pizzas feel like they need to compensate for the lack of meat by piling on every vegetable they have.  If you want to serve your guests a meat free pizza, order up a margherita. The simple combination of mozzarella, basil, and tomato works perfectly. Even carnivores will often have themselves a slice. If your local pizza takeout doesn’t have a margherita, just order a plain cheese pizza. It may be simple, but it is better than the chaotic mess that is the vegetarian or the abomination that is the Hawaiian.

Why Didn’t Burger King Start Selling Hot Dogs Years Ago?

Major news broke this week with the announcement by Burger King that it would start selling hot dogs in its restaurants, but I can’t help but think that what is really newsworthy is that Burger King hasn’t always sold hot dogs. They already cook their burgers on a flame grill that can cook hot dogs just as easily without any modification, and the segment of society that eats fast food hamburgers is pretty much the same segment of society that eats hot dogs, yet for some reason many in the media are calling this a bold move. A bold move would be if a sushi bar had introduced hot dogs; this is a long overdue move.

Outside of the large scale chains like McDonalds, Wendy’s, and Burger King, most of the small, independent burger joints across North America have always served hot dogs. When people invite friends over for a backyard BBQ they generally throw burgers and hot dogs on the grill. Surely some Burger King executives must have been invited a BBQ at some point their lives?

Some have questioned whether this is the right move considering the trend toward healthier eating, but that trend may not be quite so pronounced amount the Burger King target market. If their customers have no problem with the Triple Whopper or burgers with onion rings instead of onions, I’m sure they won’t be too troubled with the addition of hot dogs to the menu.

Pictures of Six Year Old McDonald’s Mean Nothing

Every so often a picture shows up on social media of some McDonald’s food that has been left out for months or years without going mouldy or rotting and people use it as some sort of proof that there is some highly toxic preservatives that prevent any mold or bacteria from growing. There are plenty of reasons why you should not eat too frequently at fast food places like McDonald’s, but a picture of a preserved six year old Happy Meal is not one of them.

If you were to take an organic potato, peel it, cut it into little batonettes the size of McDonald’s French fries, deep fry them in the purest, most organic oil you can find, then sprinkle some kosher salt on them and leave them in a relatively dry place for six years they would look just like the fries you see in all those Facebook photos you’ve seen. Once something is dry it isn’t going to grow mold, and if you drop it in scalding hot oil, you will kill off any bacteria and mold spores which will prevent any growths from starting in the short time it takes for the food to dry out.

Why aren’t there any viral Facebook pictures of dried cranberries that don’t deteriorate after several years? Why don’t people send around pictures of a bowl of rice that looks exactly the same as it did 50 years ago? Why would anyone expect a dried piece of potato to be any different than a dried piece of rice? Nobody is appalled by homemade beef jerky will last for years in your office just like McNuggets, but it is much the same thing; it’s dried meat with.

I actually care about preparing healthy food for myself and for my two young children. I think that everyone should try to eat a little healthier and make sure their children are eating healthier food, but the way to do that is by disseminating objective facts and data, not by scaring people with misleading, attention grabbing pictures.

You Don’t Need a Big Deep Freezer

The worst thing that any home cook can do is to buy a great big deep freeze. Deep freezes are like garages; no matter how big it is it will always end up full of stuff, and unfortunately, that prime rib roast is not going to age nearly as well in your freezer as the skis and bike in your garage. I lived most of my adult life without a deep freeze, though now that I have kids I’m glad that I eventually bought a small one.

Around Christmas I will usually have turkey and a few appetizers in there and in the summer I will have a few boxes of popsicles and ice cream sandwiches. Ice cream and popsicles keep really well in a freezer for long periods of time, but if you were to look inside the typical deep freeze you will see that it’s full of steaks, roasts, and fish. Meat and fish do not handle being frozen for extended periods of time nearly as well as ice cream.

I have stored some roasts in the freezer myself. I would see a fantastic special at the grocery store and pick up two roasts; one to cook right away and the other to freeze for another time. What I found was that before I got around to using the roast in my freezer there would be another sale so rather than thawing the frozen roast I would just buy another fresh one. It turns out grocery stores have sales on different cuts of beef quite frequently.

The only reason you should have a giant freezer full of meat is if you are in the business of breaking into butcher shops. There’s nothing wrong with having a couple of steaks and some leftover chilli in a freezer, but it makes no sense to stock up on frozen meat. There will always be some sort of sale at the grocery store for some sort of dead animal, so why have a month’s worth of frozen meat piled up in your basement freezer?

Even if you love good deals and think meat tastes better after it has been frozen for a couple of years, you need to keep in mind that a single power outage can turn your treasure trove of hoarded frozen meat into a rotting pile of garbage. If you like stockpiling food, you are better off having a bigger pantry than deepfreeze. Rather than stocking up on steaks, you should keep an eye out for sales on things like sugar, flour, rice and canned tomatoes. Those things go on sale too and they generally have a longer expiry date than the person buying them.