Foodie foodie hoo hoo!

You've gotta eat.  Or, more of the time, you've gotta get the kids to eat before it's too late for a reasonable bedtime.  Sometimes it's even nice to eat.  It's almost never as nice to deal with a pile of dishes afterward, or even to deal with a lot of prepwork before.  But, unless you get your paycheck deposited directly into your Waiters on Wheels account, sometimes you just have to suck it up.

Of course, there was a time when lots of prepwork seemed completely reasonable.  This was when I was young, had lots of labwork to procrastinate, and was willing to view cooking as entertainment.  (You kind of have to when the person coordinating the group gives you the zucchini to chop and then says, "Are you sure you want to chop them that way?"  Especially when it's 10 pm and dinner is still at least an hour away.)  Maybe, if I get to have a midlife crisis, I'll go back to fussy preparation.  But I don't see it happening any time soon.

(Recipes will be linked as I get around to it.  Be patient.)

Relatively easy things we make somewhat frequently:

A pair (or trio, depending on how you score it) of easy Russian salads
Tofu stir-fry
The house salad
Fruit salad

Somewhat more involved things we make less often, but enjoy when we do:

Vegetable pie (2 variations)
Black bean soup

Stuff we grill in lieu of animal flesh:

Marinated tofu
Portabella mushrooms
Zucchini planks
Shiitake mushrooms

Culinary Voyeurism:

Watching my brother Peter is a good place to start, if you can find him.

Second best is the Food Network.  Jamie Oliver (the "Naked Chef" -- but he never actually gets naked) and Alton Brown (on "Good Eats") are supremely watchable.  And "Iron Chef" (which is internationally known) has been know to rock (a microphone, and other things).

OK, I've got to vent a little about "Iron Chef".  A few years ago, IC was a regular part of the Saturday night line-up on Fuji TV as carried by channel 26 in San Francisco.  And it came with subtitles!!  And it had shockingly beautiful sake ads at almost every commercial break.  I would argue that this was the best way to experience IC.

Enter Food Network, which undoubtedly knows a good thing when they see it (although it's also gotten some false positives on its goodness meter).  The first report I heard was that they were buying the idea to make an American version of the show.  Blasphemy! (Alex tells me this wasn't actually Food Network but UPN.  Whatever.  I'm talking about my fuzzy recollection of things.) Said American version died quickly and quietly.  Not even the oddly compelling William Shatner could save it.  Don't let the kitchen door hit your ass on the way out to the loading dock.

So, certainly by comparison, what they have on Food Network now is not so heinous.  It's the same show they film in Japan, only dubbed.  And the dubbing is not too bad, most of the time.  Except for some pretty awful mistranslations.  The one that really sticks in my craw is "shiso".  The English name for this herb/leaf is "beefsteak".  However, the dubbers insist on going with "beefsteak tomato leaf".  Dude, it's NOT the same thing.  It's even possible that beefsteak tomato leaf is, uh, poisonous (the tomato being a member of the nightshade family whose leaves are not typically eaten).

And they should never, never dub Chairman Kaga.  Good subtitles and his voice (plus his sartorial prowess) are all I need.

Secret ambition: to be the designated crone on the panel of judges.

When traveling to the UK by time machine (between 1997 and 1999), you might check out Can't Cook, Won't Cook.  Not as bizarre as some British game shows, but it was daytime.  It also inspired a Red Dwarf spoof , featuring Ainsley Harriott, called "Can't Smeg, Won't Smeg".  We laughed ourselves silly when it was shown during a KTEH pledge drive, but the host had no idea what the hell it was.

And speaking of PBS, we are sometimes able to find episodes of the BBC comedy Chef!  Gareth Blackstock (were he not fictional) could give any of the Iron Chefs an interesting battle.  

Good sources for people who can actually stand to cook:

My brother Peter turned me on to Epicurious.  They have a gazillion (Gz) recipes in their file -- very handy if you're looking for something specific (and you know how to pick good search terms).  Could be a real time sink if you're just browsing, however.

You like cheese?  You need to send someone a gift basket?  Can't find avocado oil in your grocery?  iGourmet is a good bet.  Once or twice a year, we get a shipment of cheeses (I especially recommend the pub cheeses from Wales) -- enough to make it worth the shipping costs.  If you wander across our threshold at one of these times, you will be made to eat cheese.  You have been warned.

If you live in the San Francisco bay area and want to support (mostly local) organic farmers, I recommend you check out Planet Organics.  Each week, they get a great selection of what's good and in season and offer it up for reasonable prices (i.e., not as cheap as the conventially grown produce at the supermarket, but better for the environment and your karma).  You can go with their selection (of fruits, veggies, or a fruit-veg mix; you get to specify a list of items you never want to get, whether because you grow them yourself or you loathe them).  Or, you can see what they have that week and put together a custom order.  And, it gets delivered right to your door.  Woo hoo!

When we used to live in San Francisco, we got our weekly delivery of organic produce from The B.O.X.  It was a very similar deal.  However, we had some sub-par produce more than a few times (moldy oranges, lettuce that had bolted, etc.)  We were able to call and have them credit us for these items, but it was a hassle.  Also, when we left them, they still hadn't gotten their website going in a useful way.  Maybe they do custom orders now.  You'd have to find out for yourself.  (No point in my doing it, since I live out of their delivery area.)

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