Carbo-(over)loading…

The summer is creeping back in our psyche again!  I would have been skipping with joy if there were no one on the street.

Wipsy clouds were dancing above me as they had no care in the world under a gorgeous blue canopy which stretches as far as my eyes could see. It was just so lovely to have my cheeks caressed by a warm breeze instead of being slapped around by chilly sharp gusts!

  

Then, came Monday. Thick clouds moved in from the west and blanketed the sun and sky. Oh no…

Anyway, one afternoon at the gym, I was leafing through a copy of the Guardian which was left on the table in the communal area. While idly sipping my post-workout protein shake, my attention was grabbed by a headline “Cooking with crisps”…

 

The article was about the author’s dissatisfaction with overly made-up cookbooks/lifestyle books which saturate the present market and his longing for typical cookbooks which were common in the 70s and the 80’s. The dish in the picture next to my Day-Glo shaker, “Vesuvius”, is a spicy fish pie topped with a mountain of mashed potato blended with crisps. This blatantly carb+carb formula seems to be not in vogue in recent years. I mean this combo still does exist but not in the media with a fanfare, like Nigella Lawson drooling over it or blowing the jury’s minds in MasterChef. 

I first witnessed a sister version of the combo in a kitchen when I was flat-sharing. One of my flatmates brought out two slices of white bread, a tub of butter and a bag of crisps on the counter. She proceeded to lift a lid of the tub and spread the content over the breads as she was about to make sandwich. Then, her next action truly gobsmacked me. She opened the bag and stuffed the crisps between the slices!! While I was left temporarily speechless by the spectacle, she started to munch on the sandwich raucously. ‘Are you serious?’ I asked her if it was some sort of joke as I regained my composure. ‘What? This? I do it all the time!’ ,it was her turn to be gobsmacked by realising that I was still uninitiated to this one of the most delectable ways to consume crisps. Still not quite convinced, I asked Hubbie (then my boyfriend) if the practice was common in Britain. ‘Oh yeah, but I prefer chip butty’, he replied. ‘What is that?’ ‘A sandwich made with bread and French fries’. Oh my god, isn’t it carb overload?! I just threw my towel in…

Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef was one of the TV series which introduced more casual and relaxed way to entertain at home. He merrily chopped away the ingredients and threw them in a pot or on a plate. If it was salad, he tossed them with his bare hands and piled it on the large plate (again, with his bare hands) and voilà, the dinner was ready. Instead of slaving himself alone in the kitchen and being stressed out, the chef exchanged banter with his mates or basked in his female admirers’ gooey gaze, showing off his dynamic way of entertaining. 

A peacock with a twist…

   

Buffets & Receptions, a tome aimed at professional chefs, suggests how humble asparagus could be transformed to a spectacle. The bird’s tail was sculpted from asparagus with the aid of margarine. And the “eyes” of the feathers were made with halved eggs and black olives. 

The tradition of culinary spectacle associated with grand banquet seems to be a dying breed nowadays. It may be because we prefer more intimate environments to entertain or to be entertained. Instead of congregating in a huge hotel dining room and ogling foodie spectacle on a dais, we like it better if culinary spectacles happen on our individual plates while being surrounded with more private settings. I must say that I am not a big fan of cold buffet and would rather order from the menu. It may be because we are far used to seeing heaps of food in everyday life and therefore, the sight of the tables laden with large quantities no longer impresses us as a spectacle?

Anyway, I will always love the sight of Baked Alaska or Crépe Suzette brought into a dimmed room. The glow illuminates all excited faces and it makes me warm from the inside. Let’s relish sharing and be simply happy…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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