Previous Next

Food - non-garden

This is a taste appreciation page for food that I couldn't possibly grow myself, unless I had a cannery and an ocean in my back yard. It's also for food that I've eaten and liked and decided to write something nice about, rather than chosen for a taste test. On the other hand, if I ever eat something so horrible that I feel obliged to warn the world about it, I will.

It will also be home to at least one general food tip.

Food tips

1. The power of pancakes

In the huge volume that is the Grimm brothers' compendium of fairy tales, I once read about a girl eating pancakes and carrots. True, the pancakes must have been little more than unleavened bread and the two were mashed together into a tasteless kind of porridge, but it struck me that pancakes and carrots might make a good taste combination. So, the next time mum baked a batch of pancakes, I cleaned a fresh carrot, wrapped a pancake around it, and munched it all up. At last, a pancake topping that doesn't slide off, ooze out or stick to your finger.

Putting cheese slices on the still-hot pancake so they melt slightly and then wrapping the pancake around the carrot keeps the carrot in place, and tastes like a little rolled up carrot pizza. Yum.

I suspect that grating carrots into pancake batter wouldn't yield bad results, either.

Years later, as a student, I was stuck with a pot of vanilla-flavoured chestnut puree. The taste wasn't bad, but it was so cloying that it made me nauseous. How to dilute that taste somehow? Pancakes! I mixed the chestnut puree into pancake batter and made a pile of chestnut-flavoured pancakes, no topping needed. I'd already gotten into the habit of processing any milk or yoghurt past its sell-by date into pancakes (as a penniless student, one does not throw food away lightly) but the chestnut puree experiment made me try the same with any jams I'd bought and found too sweet or too strong, like ginger jam, or jams so old that I'd had to scoop the first spots of mould off the top, the idea being that the heat of baking would destroy any germs. I also once bought a can of coconut milk - the bittersweet juice of the coconut that will later congeal into white fatty coconut flesh - to find that the juice was already on its way to congealing. What to do? Bake coconut pancakes! And what creamy, yummy pancakes they turned out to be. Again, no topping needed. Got some bananas going overripe? Mash them into pancake batter for banana pancakes! (Adding mashed banana to bread dough also nicely flavours bread rolls, although they have to be eaten quickly or they will go mouldy.) Any fruit juice you don't like? Pancakes! Spicy cottage cheese about to go off? Pancakes! If the end result still isn't good, you can always hang them up outside for the birds.

And that's what I did with a failed pancake experiment, showing me that even pancakes have their limits. The supermarket carries a something called "zalmroomsoep" (creamy salmon soup) which I became quite dependant on when I had an irritated stomach that needed soothing. Once, I couldn't find the salmon soup and instead bought some other tins showing fish on the outside. Big mistake: the tins contained real fish soup, something like bouillabaisse, as opposed to creamy sauce with chunks of salmon in it. The soup made me nauseous, so I mixed it into pancake batter. The pancakes still made me nauseous. Come and get it, birdies.

2. Potato mash fixes everything

Like pancakes, mashed potato evens out both taste and texture. When I was still picking orach and other leaves from the garden, the daily food preparation consisted of peeling potatoes, boiling them, mashing the leaves into the hot potatoes (or adding them in the last few minutes if they were tough and needed to be cooked) and adding butter or cheese. (No milk. It makes the potatoes taste - I don't know, slippery.)

When illness struck and I really wasn't in the condition to haul home big sacks of potatoes, yet online sources told me that potato carbs might defeat the bug in my guts (spoiler: they didn't), I looked to another option: potato mash powder. Do not expect a single vitamin to have survived the processing, but at least the mash would line my irritated stomach wall and protect it against other, more acidic foodstuffs. For a while, I ate tomatoes cut up in potato mash with a pat of butter.

Here's a recipe when your stomach doesn't feel up to digesting proteins (the only part of food that the stomach does digest, the rest is just tenderized for intestinal digestion) yet you have a slab of minced meat that needs to be consumed NOW. Chop onions and put in regular pan - not saucepan - to fry with butter. When the onions are almost done, add minced meat, salt, and any seasoning. Stir until brown, possibly add a little water, or a few tomatoes as the juice that runs out of them when cooking has the same effect. You now have a brown sauce of mincemeat, onions and possibly tomato, the kind that is normally poured over pasta to make spaghetti bolognese. Now, empty a sachet of powdered potato mash into the pan, stir, add water, stir, add more water, until basically you have a pan of potato mash with mincemeat and onion sauce in it. True, a healthy person could pass up the potato mash and simply put the mincemeat on pasta or rice or just spoon it straight out of the pan, but a stomach patient needs the potatoes to neutralize the meat. Now grab some stomach pills - antacid or betain-HCl, depending on whether your stomach produces too much, or too little acid - and tuck in. Seriously, this is the safest way for me to eat meat (or milk, or eggs; pulses contain enough carbohydrates by themselves). To make life easier, powdered potato mash also comes with flavours - cream and chives, cheese, bacon - so, if I'm in a really bad state, I can have the taste of protein-rich foods without having to eat them.

Previous Top Next