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Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Believing is in the Tasting


Last month I posted a blog on my website about October being National Seafood Month. I listed my seafood favorites as well as the Once Was Enough Thank You options.

(Top of that list is escargot; shells stuffed with snails floating in copious amounts of melted garlic butter are revolting!)

This got me to thinking about foods that are unattractive yet not enough to be repelling. At the top of that list is Mexican cuisine. It's not pretty. No offense to those of Mexican heritage. The food is terrific; it just lacks an appealing color palette. Shades of beige and brown and murky yellow with salsa verde and guacomole kicking in some green tones and pico de gallo adding a splash of red.

Not my favorite colors but I don't care. That doesn't keep me from eating Mexican cuisine. Yummy stuff.

There were a few dishes my mom prepared when I was a kid that weren't pretty but tasted great. Like meatloaf. No matter what she added to the meat or what topped it off - tomato sauce, cheese - it didn't look good. Meatloaf did not and still doesn't make my hunger buds jump for joy, but, overlook its brownish-grayness and it can be surprisingly tasty.


Gumbo is another doesn't-taste-as-yucky-as-it-looks dish. Doesn't matter what kind it is:

Crayfish...
file Okra...







 
or Chicken & Andouille Sausage


 
none of them are remotely pretty. But, mmh-mmm, they are tres bon
 
With two cooking-large holidays coming up, it's nearing the time I dust off recipes that I use only once a year.  My family's mixed ethnicity gives me interesting options. Swedish and British on my mother's side of the family, Scottish and American Indian on my dad's. In my recipe collection there are two dishes that look terrible but taste oh so good. Thanks go to the17th century English colonists for Indian pudding. Because wheat was in short supply, to make their traditional hasty pudding they had to supplement wheat with corn, or Indian meal. The original recipe has undoubtedly been altered since the 17th century but it's still prepared the same way. The recipe I use:

3 C  milk                             1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C molasses                    1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 T cornmeal                       1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg                          1/2 C cold milk
1/2 C sugar                          2-1/2 T unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

Heat oven to 325°. In a small pan, scald milk. Whisk in molasses and cornmeal, cook until thickened. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, combine egg, sugar, salt, ginger, and cinnamon; stir into cornmeal/milk mixture. Pour into a greased 1-quart casserole. Bake 30 minutes. Add milk and butter. Continue baking about 1 hour. Serve with cream or ice cream.


I make Indian Pudding for Thanksgiving and Grape-Nut Pudding for Christmas. Equally unappealing to the eye, maybe even more so because what goes into the oven looking like shriveled up seeds floating in milk comes out looking like a mottled chunk of concrete. Makes you wish you were on my Christmas dinner guest list, doesn't it?



This recipe was my grandmother's which she got right off the back of a box of Post Grape-Nuts, circa 1930s.

1 quart milk                         Pinch of salt
3 large eggs, beaten            sprinkling of cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla                         1/2 cup sugar
                                           1 C Grape-Nuts cereal 

Heat oven to 350°. In a medium-size bowl mix all ingredients but the Grape-Nuts.Stir well. Stir in cereal. Pour into a buttered 2-quart glass baking dish. Place baking dish in a pan of water, enough to reach halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, about an hour. Stir mixture three to four times during baking to keep Grape-Nuts from settling.




Hm. Now that I see concrete and custard together, I realize I gave the pudding a bad rap. 
When it hardens at least it's edible. 

Recipes as well as their prepared results are like book covers: 
your first impression is only one layer of the whole story. 


 Any favorite unattractive food creations of your own?


Polly writes contemporary romance suspense novels under her given name and historical romances under her pen name, Isabel Mere. She lives in "cow-growing" country in Missouri's SW Ozarks. No street lights, no traffic jams, nary a stoplight. If she's not writing or mowing or taking care of dogs, she's at her secondhand bookshop, Bookmarks, LLC.
  






19 comments:

Tina Donahue said...

OMG, I am SO hungry now - what awesome photos.

Polly McCrillis said...

Hi Tina - glad I could get your taste buds up and at 'em!

Tess said...

Our family version of "meat and noodles" looks like it's already been eaten and regurgitated...but it's always been one of my faves. And my (now) famous seminole dip looks like we all got a bad case of food poisoning and shared a vomit bowl...lol but who cares when the flavors are wonderful!

Sandy said...

They look good to me. I love meat loaf. lol

Paris said...

Polly,
I've always loved experimenting and while I've always passed on the snails, there hasn't been much else that I've passed up. Especially love the gumbo:)The only seafood I cannot get past my lips is creamed pickled herring, a holiday favorite of my hubby and his family. It sort of looks like curdled lumps of fish and onions and smells...bad.

jean hart stewart said...

It's the taste that counts. My favorite is one you don't have on your list, but I adore. Persimmon pudding, and you can only do it this time of year. Looks dreadful, but oh so good....

Cara Marsi said...

All of these photos are delicious looking. I'm hungry. I've had Escargot and I like it. I'll try almost anything. I will stop at monkey brains though.

Judy Baker said...

Okay, I admit, Okra is not a pretty picture when it's steamed, but I really like the taste. Thanks for sharing all the recipes.

Polly McCrillis said...

Tess, I think your choices win the ugly/yummy food award....

Polly McCrillis said...

Paris, creamed pickled herring was a favorite of my dad and my grandpa. I never liked it in the cream sauce (your description of curdled lumps of fish and onions is so spot on!), but I do like in the vinegary sauce. Definitely not for everyone!

Polly McCrillis said...

Jean, I've never heard of persimmon pudding. If it's anything like the fruit it must be tart with just a hint of sweet. I'm going to have to find a recipe, try it out!

Polly McCrillis said...

Cara, so glad to hear that you draw the line at monkey brains! Where do you stand on chitlins?

Polly McCrillis said...

I agree with you, Judy, okra is not a pretty veggie and is about the only fried food I eat. Love really crisp fried okra!

MOTH BNTB said...

I love escargot and get them whenever I can.

Growing up with a German / Eastern European background on both sides of the family one of the meals we had that was visually not too appealing was pork roast, sauerkraut, and boiled potatoes with pork gravy. Brown on tan on light brown with a little bit of grey thrown in. Would not have made the cover of a food magazine… but man was it good!

Melissa Keir said...

The food looked great. Thanks for sharing your recipes. My family made Chicken Paprika, sort of a chicken and dumpling meal that looked like orangish soup. It doesn't look really good but I love it, especially during the cold season. Another is hamburg gravy...think gray gravy with hamburger bits in it but pour it over mashed potatoes, yum... Oh well... I can make some tomorrow!

Marianne Stephens said...

Stay away from:
Caposzelli - Sheep's head. My family made it...I wouldn't touch it. Some Italian tradition but I could never get past the look of it!
Ugly to look at and I have no idea what it tastes like.


Polly McCrillis said...

MOTH, a meal of earth tones...lovely!

Polly McCrillis said...

Melissa, your hamburg gravy sounds like Tess's meat and noodles but with potatoes instead of noodles. Same color, same great taste!

Polly McCrillis said...

Marianne, best advice I've received in a long while: avoid caposzelli. Grazie!!

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