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My dear Readers:
Food, yes! Now there is a subject I am an expert on. Those who know me know I am definitely not poorly fed. I'm not overly fat, just enjoyably huggable. I believe if God intended us to diet, she wouldn't have made us so hungry. I believe my love of eating is genetic. I come from a long -- and wide -- line of good eaters. We have probably closed more "all you can eat" restaurants than any family.
I have been addicted to food from an early age and have learned to have an open mind -- and an open mouth -- over the wide variety of culinary delights. And Winter is my favorite season for talking about and eating food. Nothing better than coming into the house after school or after work and being engulfed by the aroma of freshly baked cookies or bread. Sometimes I had to go to several houses before I found those cookies.
Rarely do I find something I do not like to eat, well, maybe Brussels sprouts and chicken feet. When I do find that rare dislike, I am reminded of my dear grandmother's words of wisdom: "If I was really hungry, I would eat that again."
Not only have I been a life-long eater, but I have been a cook for over 60 percent of my life. I know I could learn to cook after living for four years in the college dormitory. If people could get paid for devising those menus and cooking such "uninteresting" dishes, I knew I could learn the art as well and likely much better.
Eating dormitory food for those years also changed my tastes. I once thought that a well- balanced meal was having a cookie in each hand; sampling each alternately. Now it means having a properly filled bowl that will balance on my belly when I eat on the deck.
One very important dietary tip that I have learned is that there are no calories in naturally broken cookies. However, cookies still retain 80 percent of their calories if artificially broken. On the other hand, celery can be artificially cut and still retain its zero-calorie status, but not if dipped.
FACT: If a piece of toast drops from the kitchen table, it almost always (better than 90 percent frequency) lands jam side down. This is not a law of Murphy, but a law of food physics.
I am not only a cook but also an innovator in the kitchen. Over two decades ago, I "invented" the Chinese pizza. The pizza has a basic wheat crust covered with sweet-and-sour sauce and may be topped with water chestnuts, pineapple, shrimp or chicken, bamboo shoots, onions, peppers, bok choy (for the adventurous), mushrooms and bean sprouts. A thin layer of shredded cheddar cheese holds it all together.
I learned from experience that if you are making the pie ahead of time, particularly in a warm room, watch the pizza closely. I once made two large Chinese pizzas for a surprise party for my wife several hours ahead of baking and took them to a neighbour's to "hide." A couple of hours later, I received a phone call: "Come quick! Your pizzas are taking over the kitchen!"
When I arrived, I was relieved to find he had exaggerated -- at least a little. They had not taken over the kitchen, only a large table. The dough, fueled by the warm summer day and the sweet-n-sour sauce had continued to rise, expanding rapidly over the 18-inch pizza pans and engulfing most of the 4-foot diameter table top. We eventually were able to corral the stampeding dough, but Mark had to ride herd on them for the rest of the day.
I confess I am not a barbeque chef like most men are. Since my diet is heavily vegetarian (I have declared sea foods are vegetables and occasionally eat some tuna of the land), I find that the broccoli and asparagus drops through the grill too easily. I have eaten some of my best meals outdoors, however. Some of the most memorable came on an island retreat that started as a weekend celebration and merged into an outdoor conference as the party crew (which included two gourmet chefs) transformed themselves into a catering team.
My assignment was to clean, cut and chop the vegetables. I had a comfy chair, a large cutting board and a sharp knife to attack the produce. Work was carried out in a sheltered site looking over the water to the main island. The first day I chopped 50 pounds of garlic. (Note that despite the metric system's ease of use, the proper unit for food weight is pounds (something about the word kilogram sounds unappetizing.) I can tell you that after chopping that quantity of Russian penicillin, I have remained cold and flu free for four years. After five days of such work during which I also meditated over carrots, potatoes, celery and onions, I had completed my research from my upcoming book The Zen of Veggie Slicing -- Seeking the Kindliest Cut of All.
[All this writing about food is making me hungry. Time out for lunch. You too, good reader, can put the magazine down and go have a snack or meal.]
Let me see. Where was I? Oh yes, the kitchen: eating. And before that? Thinking and talking about food. Ahhh! Life is good. Now I have my train of thought back on track.
In addition to my expertise in eating and cooking food, I have also had experience in growing some fruits and vegetables. I also began having thoughts of this activity at a tender age, having aspirations in my youth to be a farmer a man outstanding in his field. My choices for crops then were carrots, corn and hot dogs. Love to eat those tasty little critters straight from the vine. (If you grow the vine up a trellis, they will be hotter than those grow on the ground. At ballparks, they call these red hots.)
When I got older my choice of crops changed. (The factory production of hot dogs forever changed the industry and you rarely see them grown on the vine any more. Indeed, some say that the loss of the seed has made the vine go the way of the spaghetti tree.) As an adult I specialized in tomatoes and zucchini. My prowess with zucchini-culture was notorious in the neighbourhood. My neighbours would slam their doors jealously when I approached with an offering of the long-green fruit.
One year I was very successful growing pumpkins. I grew so many of the great orange gourds that I was still giving them away at Christmas. I brought an especially plump one to my close friend on Christmas Eve so that his family could have fresh pie for the holidays. As the door open, revealing me with a large orange fruit nestled cosily under my arm, Chris looked at me quizzically and had only one comment: "Wrong holiday, Keith!"
Well, the editor says I have written enough to earn my supper and since that is what my goal was, I will end this here. Happy eating and don't eat anything I wouldn't.
Your ever-hungry servant,
p. Keith, PbH
Poor Keith's Almanac: Food by Keith C. Heidorn, PhD . ©1997, All Rights Reserved.
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