In which I taste terrible

We watch a lot of cooking shows around here. I feel like this is generally a known thing, right? I’ve lost my patience over the last several years with a lot of narrative television and so a good proportion of the programs I watch are either reality TV cooking programs, generally with Gordon Ramsay involved somehow, or home renovation programs.

One of the things we entertain ourselves with while watching Gordon Ramsay’s shows is figuring out where the long hand of the production department has shown up. Hell’s Kitchen, in particular, is and always has been rigged as hell– nearly every challenge ends up in a tie before the last person shows up. Once in a while, sure, but it’s literally 95% of the challenges. Still entertaining? Sure. But you can’t take it too seriously.

One of the things Hell’s Kitchen does every season is a blind taste test challenge. The competitors are blindfolded and earmuffed and fed a spoonful of some sort of food which they must identify. Some of them are better at it than others, to put it mildly, and my wife and I have always been curious about how we would do in a similar situation.

Well:

Thirteen diced food-like substances, pulled together while I was outside clearing the driveway of all of yesterday’s snow. I knew we were going to do this, because we’d talked about it, but I don’t know that I knew it was going to be ten minutes after I walked in from outside, all sweaty and gross and looking like this:

That bandanna wrapped around my eyes is supposedly a Cooling Bandanna, and it’s not only thick cloth to begin with but it’s four layers thick the way I have it folded. I assure you that I couldn’t see a damn thing other than a tiny bit of light coming from the vague direction of my right nostril, which at no point was especially useful. I was fed with a spoon with the exception of the last two items.

You will, of course, be wanting a blow-by-blow of the entire process. And if you don’t, well, you’re getting it anyway. My blog. ūüôā

ITEM NUMBER ONE: APPLE

Weird thing: it turns out that the taste of a thing takes a second or so to kick in. For the first moment or two you’re relying mostly on texture before you can taste anything, and I swear to you that I had a moment of pure bewilderment before the taste kicked in. At which point I guessed apple, and I was right.

ITEM NUMBER TWO: CELERY

I don’t have a lot to say about this one. I was expecting celery to be an item at some point, and got it right. 2/2!

ITEM NUMBER THREE: BROCCOLI TOPS

By this point I was feeling pretty confident. I’m two for two! This is easy, and this show with these professional chefs is obviously cheating! I guessed a bit too early and said cauliflower. It was not cauliflower. By the end of the chewing, I felt like I should have gotten this one right, but I didn’t. 2/3!

ITEM NUMBER FOUR: ONION

So, funny story: turns out my wife was unaware that I have a teensy bit of an allergy to raw yellow onion, or at least it rips the shit out of my throat, which might not actually be an allergy but there’s a good reason I never put raw yellow onion on anything? She felt really bad. At any rate, the taste of onion is overpowering and there was no chance of getting this wrong. 3/4!

ITEM NUMBER FIVE: CARROT

I was expecting carrots to show up at some point, too, and this one was also pretty easy. 4/5.

ITEM NUMBER SIX: GRAPES

I’m calling foul on item number six. It was immediately clear that I had some sort of fruit in my mouth, the only question was what kind– and in case I hadn’t made this clear, texture is absolutely critical to getting these right. And she’d peeled the grapes. I eventually guessed peach, which I wasn’t confident about, but I don’t think I’d ever have gotten to “grape” without being able to feel the skins. 4/6.

ITEM NUMBER SEVEN: POTATO

Potatoes are kinda interesting. We’d actually talked about how it was never terribly clear whether some of the food items are cooked, and who really knows what raw potato tastes like? Nobody eats raw potatoes, especially without any sort of seasoning on them. I guessed green pepper, purely on the texture, and I figured I was wrong while I was doing it. 4/7, and two wrong in a row.

ITEM NUMBER EIGHT: BROCCOLI STEMS

Cheating! I already had broccoli, dammit! And since I’d already thought broccoli was cauliflower and been wrong once, naturally I guessed it was cauliflower again, and was wrong again. Fuck broccoli, man. 4/8.

ITEM NUMBER NINE: GARLIC

NEVER LET ANYONE FEED YOU RAW GARLIC ON A SPOON. JESUS CHRIST. 5/9.

ITEM NUMBER TEN: RAISINS

I psyched myself out on this one, because I’ve actually been craving raisins lately, and there aren’t any in the house. I like raisins a lot and eat them pretty frequently. Well, I thought immediately that I had raisins, and actually said raisins, and then thought “No, there aren’t any in the house,” and paid a little bit more attention to the texture, and eventually settled on dates. They were raisins. She’d pulled them out of a box of Raisin Bran and washed the sugar off, because my wife is sneaky. 5/10.

ITEM NUMBER ELEVEN: BELL PEPPER

I got this one right– at first I said green pepper, then the sweetness kicked in and I amended it to “some other color,” and it turned out they were orange. This wasn’t especially difficult. 6/11.

ITEM NUMBER TWELVE: PAPRIKA

We’d previously agreed that two items would be dry spices and that I’d have to identify them by smell. She even gave me a hint, telling me one of the two was something I personally cooked with fairly regularly and the other was something that we used and had in the house but wasn’t super common. This was the “you cook with this” one– I put paprika on my grits all the time– and I had no clue at all. I guessed basil, which doesn’t smell anything like paprika. Wrongo. 6/12.

ITEM NUMBER THIRTEEN: GINGER

I actually insisted on tasting this, dipping a finger in it and licking my finger, and it actually smelled more familiar than the paprika had, and a faint soapiness led to me guessing it was cilantro. It was not cilantro.

So … six out of thirteen’s terrible, guys, and even if I give myself the raisins and the initial broccoli that’s still eight out of thirteen, which is only 61%, which isn’t a great score at all. This was harder than I thought it would have been, even accounting for the fact that I’m not a professional chef, which supposedly all of the folks on these shows are. I mean, I’m not a terrible cook if I have a recipe to follow, but that’s it.

We will be making my wife do this soon, by the way, to see how she does. I have some plans for her challenge, too. Honestly, I recommend trying this, if you have an hour to kill. It’s fun! It just turns out that I suck at it.

Speaking of tests

StrawberryThe boy had a Complicated Medical Procedure this morning, beginning at 8:15 in the AM and lasting for just over four hours, where they put me and him in a small room together with only an iPad, my phone, and a novel for company and periodically came in to feed him bits of strawberry and make him take his shirt off.

The good news: apparently my son is no longer allergic to strawberries. ¬†The bad news: I feel like the day is completely shot (who knew sitting around for four hours could be so exhausting?) and he’s demanding strawberry-flavored everything right now. ¬†I will have to go out and buy ice cream tonight.

(A week from now, he’ll be insisting he hates strawberries and always has, because that’s how he rolls. ¬†Nine days from now, he’ll want them again. ¬†Last night he insisted out of nowhere that he’s never liked green grapes. ¬†Motherfucker we could¬†seed a vineyard with all of the grapes you’ve eaten around here.)

So. ¬†Yeah. ¬†That’s going on. ¬†Lots of cleaning to do before the wife gets home on Saturday morning and I’m out of the house almost all day tomorrow, so I¬†probably ought to get to work.

Thursday thought

I think I’ll have an entire frozen pizza for dinner.

How was your day?

#Nashville: Final food post

So we decided to go to Jack’s Bar-B-Q last night. ¬†Me and four of my colleagues, packed into my rental car which, as it turns out, does¬†not have a middle seatbelt in the back seat. ¬†Whoops. ¬†Nashville in general is a horrifying tangle of highways, right? ¬†It’s confusing as hell. ¬†And downtown Nashville at first did not appear to have much going for it. ¬†Until we hit the neighborhood where the restaurant was:

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Oh. ¬†So¬†this is where Nashville’s nightlife is. ¬†And there was some sort of major concert going on tonight, so there were¬†millions of people out– look at the upper left of the picture to see the size of the crowds on the street.

Eventually we found a spot in a parking garage and left. ¬†Then my boss pointed out the door we’d walked through:

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This door¬†has no external handle. ¬†Once it’s closed, you can’t get back through it. ¬†Because it’s secret, you see. ¬†So we were gonna have to figure out another way to get back to the car on the way home.

Finding Jack’s wasn’t hard, and the live music blaring from¬†literally every door on the block made waiting in the holy-shit-people-are-you-kidding line worthwhile. ¬†The reason finding Jack’s wasn’t that hard is that the line extended out the door and¬†halfway down the block. ¬†

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(Not pictured:  a hundred people behind us.)

Once we got inside I saw this sign, which I post here, and also on Facebook, without comment:

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Right before we got our food, I turned around and took a picture of the line behind us, which hadn’t exactly gotten smaller. ¬†Remember, this gets outside, turns right, and goes on for another couple hundred feet:

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Now, a genuinely weird, if oddly convenient, thing about this place: ¬†their service was¬†slow as hell, which partially accounts for the length of the line– but¬†also¬†meant that finding a table wasn’t terribly difficult, because people were tending to eat and go.

I got a combo platter again. ¬†Brisket, sausage, and pork shoulder, plus a piece of something called “chess pie” at the recommendation of my assistant principal, who grew up in Tennessee:(*)

IMG_2050Apparently something happened to my eyes when I had my first bite of chess pie. I want to marry chess pie. ¬†The barbecue was goddamned delicious as well. ¬†Even the cornbread in the corner, which doesn’t look like much, was pretty good. ¬†The food made the endless wait¬†well worth it.

And then we went to the Parthenon. ¬†Which doesn’t seem like a sentence that I should be ending an article about barbecue with. ¬†Did you know that Nashville has a full-size replica of the Goddamn Parthenon? ¬†Because it does:

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The food made the trip worth it.

The end.

(*) True thing: spellcheck just tried to tell me that “Tennessee” was incorrect, the little wiggly line not going away until I removed an S. ¬†I double-checked, feeling that perhaps I’d lost my mind, and fixed the spelling back to how I’d had it to begin with. ¬†Weird.

 

In which #Nashville redeems itself

It is known: if you cast a net and ask “Where shall I eat?” and then you see the same place mentioned by more than one person, and those people cannot reasonably be suspected to have colluded, you should probably try and eat at that place.

To wit: Nashville’s¬†Loveless Cafe. ¬†Which is, as it turns out,¬†really far away from my hotel, meaning that if I hadn’t rented a car there’d be no way for me to have gotten there, which justifies renting the car all by itself. ¬†

Worth.

It.

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I am moving, children. ¬†I’m going to move¬†into the parking lot of this restaurant and just live in a tent and eat there every day. ¬†The conference has been a bust so far, and I do not suspect that tomorrow will be better than today was. ¬†Dinner has redeemed the¬†entire trip.

IMG_2041That is what they call the¬†Southern Sampler Platter,¬†which meant that I didn’t really have to choose what I wanted to eat; I could just say “Bring me everything!”

Ham.  Fried chicken.  Fried catfish.  Hush puppies.  Turnip greens in potlikker.  Caramel sweet potatoesРoh, my Lord God, the sweet potatoes.  Not pictured: some melt-in-your-mouth motherfucking biscuits.  And sweet tea, of course.

Seriously, people, I could live off the sweet potatoes– and, oddly, the ham, which I was not expecting to be the star of the meal. ¬†“Ham’s ham” is something I might have said before eating¬†that ham. ¬†Ham is no longer ham.

Tomorrow we are going for barbecue. ¬†I haven’t picked a place yet– I’m leaning toward Martins— but definitely barbecue.

(The conference has been crowded and hot and over way too big of an area and the conference center sorta sucks and the sessions I want to go to keep getting filled up before I get there or there are physical space issues that make me unwilling to stay. ¬†I’m not happy with the conference, at all. ¬†But oh man, did dinner make up for it. ¬†So happy.)

(Despite two straight “oddities” posts, I have¬†no gripes about the hotel. ¬†It entertains me in places, but it’s fine.)

(Parentheses!)

Oh, almost forgot– our waiter’s name was Owen. ¬†Well,¬†is Owen, as I’m pretty sure he’s still alive. ¬†Owen was an awesome guy, the type of server who makes a meal¬†better. ¬†Hooray for Owen!