So my mom forwards me an email today filled with yet another list of dos and don’ts for health and safety written by some anonymous author. In the past I’ve received forwarded emails from her filled with advice written by “experts” about plastic, microwaves, SARS, H1N1, cell-phones, parking lots, beef, going to sleep with wet hair, etc. The list is endless. Today’s email, written in Chinese with English translations, touted the medicinal benefits of onions. Not about eating them, but rather, about taking the bulbs to bed.
Thanksgiving is obviously my favorite holiday, and that of my friends, who dutifully heed the call of a nationally-sanctioned day of feasting. With all the fun that goes into sharing a great meal with friends and family, my East Coast friends have long been having annual Trial Thanksgivings as a precursor to the real deal. This year, some bay area friends decided to host a pre-Thanksgiving potluck before we all scattered away to our respective roosts for the Holiday. It promised to be a delicious extravaganza so I answered the cattle call and hopped on a Southwest flight for a traditional Thanksgiving with all the trimmings.
Season 6 of Top Chef hasn’t finished airing yet and I’m impatiently waiting for them to cast out the garnishes and get to the top 4 (Kevin, Jen, the Vs) so the show can really get started. Even though the champion has yet to be crowned, the cheftestants are already feeling the effects of fame and the fans that come with it. This is why AT and I found ourselves at the tail end of a receiving line worthy of a wedding reception last Friday at The Dining Room of the Langham Hotel in Pasadena. Except there was no wedding, no bride and groom, and we were standing in the midst of a busy kitchen trying to put out the last plates of the evening. At the head of the receiving line was a friendly and gracious Michael Voltaggio greeting a group of adoring Breeders.
Normally, watching reality food shows doesn’t make me want to pick up the frying so much as it just makes me think about cooking. But when Hubert Keller waxed nostalgic about his favorite dish from his childhood in the Alsace region of France and prepared it for the finale of Top Chef Masters this summer, Les was compelled to action and I was drafted into service as her sous chef. Not only did Keller tempt us with the holy trinity of beef, pork, and lamb, he brought in the ultimate cool factor of sealing something with pastry dough, tugging at the heartstrings of everyone who had more than a passing attachment to Play-Doh in kindergarten.
With one flick of the TV remote, the Baeckeoffe was on.
I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment when the gag reflex kicked in but I can trace my dislike of scallions as far back as fourth grade and the last time we had a dark brown carpet. And it was also the last time my parents forced me to eat scallions. Until the day they discovered lumps of desiccated scallions wedded to the twisted strands of carpet underneath the dining room table, I was always instructed to eat everything on my plate no matter how much it made me want to regurgitate the contents of my meal.
Back then, the number one enemy was the soft, cloying, disgusting taste and texture of green onions that presented themselves in every dish at every meal. The unpleasantly squishy texture of the white bulb along with the off-putting taste induced an involuntary gag reflex that any bulimic would kill to have. When faced with a dish teeming with those things, I would either swallow the offenders whole to avoid acknowledging tasting or biting them, or I would surreptitiously dispose of them on the carpet below me.