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Foods or Dishes About Which You Are a Purist


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I have to agree about cheese, and other REAL foods. I like my foods to be as real as possible, with a few possible exceptions that I can't think of right now.

Pie crust must be made with lard and butter--lard for flakiness, butter for flavor. But I came to this conclusion only after much testing in my own kitchen of all possible major variants of pie crust. I'm not so good at taking anyone's word for anything, something that truly frustrates my husband. But if I've done the work myself, I know what I can believe.

Okay, maybe Cook's Illustrated or Harold McGee, but I'm a big believer in the scientific method--eliminate all the variables and just change one thing at a time when testing.

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Bagels: I agree--no raisins, cinnamon, berries or parmesan etc. Growing up around the corner from Barney Greengrass I only remember two options: plain or onion. I have to admit I am very fond of everything bagels. And when my body could handle it, salt bagels. But it just isn't a bagel if it's sweet or cheesy.

Pizza: I'm not into the style pizza that has no tomato sauce at all, nor do I like the kitchen sink pizzas with 4 types of cheese, and sixteen other ingredients. I think I'm a pizza purist: modest quantity of tomato sauce, modest quantity of good mozz, a nice thin crispy crust and just a coupla other toppings--keep it simple. When I grew up all pizzas had tomato sauce under the cheese.

Tofu: I don't want my tofu to be tofu meatballs, tofu turkey or tofu burgers. There are so many fabulous ways to cook tofu Asian-style. I want my tofu to look and taste like tofu and my turkey to actually be turkey!

Bacon: Since I indulge rarely I want real bacon make from a pig, not a turkey.

Sushi/rolls: What IS with the avocado? The California Roll has become ubiquitous. It just seems wrong.

Salad dressing: I'm a definite purist about salad dressing for simple greens. Vinegar or lemon, best olive or walnut oil, salt and pepper, a little dijon. No sugar, no honey, no poppyseeds, no hippy dressings.

Ice cream: my father-in-law adores ice cream. He used to make it with a hand-crank in an old-fashioned tub and it was fabulous. Now he watches his weight and cholesterol and buys "lite" ice cream. I've tasted it and it just doesn't compare, it always tastes plasticky or like chemicals to me. I'm for full-fat ice cream. If I have to cut back on fats and dairy (and I do) I'd rather eat a great sorbet or granita than low-fat ice cream. Then I'll treat myself to the real thing once in a while.

Seems like a fine line between being a purist and defending what you grew up with, though. I'm sure my college-age daughter believes that Japanese food always had avocados in it.

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I can't believe no one has brought up espresso here with all the Seattlites! I am not a stickler for most things (probably due to my having been born and bred in Seattle), but one thing that does bother me is an inadequate cappuccino.

The whole point of a cappuccino is the delicious, (hopefully) creamy foam! Please, no capucci-oh-no-wait-I-am-actually-a-latte drinks! Please, if you can't make a cappuccino just tell me and I will adjust.

I guess I'm a little sensitive to this because a) I order them all the time, and b) I relish those few moments of decadence of foam before the sharp espresso dominates.

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Don't put ketchup in pad thai.  Period.

Oh, gross! Is that a "done" thing? Or just something that one person you know does? I've never heard of ketchup in pad thai before...ick.

"We had dry martinis; great wing-shaped glasses of perfumed fire, tangy as the early morning air." - Elaine Dundy, The Dud Avocado

Queenie Takes Manhattan

eG Foodblogs: 2006 - 2007

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Oh, gross!  Is that a "done" thing?  Or just something that one person you know does?  I've never heard of ketchup in pad thai before...ick.

A lot of restaurants in North America do it (I would even venture to say that most use ketchup, but I've never done any kind of survey). And you'll find many recipes on the internet that list ketchup as an ingredient. It supposedly makes a good substitute for tamarind, but "good" is relative. In all the years we lived in the cold frozen prairies, even when most people there had never even heard of Thailand much less pad thai, my dad never resorted to using ketchup in pad thai. It's a sin!!!

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PESTO!!  I hate the "black walnuts" thing.  i don't understand leaving out pine nuts.  my best friend won't put garlic in and gets all holier-than-thou about it, when really i think it's ridiculous that she won't put garlic in!

for me (ok, maybe i have control issues...) pesto=basil + garlic+ olive oil + parmesan reggiano + pine nuts.  salt, perhaps a little lemon juice to brighten it, but nothing more nothing less.

Pesto means ' crushed' in Italian so any combination of foods prepared that way, particularly with a mortar and pestle, is a pesto.

We are all too familiar with basil pesto, meaning the main ingredient is basil, but I buy/make many kinds of pesto. Rocket...Roasted Bell Pepper...Coriander....Watercress....Asian Mint...Dill etc. Happily buy/make them and, they are all pestos. Well actually they are being naughty borrowing an Italian name but hey!! :wink:

Now when we are talking flavour, yeah. A basil pesto sans garlic or with walnuts I may complain about. :smile:

Edited to add:

Prasantrin, the best basil in Italy is grown in Liguria so the Genovese have much pride in their basil pesto. I agree with them, its the best I ever tasted so they will understandably be VERY parocchial about that product and not readily accept the same method could be used with another herb!

But bear in mind that Italians do not face change with food habits as easily as we do. A pesto made of dill would be definitely be scorned at. In many 1/4s at least. Hey, I had trouble convincing family to grill leftover polenta or to go eat out somewhere where there was no pizza/pasta or steak. :smile:

Edited by Sentiamo (log)
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Martinis must be made with gin, and enough vermouth to add a presence.

There's only one topping for pancakes, and that's maple syrup.

I have spoken.

oh, maggie- i am so with you. a former coworker used to say she liked martinis. i said so what is your ratio? her answer was vodka with ice. and i informed her that was vodka with ice NOT A MARTINI!!!!!!! i am a 4: 1 girl myself. shaken briefly.

make that grade b since it is tastier

Edited by suzilightning (log)

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Great topic! Fettucini "Alfredo"  i.e. Fettucini alla panna---butter, cream, Parmigiano. Period. (OK, OK... salt, pepper, maybe nutmeg depending on the cheese)

You know the history, I gather, Chris. Maybe you saw the rehashes online. A lot was posted from Europe, especially about 10 years ago, on rec.food.cooking (the prototype online food forum). Below from a 2005 thread (non-">" words are mine):

> ... Crash, there is no such animal as Alfredo SAUCE. Fettucini Alfredo, or any pasta Alfredo, is

> simply pasta dressed with butter and Parmesan cheese. No sauce, no cream, no eggs, no nothing else.

Here's JF Mariani, something of an authority on history of Italian-food adaptations in the US:

" fettuccine Alfredo. ... staple of Italian-American restaurants since the mid-1960s. It was created in Rome in 1920 by Alfredo de Lellio... The original dish was made with a very rich triple butter di Lellio made himself, three kinds of flour, and only the heart of the best parmigiano. ... Because most American cooks could not reproduce the richness of the original butter, today the dish almost always contains heavy cream."

From that, recent US commercial versions of Alfredo "sauce."

More references if you read down in this chatty thread; V. Sack (from Germany) did some original research in Italy, I think it's cited there (if not, it's traceable from there).

Separately, this new phenomenon of journalists mentioning gin Martinis is mainly a generational thing. A commentator online (circa 35 yrs old) wrote of the discovery of cocktails during his adult lifetime. Having been say 10 yrs old in 1982 when cocktails were at about their low US ebb, he could not have remembered their fading from long popularity and thus their rediscovery in his lifetime. Likewise, vodka Martinis have been especially popular the last 10 years. But for most of the last 100-plus years a "Martini" meant the original drink of gin and vermouth (and after 1925 or so, pickled vegetables too, for nontraditionalists ;-) .

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Champagne comes only from the Champagne region in France. None of this Methode Champagnoise (sp?) stuff.

Peeps are yellow marshmallow chickens. They are not white, pink or purple. They are not teddy bears, bunnies, heart-shapes or trees. They are not flavored with anything but Peeps Flavoring -- no ginger or vanilla.

A martini does not come in varieties. It is a Martini: gin, vermouth, ice, and onion/olive/peel. That's all. Appletinis, lemon drop martinis, espressotinis, chocolatinis are not Martinis, no matter what Sandra Lee says.

And last but not least -- Caesar Salads do not have canned anchovy filets atop the leaves, nor do they have grilled chicken, shrimp, beef, or bacon bits.

Glad I got that off my chest! :raz:

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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I dunno, everytime I try to be a "purist" about something I find out I was wrong, so I've kind of given up.

Yea. I am kind of in the same camp. The more one knows about a certain food or a certain culinary tradition, the more one becomes aware of the range of variation within that food or tradition. So, while I tend to be quite "purist" about many things, I find that it is a broader purism than one might suppose.

For example, bucatini all' amatriciana is not one specific thing. Indeed, in Italy there is some controversy as to whether it should include onion or not (in Rome they say yes, in Amatrice they say no). So, I am willing to have it with either onion or without and still call it a "purist" amatriciana. I would similarly accept either guanciale or pancetta. I am not, however, willing to accept a sauce as "all' amatriciana" that is made with bacon, and I strenuously object to pasta that is dressed with more than a wet kiss of sauce.

An example of a too-narrow (or perhaps too-narrowly informed) purism is the insistence that pesto sauce be made with basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pine nuts and raw garlic. That describes pesto alla genovese but not a whole lot of other pesto traditions. Pesto alla trapanese, for example, has almonds and tomato and other things that the Genovese wouldn't use. That makes sense, considering that Trapani is in Sicilia.

With cocktails, unless the name itself has usefully and irreversably evolved away from its original meaning (e.g., "cocktail" -- I am not yet convinced that "martini" can't be saved) I like for cocktails to be named with some sense of the proper nomenclature. If it's called a "silver fizz" then it ought to have an egg white and fizz water in it.

All this talk has got me thinking whether we're really talking about a purism of nomenclature in this thread more than anything else -- some version of: "I won't call it a Y unless it has X and not Z." How about a different kind of purism? How about: I won't eat fresh tomatoes except for in the summer. I only eat salmon raw. Or, one of mine: I don't believe in drinking espresso without sugar.

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QUOTE(slkinsey @ Feb 11 2008, 01:38

An example of a too-narrow (or perhaps too-narrowly informed) purism is the insistence that pesto sauce be made with basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pine nuts and raw garlic. That describes [i)

pesto alla genovese but not a whole lot of other pesto traditions.  Pesto alla trapanese, for example, has almonds and tomato and other things that the Genovese wouldn't use.  That makes sense, considering that Trapani is in Sicilia.

Yes, I meant pesto alla genovese. That's what most people (in my, perhaps too narrow?, experience) mean when they say pesto. Trying to make pesto alla genovese with walnuts instead of pinenuts is what I take issue with. Trying to make pesto alla genovese without garlic also. Or any of the other numerous low-quality substitutions.

Pesto alla siciliana is another story. That has another set of standards, and I wouldn't dream of applying the genovese standards to it.

And, if you want to use the term "pesto" just to mean any sauce made by pounding or crushing ingredients (in a mortar and pestle?), then obviously it would be incorrect to say that pesto must be made with basil, olive oil, parmesan, pine nuts ad garlic.

But, I stand by my original claim, which is that if you want to make pesto (meaning pesto alla genovese) then it shouldn't include walnuts. and should include garlic.

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Call it narrow-minded purism, or provincialism, or what have you, but to me pesto had better contain basil and garlic or it ain't pesto. I don't mind the walnut substitution; I've done it myself on occasion and find it acceptable.

If I were traveling in Italy (or perhaps elsewhere outside the US) I would be careful to not assume "pesto" to mean "pesto alla genovese" should I encounter it on a menu, but in my experience in this country, pesto is pesto is pesto.

(Kind of off topic, but I once ordered a dish that was clearly labeled "cilantro pesto" and was sorely disappointed that it contained no basil. I guess I was expecting a typical basil pesto with cilantro added, rather than cilantro instead of basil. Blech.)

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Very good points, FFB.

Peeps are yellow marshmallow chickens.  They are not white, pink or purple. They are not teddy bears, bunnies, heart-shapes or trees...

That's important! (How could I have forgotten?) But I came to Peeps only as an adult -- no connoisseur. (Also there's no truth, or very little truth, in the theory they'll fight each other, when equipped with toothpick "swords" and stimulated by radio energy inside a microwave oven. Children, do not try this. ;-)

"Caesar" salad conceits deserve (and no doubt, have) their own threads. Caesar (the one in Mexico ca. 1925) is immortal for popularizing a genuinely delicious salad, but would be shocked at some of what goes under its name today. (Like elderly Kentucky Col. Hiram Sanders famously protesting once that the fried chicken served at some outlets was "finger-licking bad.") This business of asking people if they want any anchovy at all in the salad -- it actually asks whether the customer wants a Caesar salad, or not. (But then we also have "fat-free half-and-half" in supermarkets, a straight contradiction in terms -- US "half and half" being by definition a fat-rich milk, half cream and half milk, and sold precisely for its fat.) O tempora ...

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[...] in my experience in this country, pesto is pesto is pesto.

I agree that if I saw a dish advertised as just "pesto" I would expect basil, i.e. pesta alla genovese, but I see no problems with "cilantro pesto" etc. not containing basil. The fact that such things appear all over the place in the U.S. (heck the fast-food burrito place across the street from my office has a "poblano pesto") seems to indicate that in the US, pesto+modifier does not in any way indicate the inclusion of basil, which seems to be appropriate, in my opinion.

Or, I may just like arguing about food and terminology... :biggrin: that was the point of this thread, wasn't it?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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[...] in my experience in this country, pesto is pesto is pesto.

I agree that if I saw a dish advertised as just "pesto" I would expect basil, i.e. pesta alla genovese, but I see no problems with "cilantro pesto" etc. not containing basil. The fact that such things appear all over the place in the U.S. (heck the fast-food burrito place across the street from my office has a "poblano pesto") seems to indicate that in the US, pesto+modifier does not in any way indicate the inclusion of basil, which seems to be appropriate, in my opinion.

Oh, I agree with you. I think my point, insofar as I had one, was that the word "pesto" is so strongly associated with the Genovese version in my mind that even the modifier "Cilantro" wasn't enough to make me realize the dish wasn't made with basil. There should have been a disclaimer on the menu: "Look, dip****, there's no basil in this dish!" :rolleyes:

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Martinis can only be made of gin and vermouth, served straight up with olives.

French fries should never be seasoned with anything but salt, and never cut in waffle or any other shape but a stick- thick or thin, yes, geometric, never. No gravy or cheese, either.

If it's got tofu, call it tofu.

Thank you. I feel better now.

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French fries should never be seasoned with anything but salt, and never cut in waffle or any other shape but a stick- thick or thin, yes, geometric, never. No gravy or cheese, either.

Do you mean that calling a waffle fry a french fry is a problem, or that the mere existence of the waffle fry is a problem? Are you a linguistics purist or a potato purist? :wacko:

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Martinis can only be made of gin and vermouth, served straight up with olives.

I prefer the mixologist to think fondly of the vermouth but to not add a drop to my very dry Sapphire martini, straight up with olives. I shall bequeath to you all of my unused vermouth. :cool:

My entry:

Homemade (on the stovetop, not microwaved) popcorn. KISS. Real melted butter and some salt. No other add-ins, please.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Yes, I meant pesto alla genovese.  That's what most people (in my, perhaps too narrow?, experience) mean when they say pesto.  Trying to make pesto alla genovese with walnuts instead of pinenuts is what I take issue with.  Trying to make pesto alla genovese without garlic also.  Or any of the other numerous low-quality substitutions.

randomwalk, I wasn't putting down your earlier posts wrt pesto (alla genovese) at all. I agree, for the most part, with your points as they relate to pesto alla genovese -- although a hardcore purist might insist on the particular variety of basil used in Genova, and more to the point there is some variation even in Genova as to the precise ingredients (e.g., some might use Pecorino Romano with or instead of Parmigiano Reggiano, some might include butter, etc.) Rather, I was pointing out the kinds of problems one can get into (and, indeed, into which I have got myself a time or two) by insisting on a certain kind of purism only to be either insufficently clear or too narrow. If one is a self-declared "pesto = basil + olive oil + garlic + Parmigiano Reggiano purist" it leaves the opening to be hoist on one's purist petard by the numerous Italian examples called "pesto" made of different ingredients, unless either one is more specific as to the kind of pesto -- and even then there is room for further purism. For everyone who says that walnuts are an acceptable substitution, there may be a few people who will insist on basilico genovese or perhaps on hand crushing. Hey, I've been there. :smile: This is the reason I'm a little more relaxed in my purism, especially with respect to something potentially as broad as to be simply described as "pesto." I wouldn't have any trouble eating pasta dressed with a paste of pounded capers, tomato, garlic, pecorino, peperoncino and lemon zest, and calling that "pesto."

I prefer the mixologist to think fondly of the vermouth but to not add a drop to my very dry Sapphire martini, straight up with olives. I shall bequeath to you all of my unused vermouth. :cool:

See, what you've got there is a glass of chilled gin. Delicious, but not a cocktail. Doesn't require a mixologist, needless to say, because it doesn't require mixing.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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