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Foods or Dishes About Which You Are a Purist


Chris Amirault
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Another one...no carrots in most Thai curries.  Or broccoli florets.  Or cauliflower.

YES! Curry is not meant to be a stir fry of veggies + protein with a curry sauce. *shudder* just wrong.

I totally agree with this!!!

both wrong and distracting

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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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.

I'm reading into what you said a little here, but I assume you love big piles of sea foam on top? That's actually *not* a cappucino. A cappucino is simply equal parts espresso, milk, and foam. The foam should consist of as small bubbles as possible, and be mixed into the milk with the foaming action so that it can just be poured into the cup without any of this spooning on top stuff. Sorry, but I'm a huge stickler on this one!

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YES! Curry is not meant to be a stir fry of veggies + protein with a curry sauce. *shudder* just wrong.

As a Thai person, how do you feel about carrots in Thai food, in general? I sometimes see it in som tam and similar dishes, but used sparingly or as a garnish of sorts. I did once see carrots in a stew-like dish at the Siam Center food court, but only once. My dad claimed that most Thai people didn't care for carrots--I think he once said they smelled like feet! The worst insult!

I like carrots, by the way. Just not in my Thai curries!

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YES! Curry is not meant to be a stir fry of veggies + protein with a curry sauce. *shudder* just wrong.

As a Thai person, how do you feel about carrots in Thai food, in general? I sometimes see it in som tam and similar dishes, but used sparingly or as a garnish of sorts. I did once see carrots in a stew-like dish at the Siam Center food court, but only once. My dad claimed that most Thai people didn't care for carrots--I think he once said they smelled like feet! The worst insult!

I like carrots, by the way. Just not in my Thai curries!

I just realized that. I really can't think of a dish with carrots either. Maybe a veggie stirfry? Strange. I like carrots too. Never, ever, in my Thai curry though. :)

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That reminds me: the Reuben! I am definitely a Reuben purist. Corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and either Russian or Thousand Island, on rye, grilled. Many other good sandwiches [exist]: this is the only that may be called a Reuben.
Presence of cheese is slightly controversial, or individual (like lemon peel vs. olives in a Martini). And don't forget, "Thousand Island" dressing traditionally is a Russian diluted with more mayonnaise, and in early recipes, also unsweetened whipped cream (to kill off any surviving savory flavor). I dug up the history a few years ago and posted it.

:biggrin: If there was no controversy this would be a really boring thread... Naturally, I didn't realize it was controversial at all. Neither did I realize the history of thousand island and Russian dressing---is this the post you are referring to? So, apparently, to truly be a purist I ought to insist on Russian dressing, none of this Thousand Island crap. I will begin immediately...

ETA: Incidentally, in yesterday's New York Times Bruni reviews the Second Avenue Deli, bringing along several compatriots who spend the meal "kibitzing" about the purity of the selections.

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I am a purist with coffee ..no flavored syrups ...no "double skinny butterscotch lattes" no flavors no way no how!!! at Christmas when I see "Gingersnap latte's" I want to gag...a "creamcicle latte????? What is the point of taking a decent bean and adding so much crap to it?

I remember when Starbucks started they made a huge deal about how they would never add anything to their coffee ..now ..well ...honestly I never liked their coffee it always tasted like burned beans to me

I always thought a cappucino was a nice espresso with a cap of steamed milk and a latte an upside down cappucino? with the steamed milk first then the shot...but I drink brewed or pressed coffee so I am not sure about that ...

there is no excuse for a coffee shop to make lousy coffee and then try to make it better with a shot of some kind of syrup ...but they do and that is a shame!

ETA no lid or straw either...I prefer a regular cup but paper is not bad if it is open.. when you suck it through tiny hole you get no aroma! and a huge part of drinking coffee is that wonderful waft! :wub:

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Barbecue is an interesting one, with many people insisting that it properly consists of x, y and z and can't be a, b or c.

Interestingly, "barbecue" has been used to describe an open-air gathering where one enjoys grilled (note: not long-smoked, sauced, etc.) meats since the early years of the 18th century.

That's very interesting. Does that pre-date its use meaning "to smoke" foods?

According to the OED (which may or may not be the best source here), no. The oldest attestation in English (1661) is as a verb, meaning to cook meat on a barbecue: that is, a framework for cooking meat (which, interestingly, isn't attested until 1736, though it has to be older than that). "Barbecue" meaning "social gathering" shows up in a 1733 diary entry, though it's a little cryptic: Fair and hot; Browne, barbacue; hack overset. But it really seems to take off in the early 19th century.

ANYWAY, to get back to the original topic, I like Busboy's formulation of purism: you eschew certain foods, even though they taste good. Everything else is just plain ol' food snobbery, the subject of a thousand threads on eGullet. In the category of purism, I'd put nontraditional, and especially sweet, bagels. A blueberry bagel might well taste delicious; ditto a bacon bagel. But I won't eat them, because they lack essential bagelness.

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...So, apparently, to truly be a [Reuben Sandwich] purist I ought to insist on Russian dressing, none of this Thousand Island crap.
Not necessarily. Though the best Reubens I've had or made used Russian dressing, writings suggest that Thousand Island was long an alternative in this (basically mid-20th-century) classic sandwich. I advocate Russian dressing as more savory, it stands up well to sauerkraut and spiced meats. Russian dressing was popular a few generations back as a garnish to some salads (like salads laying out arrays of vegetables and meat or fish), and it's the classic sauce in a crab or shrimp "Louis."

Your link didn't work for me, Chris, but below is what I posted originally to a local New Orleans forum four years ago to a question about local connections with Russian dressing. (I posted it then to other food fora, but don't find it on eG in quick check.)

Research on Russian Dressing

March 16 2004, 12:04 AM

I ... did not find this salad dressing in either of two editions of Brennan’s cookbooks or in Keyes. A quick and inadequate check (... differences of convention and sometimes language) failed to find it in national cookbooks of Russia, England, or France; Austria’s (early 20th c.) has it and suggests adding a touch of caviar. The Guide Culinaire (France, 1921, in Cracknell and Kaufmann’s translation) includes (Recipe 204) a suspiciously related Russian Mayonnaise (a fresh Mayonnaise as most Mayonnaises historically were) with tarragon vinegar and horseradish; this is thickened with gelatin and "principally used for binding vegetable salads together for moulding." Everybody shows Russian salads, a format rather than a saucing, internationally popular for 130 years (called "Olivier" salads in Russia, after a French chef in 1880s Moscow who popularized them -- like the Caesar in Mexico in 1925 if I remember right). Neither André Simon’s (1952) nor Dumas’s (1873, Colman’s 1958 edition) reference books mention anything close to Russian dressing.

However when we get to the United States it becomes inescapable. I vaguely recall it in the vast tell-all Delmonico cookbook [The Epicurean], unavailable at the moment. Morrison Wood (With a Jug of Wine, 1949, a famously flavor-intensive, semi-mainstream US cookbook that fought against the creeping post-war blandness) has a recipe similar to what I quoted earlier, and De Gouy (Revised Edition, 1948) lists three Russian Dressing recipes varying in the "savory bits" I mentioned in my recipe; both of these authors also list -- wait for it! -- a Thousand Island Dressing that is a very bland Russian with lots of mayonnaise and with whipped cream added in case the bland flavors were still too assertive.

--

If the ages of humankind are accountable Stone, Bronze, Iron, etc., then the ages of the US can be further subdivided. The last half of the 20th Century was the Age of Mayonnaise.

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ANYWAY, to get back to the original topic, I like Busboy's formulation of purism: you eschew certain foods, even though they taste good.  Everything else is just plain ol' food snobbery, the subject of a thousand threads on eGullet.  In the category of purism, I'd put nontraditional, and especially sweet, bagels.  A blueberry bagel might well taste delicious; ditto a bacon bagel.  But I won't eat them, because they lack essential bagelness.

So, let me get this straight: categorically refusing to eat certain foods based solely on the fact that they are mis-named is less snobbish than eating them but complaining about the name? I assert that it is in fact, not only more snobbish, but downright absurd. I love food, and I love talking about food. And a time-honored tradition among people who like food is discussing/arguing/kibitzing about what the definitive recipe is. But why refuse to eat something that tastes good? It seems kind of antithetical to liking food...

Your link didn't work for me, Chris.

Sorry about that---fixed now.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I guess I am a purist mainly when I have an opportunity to bring someone down a notch. Like when my boss, who fancies himself quite knowledgeable about food, wine and drink, said he wanted a eXpresso with milk in it. First I had to point out that there is no X in espresso, then I asked him if he wanted a latte or cappuccino, whereupon he looked bewildered. Thus ensued a half hour explanation of different types of coffee drinks. (A great time waster as well. Boo ya!)

But I only did it because he is such a know-it-all. I eat pizza with pineapple, make pesto with alternate ingredients, use onion in guacamole, sometimes use bechamel in lasagna, type BBQ, and so forth. I think that generally, food terms are flexible since regional variations abound, and time obscures the origins of any recipe.

If it tastes good, I'll eat. Sometimes even if it isn't so good if I'm hungry enough (otherwise I'd never be able to eat fast food).

There are two things I may actually be a purist about. One is a martini. A martini is gin and vermouth (I like 4:1). Hold the olives and lemon peel, but maybe add a dash of bitters. Do not call anything made with vodka a martini. I wish someone would have used a different word when they made that vodka drink because it's too late to change it now.

The other is butter. Don't ever, ever call margarine butter or say in a recipe "Use X tablespoons butter OR margarine." Margarine should be outlawed.

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ANYWAY, to get back to the original topic, I like Busboy's formulation of purism: you eschew certain foods, even though they taste good.  Everything else is just plain ol' food snobbery, the subject of a thousand threads on eGullet.  In the category of purism, I'd put nontraditional, and especially sweet, bagels.  A blueberry bagel might well taste delicious; ditto a bacon bagel.  But I won't eat them, because they lack essential bagelness.

Funny. I made some bagels (born of desperate cravings) when I was living in Germany, and offered to bring some in to the center where I was studying. The professor said, "I've heard that you can eat these with Schinken" (ham).

I gritted my teeth and said, I suppose you could, but you'd be unlikely to find that at a bagel shop.

Now that Noah's offers andouille sausage on their menu, I guess I can't claim that pork is impossible to find on a bagel, but it still seems anathema.

Jason Truesdell

Blog: Pursuing My Passions

Take me to your ryokan, please

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I am a purist with coffee ..no flavored syrups ...no "double skinny butterscotch lattes" no flavors no way no how!!! at Christmas when I see "Gingersnap latte's" I want to gag...a "creamcicle latte?????  What is the point of taking a decent bean and adding so much crap to it?

You took the words right out of my mouth Hummingbirdkiss.

Walking down the coffee aisle anywhere makes me nauseous. Titles like raspberry kiss, or mint delight really don't belong paired with coffee.

Strong, black, and sweet in espresso cups is my kind of heaven.

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ANYWAY, to get back to the original topic, I like Busboy's formulation of purism: you eschew certain foods, even though they taste good.  Everything else is just plain ol' food snobbery, the subject of a thousand threads on eGullet.  In the category of purism, I'd put nontraditional, and especially sweet, bagels.  A blueberry bagel might well taste delicious; ditto a bacon bagel.  But I won't eat them, because they lack essential bagelness.

So, let me get this straight: categorically refusing to eat certain foods based solely on the fact that they are mis-named is less snobbish than eating them but complaining about the name? I assert that it is in fact, not only more snobbish, but downright absurd.

Oh, I totally agree! It's a step beyond regular food snobbism into something like hypersnobbism, in which pleasure takes a backseat to purism. But that's what makes it interesting. If you recoil at the taste of parmesan cheese on your popcorn, that's just a preference. Big deal. But if you like parmesan on your popcorn, and still refuse to eat it because that's just not how things ought to be done... well, that raises some interesting questions about the origins and nature of taste.

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Do not call anything made with vodka a martini. I wish someone would have used a different word when they made that vodka drink because it's too late to change it now.

Actually, there *is* a different word for a vodka martini, but it ain't used much, and when it's used, it's by cocktail geeks who wouldn't order it anyway. It's a Kangaroo.

Christopher

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Do not call anything made with vodka a martini. I wish someone would have used a different word when they made that vodka drink because it's too late to change it now.

Actually, there *is* a different word for a vodka martini, but it ain't used much, and when it's used, it's by cocktail geeks who wouldn't order it anyway. It's a Kangaroo.

Christopher

Obviously I didn't know that, but now I do! I hope never to have to use it. :raz:

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I guess I am a purist mainly when I have an opportunity to bring someone down a notch.

It's a step beyond regular food snobbism into something like hypersnobbism, in which pleasure takes a backseat to purism.  But that's what makes it interesting.

My feeling is that "purism" is really about being right, and showing off the fact that the purist is more intelligent than the stupid rubes you don't know what substance X is really supposed to be. It doesn't really have anything to do with food, or taste, or whatever: that's just the manifestation we run into here at eGullet because that's what we're knowledgeable about. This is normal, and I am as susceptible to the impulse as anyone else. I just think the refusal to eat a food based solely on its name is fascinating, and I just can't subscribe to it. Nothing is gained from it, and plenty is lost. Raisin-cinnamon bagels and vodka martinis taste good! Not together, of course. Or do they? I don't usually have a martini with breakfast... :biggrin:

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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My feeling is that "purism" is really about being right, and showing off the fact that the purist is more intelligent than the stupid rubes you don't know what substance X is really supposed to be.

Watch out, Chris -- you're in dangerous territory. Going beyond discussing behaviors to inferring the motivations behind them is popular, but often wrong. Because the inferrer brings different assumptions or mental models, and infers from within those -- not from within the world of the person doing the behavior, which can be very different. Such inferences consequently often reveal more about the person making them than the object of inference.

I'd swirled wine in glasses in 30 years of wine tastings (to concentrate the aromas) before I read a claim online that people swirl wine for show. (It turned out the people saying so were not much into wine themselves, and I guess it does happen. But not from anyone I know.) Another example: Cries of snobbery or class consciousness greeted frank comments by restaurant servers that certain order patterns consistently predicted a "bad table" and low tips. The servers then explained that hard-earned experience, not notions, lay behind these rules of thumb. Sample comments below, note the salad dressing data. :wink:

"[Experienced waiters] notice distinct patterns in the habits of diners. ... There are particular habits, entrees, drinks, or even salad dressings that, over time, waiters will associate with troublesome tables and poor tips. ... In my experience, well-done steaks, white Zinfandel, frozen drinks, and thousand-island dressing are among things that waiters associate with bad tables. [Good waiters should offer good service regardless, but in these cases they have a real expectation of lower average tips.]"

"I waited tables in college ... there are definitely tipping trends related to what a person orders. Blue Cheese, good; 1000 Island, bad. Mixed drink, good; frozen drinks (especially virgins), bad. Steak medium rare, good; Well done bad...."

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My feeling is that "purism" is really about being right, and showing off the fact that the purist is more intelligent than the stupid rubes you don't know what substance X is really supposed to be.

Watch out, Chris -- you're in dangerous territory. Going beyond discussing behaviors to inferring the motivations behind them is popular, but often wrong. Because the inferrer brings different assumptions or mental models, and infers from within those -- not from within the world of the person doing the behavior, which can be very different. Such inferences consequently often reveal more about the person making them than the object of inference.

You're absolutely right, of course: my comment is informed primarily by my own (bad) habits. I find that whenever I get the urge to correct someone it generally turns out that the reason I want to do so is to "take them down a notch" and/or to show off my own knowledge. I try to resist "purism" for that reason, though of course many purists probably aren't operating on the same reasoning.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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The whole point of a cappuccino is the delicious, (hopefully) creamy foam!

I'm reading into what you said a little here, but I assume you love big piles of sea foam on top? That's actually *not* a cappucino. A cappucino is simply equal parts espresso, milk, and foam. The foam should consist of as small bubbles as possible, and be mixed into the milk with the foaming action so that it can just be poured into the cup without any of this spooning on top stuff. Sorry, but I'm a huge stickler on this one!

Yeah, that sea-foamy stuff is one of the signs of an unskilled barista to me. Like I said, one of the major reasons for me to order a cappuccino is to be able to enjoy the creaminess (and therefore small bubbly-ness) of the foam. I will admit that I tend to order a lot of "dry"s just to get more foam, but some places seem to give one lattes no matter what kind of cappuccino one orders. To reiterate, I don't expect them to create pounds of foam just for me, but many places don't even meet the equal parts foam/milk/espresso requirement you so knowledgeably informed me of. Now at least I know to keep my foam hopes moderate :)

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My feeling is that "purism" is really about being right, and showing off the fact that the purist is more intelligent than the stupid rubes you don't know what substance X is really supposed to be. It doesn't really have anything to do with food, or taste, or whatever: that's just the manifestation we run into here at eGullet because that's what we're knowledgeable about. This is normal, and I am as susceptible to the impulse as anyone else. I just think the refusal to eat a food based solely on its name is fascinating, and I just can't subscribe to it. Nothing is gained from it, and plenty is lost. Raisin-cinnamon bagels  and vodka martinis taste good! Not together, of course. Or do they? I don't usually have a martini with breakfast...

Okay, let's try to reframe this. I think People eat for a thousand reasons other than flavor or nutrition: we eat for tradition, religion, from curiosity or for intellectual reasons; to mark our status as part of a particular group, or not as part of another group, and so on. An insistence on specific food preparations- purism- can be an example of snobbery. But it can also come from other sources.

What I'm saying is that food purism often butts up against these other reasons for eating, and that these other reasons are more interesting as a departure point for discussion than taste is. It's totally valid to say "I only eat this dish prepared in this way because it tastes best." But that's subjective; so there's not much to discuss. If, on the other hand, you say, "I only eat this dish prepared in this way because it's how my grandmother made it," or "because that's how they do it in Rome", well, you've suddenly got something to talk about.

Here's a specific example: I wouldn't eat a bacon bagel. Not because I keep kosher (I don't) but because the idea of a bacon bagel is just wrong: it's a repudiation of Jewish identity. Is there, as you say, something lost by that refusal? Maybe. But it's part of a matrix of culture and identity that goes beyond just taste.

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My feeling is that "purism" is really about being right, and showing off the fact that the purist is more intelligent than the stupid rubes you don't know what substance X is really supposed to be. It doesn't really have anything to do with food, or taste, or whatever: that's just the manifestation we run into here at eGullet because that's what we're knowledgeable about. This is normal, and I am as susceptible to the impulse as anyone else. I just think the refusal to eat a food based solely on its name is fascinating, and I just can't subscribe to it. Nothing is gained from it, and plenty is lost. Raisin-cinnamon bagels  and vodka martinis taste good! Not together, of course. Or do they? I don't usually have a martini with breakfast...

What I'm saying is that food purism often butts up against these other reasons for eating, and that these other reasons are more interesting as a departure point for discussion than taste is. It's totally valid to say "I only eat this dish prepared in this way because it tastes best." But that's subjective; so there's not much to discuss. If, on the other hand, you say, "I only eat this dish prepared in this way because it's how my grandmother made it," or "because that's how they do it in Rome", well, you've suddenly got something to talk about.

Another common reason someone could maintain strong, specific standards about the composition of a dish is to (in their eyes) ensure that the dish continues on in its original form. In other words, by "voting" with ones stomach one can try to limit the variations that naturally occur, and support the one true iteration. This could be seen as a form of preservation a la historians, environmentalists, etc. I don't know how many people make their "purist" choices consciously using this logic but it would definitely imbue the argument with a strong moralistic tone.

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