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IrishCream

Midnight snacks, again

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Hey John...I am repeating this post which for some reason disappeared when I tried to correct a spelling error. I won't be able to do this as well as I did the first time.

My favorite topic on your website is the Breakfast/Midnight snack column. What is your criterion for which snacks make the cut...to be written about? Do any of your snacks actually inspire articles? And what are your all time fave breakfast and midnight snacks?

(I sent in a response to your recent contest..I am the person who suggested a chipotle chile...how wrong could I be? :huh: )


Lobster.

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Well, duck foetus remains my favorite ringer. My breakfast habits may be weird but I do draw the line somewhere. As to what makes the cut -- well, almost everything. I did go through a salted nut phase a while back that never made it in, but that was mostly laziness. If, as I originally did, I put a daily entry, you'd see that I sort of move around through the list, although things do fall out of favor for longish spells. An example of this is the fried pierogies, which I used to eat a couple times a week but now almost never have. This isn't because I've lost my taste for them but they've gone up in price enough so I can't really justify them as a regular breakfast entry. Generally, if I plan to write about something, it doesn't appear on the snack pages, not because I think people would hate paying to read something they had already read for free (although maybe they would), but because writing even a little about something gets it check off as done in my low-motivated way, and so nothing ever appears. On the other hand, I've also held back some things because I planned to write about them and never did.... Sigh. (Is there an emoticon for sighing?)

I started the breakfast and midnight snack diaries as an exercise in writing about the purely animal appetite that only emerges in total privacy. There's a paradox there, but it's one writers have always had to deal with: how much to tell and how to face the consequences afterwards. I imagine some readers wonder how I could still be alive after years of consumption of butter-fried doughnuts and sandwiches made of sausage skins, and maybe it's my dirty little secret that some nights I just eat an orange or a stack of crackers. That was the virtue of the daily entry, but I felt pressed by that to act out more, which I didn't like. This way, the series is instinct driven, even if it isn't a total picture.

Favorites? My favorite breakfast is probably a fried egg mashed on buttered toast. At least it's what I go for when nothing else appeals. My favorite midnight snack would most likely be curling up next to a prime rib roast, although I've never had the chance to do that properly. And let's not forget Swedish meatballs.

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I started the breakfast and midnight snack diaries as an exercise in writing about the purely animal appetite that only emerges in total privacy.

:biggrin: Laurie Colwin wrote a wonderful essay about private appetites. She said that when you ask people what they eat when they're alone, they always say "Oh, just a salad," but then you find out that they secretly eat stuff like fried spaghetti with hot sauce and grape jelly or sliced white bread dipped in mayo and pudding mix. (Ok, I made the second one up, but the recipe Colwin included was a spectacularly repulsive-sounding mix of eggplant with soy sauce and yogurt.)

I think one of the differences between the stuff Colwin was writing about and the midnight snacks you write about so beautifully is that her "secret appetites" seem mostly to be gratified by whatever can be dug out of the back of the fridge; I don't think anyone goes out and shops for the jelly and the hot sauce in anticipation of dinner. Your private meals, by contrast, seem to be very deliberate.

What a pleasure it is to see you here. I was given a copy of the original edition of "Simple Cooking" about.....gee, 15 years ago? I took it with me on a project that turned out to be a misery and a half, and the only thing that kept me sane was curling up in my horrid hotel-room chair in the evening and reading your essays.

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Thanks. A writer could ask for nothing more. As to what you say about Laurie Colwin, it may be that her private appetite didn't follow her to the supermarket, wagging its tail. A lot of my snacks originate as odd bits of this or that which catch my fancy and get squirreled away at the back of the refrigerator. This is probably because I've lived by myself for so long that this aspect of my personality isn't as deeply buried as it ought to be. As it is, Matt is afraid to go poking around in the back of the fridge for fear of what might turn up. We've solved that by giving me one shelf all to myself. It is full of little containers of mysterious liquids (some of which I can identify and others that I can't), chunks of meat in various stages of cookedness, etc. etc., including a preserved duck leg I bought at a Chinese market that I can't quite figure out what to do with. Anyone know? Can I just eat it?

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As to what you say about Laurie Colwin, it may be that her private appetite didn't follow her to the supermarket, wagging its tail.

I wonder if people's private appetites tend generally to be down-market. The Colwin example I quoted certainly is; you just know that the grape jelly getting dolloped over the fried spaghetti is Smucker's or the supermarket house brand -- nobody is using imported Swiss jam for this kind of thing. And a few months ago, when I surveyed some colleagues on their guilty pleasures -- the stuff they secretly craved but generally avoided eating -- the No. 1 response was Kraft Mac 'n Cheese. Original recipe, please. Mine was Captain Crunch, and my wildly status-concious, rigidly vegetarian boss confessed to a secret longing for Spam.

The 20-year-old kid in the art department -- the one with the metabolism of a hummingbird -- didn't understand the question, so we all banded together and shot him. :smile:


Edited by mags (log)

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Hmm. What you write reminds me of the story of the hippie/counterculture couple who watched with dismay as their daughter transformed her bedroom into a Laura Ashley showcase. "Why didn't she want to be free like them?" Do you think Jane and Michael Stern sneak off incognito to haute cuisine restaurants and secretly indulge in scallop foam? It would be nice to imagine...as it would that if nutritionists all decided we're better off fat, we would all become thin just to spite them. "I'm so SICK of all this macaroni and cheese!!" Part of secret eating is surely throwing off prohibitions and rules that we're at least secretly sick of but it is also assembling stuff that our public selves have been taught don't belong together: like grape jelly on pasta or butter sandwiches. It's hard to make conceptual order out of chaos. :laugh:

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