Wednesday, August 13, 2008

"Add Some Chevre..."

It was a hot summer day in Austin. My first trip for Guru Labs, teaching my first Linux class. It must have been about Wednesday or Thursday. Early that week I had discovered two important things: the Whole Foods Market near the training center, and the fact that I was allowed to spend some of my per diem there, despite it not being a restaurant. I remember buying what I thought was high-end olive oil, and what I knew was only pretending to be high-end chocolate. I bought some actual dinner from the deli, and I recall it being overly-pretentious and pretty much sub-standard. And while I was on what felt like a small culinary shopping spree, I spotted the cheese counter. There it was, tantalizing me, taunting me. A fresh slice of goat cheese. I'd somehow never had it, and now I was going to try it.

Why did I want to try it? It was new. It was chic. It was a buzzword that all the chefs seemed to like to toss around. And I wanted to be just like them. And now I could gain that luscious glimpse into their world, experience yet another element that made them chefs and made me wish I was a chef. I brought it back to my hotel room, pulled out a plastic knife from the deli, and tasted my first morsel. My first thought was about how very fresh it was. My second thought involved a realization that it tastes extremely fresh. My third thought was little more than, "this tastes like grass clippings."

I was willing to keep an open mind. I've had goat cheese a few times since. Each time I was overwhelmed at how much it tasted like some body's lawn. It eventually found itself filed in the "gross, pretentious food" category of my brain. It wasn't something I gave much thought to after that, of course. Not unless it briefly crossed my path.

Like today. I'm a big fan of a blog called The Pioneer Woman Cooks. This woman is awesome, and apparently commands a small army of fans. Yesterday she posted about a failed recipe, and asked for ideas for improvement. The recipe looked like it should have been good, but there were elements that were obvious to me that should be changed. I thought I'd add my feeble comments, knowing that they were too far down for her to even notice them. Later I thought I'd check, wishing, hoping that perhaps she saw my comments and responded briefly to them. What I finally saw horrified me:

"607: Add some chevre to the cream cheese for a flavor boost."

GAH! For those who haven't clicked yet, the recipe is for what looks like an adaptation of the classic spinach and artichoke dip, minus the spinach. I was thinking in terms of complimentary flavors, and not hiding important ingredients with things like cream, just for the sake of adding cream. This person? I have no idea what they hoped to accomplish. There was nothing else to their comment. No reasoning for poisoning this dish with a flavor that even for one who liked that sort of thing would prove too harsh an element, tearing apart any cohesion that the other ingredients may have enjoyed. Seemingly, somebody thought they'd add their two cents worth with a buzzword, just to make themselves sound smart.

When I started thinking up ideas, I found myself several steps into mentally preparing for what I needed to pick up on the way home, what I needed to do when I got home, before I realized that I was a long way from home. I'm in Baltimore, which is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away from Salt Lake. Heartbroken, I realized that I was not going to be able to attempt my creation that night. I now wonder, did this person even consider attempting their blasphemy? I kind of hope they do. Maybe they'll learn to think about flavors in terms of flavors, rather than buzzwords.

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