I have spent much time scouring the aisles of specialty grocery stores, stands at food festivals and counters at bakeries in search of something unique, an item I’ve never tried before. Sometimes it is money well spent and sometimes it is not. These were excellent purchases.
However let’s not talk about the vegan ‘toona’ aka cat food for people. There are some things I’ve had that could easily be made at home; the gluten-free chilli mac and cheese frozen dinner from Amy’s Kitchen. (I bought it anyway just as a frame of reference for when I make it myself.) But when it comes to fruits and vegetables, it is always worthwhile to explore and experiment with produce one has never experienced before. Enter the barese cucumber, sometimes called a hairy cucumber but most popularly known as the Italian melon cucumber.
I picked up this gem from one of my go-to produce stands in the St. Lawrence Market. I have no idea what to do with it and apparently many others don’t either. An internet search has not turned up very few fabulously creative ways to use a hairy cucumber. For now, I see some of it being eaten raw with the remainder turned into a homemade relish.
Variety is indeed the spice of life, particularly when it comes to food. Here are just a few tips when embarking on a culinary adventure.
Budget for a treat day once a month for that one cupcake or decadent dessert that keeps eyeing you from the glass bakery window.
Budget for a specialty purchase when you travel.
Every season, aim to try at least one new fruit and vegetable you haven’t tried before.
Beware of gimmicks. Many items are packaged and marketed in a way that scream “must-have, buy me!” If you read the labels you’ll find there is not much special about these items. Instead, use the products for inspiration in your own kitchen. While the chilli mac and cheese was tasty, I could have made it myself and with much less sodium.
Why are some people so fanatically passionate about cooking as their life’s purpose?
Food at its most basic is for everyone. Without it and air and water, we would not survive. Cooking is not to everyone’s taste but contrast staying in a cooking competition to experiencing poverty, malnutrition and/or hunger.
For the former, being eliminated from a televised cooking program seems like the end of the world whereas for the latter it’s a matter of life and death. Shouldn’t those who are impoverished with little if any food security be the ones in tears rather than those who have the privilege to continue cooking and eating long after the cameras stop rolling?
Passion and one’s expression of it is personal and indeed imperative for the wellness of the soul but the bigger picture of food security seems to get lost in the context of televised entertainment.
While I am currently enjoying Top Chef Canada, Masterchef Australia and Next Food Network Star, I am reminded of the rock star status attributed to top chefs and the amateur cooks who aspire to the same.
Though they don’t have rockstar status nor get much airtime here are a few organizations that address the issue of food security.
The first thing I did after I got home from my food safety course was rearrange the food in my fridge.
Today I took a course in basic sanitation with TrainCan Inc. ®. This is a company that undertakes training and certification programs in food safety in Canada for those in foodservice/hospitality and retail/grocery businesses.
Here are some tips that I think would be useful for a home cook.
The temperature danger zone for food is 4°-60° C. From preparation to cooking, food should not stay in this range any longer than four hours.
Properly freezing can kill parasites but not bacteria.
The greatest tools for food safety are clean hands and a thermometer. Clean your hands thoroughly and often. Use soap and water to scrub the cuticles and clean hands front and back and in between the fingers. Do this for at least 15 seconds each time you wash your hands. Food thermometers vary in price, from $6 – $100 and you get what you pay for. Generally the higher the price, the more accurate the reading.
Cooked rice is a potentially dangerous food. If not cooled properly, bacterial spores on the rice can multiply and may form toxins. Cook rice in small amounts and cool any leftovers quickly.
The best way to thaw food is in the fridge.
Only reheat food once.
Avoid keeping easily perishable items in the door of the fridge.
Wet cleaning sponge with some water and add a little soap. Leave in the microwave for two minutes to sanitize.
Some news and information from the TrainCan website: