Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pine Mouth...Gagk!

“This coffee tastes terrible. Everything tastes bitter today. I don’t know what’s going on.”

“Me too, everything has a bitter after-taste. It’s gross.”

“Both of us have it? What could be causing it?”

“Pine mouth”

“Pine mouth, eh? That sounds like something you made up just now.”

“Nope, it’s a real thing.”

That’s not how the conversation actually went, but it condenses two weird weeks into a single dialogue.

It all started because I was bored at the grocery store. I started buying unusual ingredients while mentally concocting a recipe, which would undoubtedly be a big hit at dinner time. Among the groceries I purchased was a container of pine nuts. These were the very first pine nuts I had ever bought in my whole entire life.

I made dinner, which was not a hit, and about a day later, everyone in the house was complaining of a bitter taste in their mouths. I was consuming a lot of sugar trying to cleanse the bitterness away. This went on for about two weeks. It was the strangest thing.

About a week in, we started investigating to find a cause and found some medical research based on a number of cases of people experiencing the same bitter taste after consuming pine nuts. The research indicated that the offending pine nuts had all originated in China and had, in fact, come from a specific breed of tree in China.

I took a look at the package I had bought and discovered that there was no mention anywhere, of where the pine nuts had come from; only that they had been prepared FOR a company in Mississauga.

If I can’t find out where my pine nuts have come from before I eat them and have them ruin all food for two weeks, guess what? I won’t be buying pine nuts at all. I went this long without them. I reckon I can go on without them again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Emergency Eats

The Ontario government wants every household to put together an emergency preparedness kit, so we can see ourselves through the first three days of Armageddon. After three days they will swoop in and rescue us, but until then, we are on our own. In addition to a whistle and a deck of cards, they suggest that our emergency kits contain a sufficient supply of imperishable food.

Mountain House makes a variety of freeze dried meals that are ideally suited for storage in your bomb shelter. They come in pouches with a seven year shelf life and in cans with a 25 year shelf life. You simply add hot water, wait ten minutes and serve.

As a public service, my family and I sampled a couple of their freeze dried entrees at dinner one evening. We tried the spaghetti in meat sauce and the beef stew. They were as simple to make as had been claimed and, since I made them right in the pouches, there were no dishes to clean. Now we’re talking state of emergency convenience, but how about the taste?

My husband is a picky eater; as picky now as he was when he was five. At the top of the list of things he doesn’t like to eat, you will see in big bold letters, pasta and tomatoes. So, his opinion on the spaghetti and meat sauce doesn’t count. He did his best to swallow his portion without tasting it. On the other hand, my son and I love spaghetti; we’re connoisseurs. We liked it just fine. I would say that the spaghetti in meat sauce was better than anything out of a can and would be a tasty way to wait out the impending alien invasion.

The beef stew wasn’t such a winner. It’s better than starving to death, don’t get me wrong. I would sooner eat freeze dried beef stew than let the aliens win, but we won’t be adding it to our regular dinner rotation. The potatoes, carrots and beef were all cut into exactly uniform little cubes which caused our son to mistake the beef for dirty potatoes. He refused to try it. My husband tried it and then gave it to the dog. I ate it. It wasn’t great, but I ate it. I’m determined to survive the apocalypse and go on repopulate the Earth.

Mountain House entrees are easy to store and prepare. They are nutritionally valid, with lots of veggies, though a little high in sodium. We didn’t expect much from freeze dried rations, so I was pleasantly surprised that they were edible. Once you find the entrees you like, it is a convenient option for campers and backpackers and would certainly do the trick as a food supply to carry you through the end of days.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stop Making the Spork - Please

The spork...what a terrible instrument of frustration. It's a spoon, it's a fork, it's a spoon/fork; but it doesn't perform either job well. Theoretically, it's a dynamic multi-purpose tool but in application it's utterly, utterly useless.

A Google search of the word spork didn’t yield any concrete revelations on its origin. Some say the spork dates back to the 1960's others say the '40's while some information indicates that early 'proto-sporks' have been around since the mid 1800's.

Let’s just agree that the spork has been kicking around, in one form or another, for a while now; longer than I’d like. It takes time to iron the kinks out of an idea; I get that. But, if the spork was going to be a viable, mainstream utensil, shouldn't it have been perfected by now? Shouldn't I be able to pick up a french fry or eat a bowl of soup?

Spork sightings have become less common these days but they do remain a staple in certain low-end swilleries. They are also highly recommended for hikers, campers, vagrants and other outdoor adventurer types. They’re meant to be very practical when one is on the move and travelling light. Realistically though, if you have the capacity, in your gear, to carry a spork; can you not carry an individual fork and spoon? Nest them together and put an elastic band around them if you're worried about them getting separated.

My point is, a fork is very good at forking and a spoon is very good at spooning, but a spork is very good at nothing. Please stop inflicting them on the innocent.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Peach Upside-down Cake...Without the Cake

I picked up a copy of Woodall’s Campsite Cookbook. If you’ve ever wanted a really good resource for camp friendly recipes, this is it. You can open this cookbook to any page and find yourself salivating. The recipes are a collection of traditional down-home favourites, ingeniously tweaked to be accessible at camp.

Woodall’s Campsite Cookbook gets into all sorts of interesting cooking techniques using everything from the usual pots, pans and camp grill; to Dutch ovens, reflector ovens, and aluminum foil cooking.

I’m excited to try a number of recipes from this book. The first one I pulled out was Foil Peaches. I started with this one because it seemed easy and was sure to be delicious.

I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter, but what I did turned out just fine. Here’s the rundown.

In the centre of a generous piece of foil place, sliced peaches (fresh or canned), a nice healthy spoonful of margarine or butter and two to three big spoonfuls of brown sugar. Wrap the foil to form a packet. Do your best to eliminate leaks. Place the packet in the fire for a few minutes. You will hear the contents start to sizzle when it’s hot. Use tongs to pull the packet out of the fire. Carefully pour the contents of the packet into a bowl. Keep in mind that hot sugar can burn you very badly so use caution! This is not a job for kids.

Our Foil Peaches were delicious. You know how you can taste something and flash-back to your childhood? This treat did it. It’s like you’re getting all the deliciousness of a peach upside-down cake, without the tediousness of the cake. Next time I’d like to try adding pecan pieces. That sounds like a winning addition to me.