I was rather inspired tonight. To my Dutch chef-cook friends, a little advice. There is a lot I admire about the Dutch and I’m sort of in a unique circumstance amongst Americans to opine. Your infrastructure, health care, beer, and the way your young men wear properly fitting jeans and floppy, blond hairstyles. All TOPS. Really. But your ethnic food? My god. Let’s start with a quick lesson. The role of ketchup may mystify you as it has been nearly usurped by mayonaise (yuck, but ok, I kind of get it), so here are a few guidelines to help out. Ketchup goes on FRIES. Not ribs. Not chicken. And it sure as s*&^ does NOT go on NACHOS. Ever. Or sweet chili sauce, or whatever it was on those “nachos” I was served tonight. As well, shelf-stable, processed cheese food product that comes out of foil wrapping and a cardboard box has no place on my nachos or any plate for that matter. You have gouda, you know what good cheese is, how is this complicated? Guacamole should not be smooth, homogeneous, and made from some vacuum-sealed grey goop. It should be made from AVOCADOS. And served within like, 10 minutes of preparation. I would say no Dutch chef actually has any business serving Mexican food until they’ve spent a minimum of 6 months in Oaxaca and have literally had their misconceptions beaten out of them with a variety of fragrant, spicy, pupil-singing chilies. Mole is a subtle delicacy and utterly delicious when done right. If I find out any chef has melted Hershey’s into chili powder and called it mole, I will dip them “Goldfinger”-style into the Hershey’s factory melting pot.
A side note. Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Philipino all describe different countries and they also describe radically different cuisine. They pretty much just have ginger and rice in common. That’s it. Everything else is different and you cannot dump the same bottle of sweetened soy sauce on all of it and interchange these names however you like. Don’t even get me started on Korean and Japanese. We’re not there yet, I understand that. All in good time.
Why so angry you may ask? I don’t mean to be, but let’s face it, I’m spoiled. I spent my college years living in a neighborhood called the Gourmet Ghetto and I had world famous 4 star restaurants, phenomenon-producing coffee shops (like the shop owner/barista taught Mr. Starbucks how to roast coffee, I kid you not), spectacular bakeries, homemade noodles-like-grandma-never-made it pasta shops, new york-style delicatessens, you name it, all within walking distance of my apartment (not to mention a plethora of farmers’ markets brimming with more heirloom tomato varieties than you could, well, throw a genetically-engineered franken-tomato at). I spent the last couple of years mainly on a Caribbean island renowned for its restaurants. God bless it, we had “The French Side”. If ever you wanted fine French cooking with a tropical, seafood twist at competitive 1 euro/1 dollar rates, we had The French Side. To top it off, I’ve worked with a good many excellent chefs and have learned a thing or two about whipping up a decent yogurt curry or pumpkin pancakes with creme fraiche or even a Moroccan couscous that would fool most people into thinking it wasn’t made by a white chick.
But anyway. I’m a foodie. A gourmand. A snob. I admit it. I think Anthony Bourdain is a rockstar. My Global chef’s knife is one of my prized possessions and dare I say it, I believe I can be trusted to use truffle oil (just a touch darling!) And I love the Dutch, I really do. I’ve spent an awful lot of time in the Dutch Caribbean, in Holland, and in the presence of many fine Dutchmen and women and count several of them as my closest friends. But the cooking… If it ain’t appelflappen or something meat and potato-y, forget about it. Traditional Dutch dishes are hearty and pleasant enough, but they won’t shock any taste buds with unexpected wonder (except maybe those preserved whole fish that people dump raw onions on top of. Please, no exhaling for at least two hours after that).
Besides the horrible “nachos” that we ate anyway (they were there and we were hungry, and besides that, they made us laugh), the entertainment was quite fun. A Dutch jam band covering American classic rock n roll and doing a pretty good job of it. I tapped my toes and clapped along, all sure signs that they did Stevie Wonder justice. Rage Against the Machine however, hit a far more sour note, but good effort. One of the best signs that I’m seeing a good jam band though, is when I get an insatiable urge to want to rock out as well. When you realize it’s on your bucket list to get a band just like this at a live karaoke so you can sing your heart out to “Jolene” (in the style of Mindy Smith, please) and imagine bringing tears to the eyes of all that listen to your soulful and piercing rendition, well then you’re just pipe dreaming but hey, dreams have their place too. Unfortunately the only tears I’ll bring to anyone’s eyes at karaoke will only come about if they’re eating chilies, like one ought to with Mexican food! I might delude myself a little, but I know my rendition of Shakira at the local latino bar’s Mexican ballad karaoke night was a hit more because most people were plastered at 2 am than any real singing talent. Still I get my kicks.
Well that is enough ranting for one evening. I just couldn’t help myself, but it’s all love! Just please, think before you use ketchup. Mexican cuisine is artful, varied, and comes from a long tradition of women who knew how to make the most delicious meals from the foodstuffs they had available. That does not mean you can take creative license with ketchup, please!