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Mar '09

Guilty Pleasures: What Do You Cook When No One’s Looking?

Dangling Cherries

Professional chefs, when asked what they cook just for themselves, almost always say that they can’t stand the sight of food when they get home, or they use the question as an opportunity to imply that they eschew the decadent indulgences of the ‘foie gras and truffle crowd’ (you know, their customers), preferring instead to dine on a few simple, perfectly fresh, artfully thrown together whatnots.

Sometimes, Just Toast Will DoEven though we don’t cook professionally 10 - 12 hours a day, amateur culinarians who cook a lot for others often get kind of burned out, too – but we still want to eat!

I find that when I’m just feeding myself, I don’t really want to, a) spend too much time at it, and b) make anything too fancy, but I do want something more interesting than a generic sandwich or the like.

For example, if I have cooked pasta on hand, I’ll toss it with some butter, minced fresh garlic, and a little hot sauce, then grate fresh Parmagiano over it. Something else I really enjoy is a Cheeseburger Salad: first, plate some mixed greens and sliced plum tomatoes, top it with a nice thick cheeseburger cut into bite-sized pieces, and sprinkle on some chopped onion, crumbled bacon, sauteed mushrooms, etc. Really tasty and almost healthy!

Tin Can TunaSometimes, though, I find myself seized by weird cravings, and ‘cooking for one’ is my chance to get whatever it is out of my system, for better or worse. It’s not something I’m proud of, but there it is. For instance: I have had, from time to time, an inexplicable craving for an unholy mixture of canned tuna, canned green beans, and bottled french dressing.

And no, I’m not about to defend it as being ‘surprisingly good’. It isn’t, and I honestly haven’t a clue as to why I repeat this mediocre culinary experience every few years. I just have to. Could it be something akin to pica, the condition that compels some folks to eat paint chips or river mud in order to satisfy an acute nutritional deficiency? Is this my body’s way of getting bottled french dressing (which I normally wouldn’t even poke with a stick) into my bloodstream? Go figure.

Doug DuCap's Road Kill RamenAnother nasty looking concoction I used to make for myself was ramen noodles mixed with sardines (the canned in hot Spanish-style tomato sauce kind.) I posted that recipe online many years ago on a ramen noodle worship site under the title Roadkill Ramen. As in ‘eat them in the closet so no one will see you eating something that looks entirely too much like roadkill.’

A weird craving I gave in to recently was actually surprisingly good: a sandwich made with curried peanut butter, honey, and flaked coconut on whole-grain toast. The ingredients made perfect sense together when I thought about it afterwards. As I write this, I’m wondering how the same sandwich would be with the addition of sliced bananas (which also makes sense in this context), and then dipped in a sesame seed/chickpea flour batter and deep fried. (Hmm, shades of Elvis – maybe not!)

Those are just a few that come to mind, but many strange things have ended up on my plate when I was cooking just for me. I suspect we all have our guilty pleasures, secret cravings and stories of peculiar concoctions.

What are yours?

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast ForwardPlease join us tomorrow to read our new food news article, The 2009 James Beard Award Restaurant Finalists Are Announced.

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast Forward

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