A long time ago (well, actually probably just a few weeks ago) in a kitchen far, far away (if you don’t happen to live in my neighborhood), I had the idea for a blog called “Char Wars.”  Its sole purpose: to be a record of my ongoing battle against my toaster oven.

Instead of that, I think I’ll just shamelessly shoehorn “Char Wars” into this blog.  The toaster oven and I have fought for quite some time.  I’ve won battles, lost battles, and consumed many a charred English muffin.  I’ll let all of you decide who’s winning the war.

Here’s the aftermath of today’s skirmish.  Who is victorious today: me or the toaster oven?  Comment below!

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People say: “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

I say: “STOP RUINING PERFECTLY GOOD COOKIES, DANG IT!”

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So I need to tell you about bialys.  For years I’ve been wondering just what a bialy is.  I’d seen them in bagel shops here and there, and they looked to me like a bagel without a hole punched through the center.  They looked like they might be tasty, but I mostly just stuck with toasted sesame bagels with butter whenever I visited one of these shops.

Recently I decided to find out the truth about the bialy.

I admit I did a little research on bialys before ever trying one, since I wanted to see how I might get the best one I could without driving into downtown Los Angeles.  *shiver*  Theoretically, it’s a half hour drive.  In reality?

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I make that drive for food I know is good, but I wasn’t about to make it just for a bialy, which I’d never even tried before.

From my research, I found out that the bialy originated in Bialystock, Poland and that in the early 1900s Eastern European Jewish immigrants brought the recipes for them to the United States.  The bialy is a chewy roll similar to bagels, but one major difference between the two is that bagels must be boiled before baking, while a bialy is just baked.  Also, bagels have holes in their centers, while a bialy instead has a depression in its middle, which is filled with diced onions and (depending on the recipe) ingredients like garlic, poppy seeds, and breadcrumbs.  I even read about bialys with cheese (um…YUM), spinach, and tomatoes.  It all depends on who’s making them.

One major bummer: the bialy is not well known outside New York City.  And my Yelp searches did not yield a nearby location for me to try a bialy.  I did know that Dink’s Deli, my favorite place for bagels in my neighborhood, served bialys as well.  Finally one morning I decided to try my first there.  I just had to!

I’d had a crappy previous day because of some unfortunate dating drama—naturally I felt in desperate need of carbohydrates.  That particular morning I didn’t want anything sweet (the night before I’d gorged on a fudge brownie, a caramel Dutch apple cupcake, and a cookie-dough flavored cupcake from a cookie shop called Lady Di’s).  A toasted, buttery bagel sounded perfect.

I drove to Dink’s Deli.  I’d like to say I arrived looking, at the very least, like a hot mess, but I probably looked more like this.

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(I’m not much of a morning person.)

I trudged over to the display case to pick out that morning’s victim—err—victual.  And there were the bialys.

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Poppy seeds, diced onions, chopped garlic—I could see definite possibilities there (beyond the possibility of horribly offensive breath).  So I ordered my first bialy, toasted with butter.

Oh man.  The dough was dense and chewy, yet soft, as though the qualities I love about bagels had been amplified tenfold.  Toasting brought out the flavors of the poppy seeds, onions, and garlic, and those combining with each other and the melted butter’s salty moisture made every bite heavenly.  Every bite.  And as I chewed, I smiled to myself and thought, Life is good.

To me, that is the food pinnacle.  When you’re eating something so good that you simply feel better about LIFE.  That’s what good food can do for you.  The same kind of feeling can come from taking a walk through your favorite place or listening to your favorite song.  Honestly, I think the most important thing missing from Louis Armstrong’s  “What a Wonderful World” is a toasted bialy with butter.

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(Tips for those of you who want to try a bialy: the bialy’s shelf life is only about 6 hours long!  Get yours while they’re fresh.  If you want to bring one to someone for them to eat at a later point in the day, it probably won’t be nearly as good!  A lot of people suggest having your bialy toasted with butter, rather than cream cheese, so give it a shot!)

(That pic of the bialy above is an actual Dink’s Deli bialy I photographed on my iPhone–before devouring the heck out of it.  God, looking at it gives me cravings…)

References/Sources:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/Bialy.htm (bialy info)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bialy (more bialy info)

http://www.grumpycats.com/ (unimaginable hilarity)

The people of Japan love food.  It’s no surprise that their visual entertainment includes food so often, especially since the Japanese have such rich and unique culinary traditions—and also a bit of a fetish for Western-style desserts.  I don’t know how many of you have read Japanese comics (manga) or watched Japanese animation, but it has to offer some of the most appetizing drawn/animated food I’ve ever seen.

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Studio Ghibli films by far have the most delectable animated food on the planet.  Just…just look at this food!  Oishii! (Delicious!)

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(“Ponyo”–Top Ramen, eat your heart out.)

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(“Howl’s Moving Castle”–Fire demon Calcifer fries bacon and eggs. *drool*)

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(“Kiki’s Delivery Service”–Okay, even if a herring pie doesn’t sound appetizing to you, just look at that crust.)

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(“Spirited Away”–Oh, all this for me? Aw, you guys shouldn’t have!  Oh.  So it’s not for me but for No-Face?  Oh.  Ohhh … Well, this is awkward.)

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(“Spirited Away”–And there’s No-Face, about to gorge himself on countless delicacies.  Lucky…)

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw

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First of all, how do you even become a food critic?  How is that even a job?  I have a job.  I work as a sales associate at a nationwide department store, and it’s just as glamorous as it sounds.  By the fitting room in my department, we have a flat-screen TV that I’m not sure if we’re allowed to touch.  It’s placed out of reach and has no remote.  Perhaps those are indicators.  All the same, I change the channel with the tip of plastic shirt hanger, in plain sight of the security cameras.  So far, no one has said a thing.

On this TV we have a few choices of what to watch: the news, the Food Network, and a bunch of blank screens that claim to be channels but only show “Direct TV” in blue text crawling from one end of the frame to the other.  At my job, I’m expected to create a fun and uplifting experience for our shoppers.  I’ve decided that the news—for the most part—does a good job of counteracting any attempt to add a little magic to people’s shopping experiences.  And so, I stand up on my tiptoes, reaching out with the hanger, and change the channel to the Food Network.

For some reason, there only seem to be two shows on the Food Network whenever I’m at work: either “Chopped” or “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

Oh. God.

Two torturous experiences, both different, and yet the same in one way.

People are being paid to eat on TV.  And I get to watch them.  In fleeting glances while removing discarded clothing from the dressing rooms.  My stomach gurgling.  Judges tasting desserts—they sit in designer clothing that would squeeze the very life out of my paycheck.  Guy Fieri takes a monstrous bite out of a steaming Philly cheese steak, and his eyes roll back.  “Oh Godff…” he moans.  I salivate.  I want more money.  And I want some good doggone food.

Several things have gone through my mind as I’ve listened to “Chopped” judges give feedback such as, “The tarragon was unsurprising on this fish” and “I’ve had so much French toast that I’ve become jaded.”  Jaded?  With French toast?  Sir.  YOU ARE BEING PAID TO EAT.

PAID.  TO.  EAT.

Alright, alright, I know it’s a judge’s job to judge.  They have to be critical, or else there is no show.  But maybe the fact that there is a show at all is what’s ridiculous.  How is it that people arrive at a position in life where they’re paid to eat?  The rest of us pay to eat—these people have this ingeniously arranged backwards.  They’re paid to do something necessary.  Not to be crass, but will there be a day when someone might be paid to use a restroom and judge the experience?  “I found the Febreze in the air to be sweet, but a little overpowering.  The stall was deep, with a hanger for my purse, which I always like.  However it was a little narrow, and my right knee kept bumping into the toilet paper dispenser.  And on that note, I found the toilet paper itself very insubstantial and disappointing.  I’d find better toilet paper at a 7-Eleven.”

Hey, I think I’m pretty good at this.  Now I just have to find a way to get paid for it.

You are what you eat.  Chances are there’s a medieval French-derived word for the kind of eater you are, too.  Glutton, gourmand, gourmet, epicure, gastronome?  Most of us are familiar with what a glutton is (and I’m sure we’ve all had gluttonous episodes of our own).  But what is the difference between a gourmand and a gourmet?  Epicure—don’t I go to a salon for that?  Gastronome…What?

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Well, you can Google the differences, my lovelies, but I’ve saved you the trouble.  Here’s a little discussion I found on merriam-webster.com:

Epicure, gourmet, gourmand, gastronome mean one who takes pleasure in eating and drinking.  Epicure implies fastidiousness and voluptuousness of taste.  Gourmet implies being a connoisseur in food and drink and the discriminating enjoyment of them.  Gourmand implies a hearty appetite for good food and drink, not without discernment, but with less than a gourmet’s.  Gastronome implies that one has studied extensively the history and rituals of haute cuisine.”

 As for “glutton,” the common definition is a person who eats and drinks excessively or voraciously.  Think Garfield the cat.

A new slang term has also emerged for food enthusiasts: foodie.  A foodie is a person with great interest in the preparation and consumption of good food.  A foodie enjoys the details that go into the making of whatever food it is and the proper way to eat it to get the most out of it.

And there you have it.  Of these types, I’d have to say I’m a foodie and probably a foodie-gourmand in a more specific sense.  I love good food, I enjoy each bite, I love knowing the preparation that goes into it and how to eat it, and I love having the best of the best (about which you will hear).  But honestly, sometimes I just want a Baja Steak Chalupa.  Yeah, yeah, you gourmets can send me your hate mail later.  I’ll reply after dinner.

 

References:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/glutton?s=t

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epicure

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/foodie?s=t

“Human beings do not eat nutrients, they eat food.” – Mary Catherine Bateson

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