Monday, December 20, 2010

Adventures in food

It's a lovely -7C today. Not looking forward to going outside!

Living in Amsterdam about a decade ago helped to open my eyes to some of the diversity of world foods. I've always had a fondness for Japanese food, having lived on Okinawa as a child, but in Amsterdam food was similar enough to what I was used to that I was often surprised by the subtle differences, including apparent European opinions about American foods which were surprising. For example, the "American Style" potato chips (advertised as "the loudest taste on Earth") were covered in paprika.

Filet Americain
This tastes better than it looks
Photo by FotoosVanRobin
Then there was the Filet Americain, a rather strange, but delicious, raw meat dish. The US has one of the few cultures which doesn't have a "standard" raw meat dish, but I was already pretty used to it because my mother used to toast sourdough bread, spread mayonnaise on it, and cover that with a mixture of lean ground beef and spices. Yum! To this day I find that I often prefer steak raw to cooked.

However, my favorite food discovery has to be the raclette grill. What is a raclette grill? Imagine if Rube Goldberg decided to make a fondue set. 'Nuff said. Basically, cook a bunch of potatoes to go with your meal. You serve a bunch of meats and cheeses with it. The cheese goes into little dishes which slide under the grill and you put whatever food you want on the grill top.

Electric Party Grill
Raclette makes for a
very fun meal.
There's also a cheese named raclette, often is unsurprisingly served with the raclette grill, which I first enjoyed in Calais, France, with friends of my wife. As it turns out, it's also known here in the Netherlands and we've purchased a grill and enjoyed a raclette for my wife's birthday. It's also a fantastic dinner with children or guests because you're cooking your food at the table and, as my wife explained to me il n'y a pas des regles (there are no rules) when enjoying a raclette. Toss mushrooms, shrimp, beef, whatever, on top of the grill and when your cheese melts underneath, scrape the melted cheese over your potatoes and start some more cheese melting.

I have no idea why raclette isn't well known in the US, but for sheer food entertainment value, it's tough to beat. Buy one, invite your friends over, and have a blast.

Pssst: click the image of the raclette grill and it will take you Amazon to buy one. They're great.