November 20, 2007

Miracle Whip Makes Miracle Chips

Remember when the White House renamed “French Fries” to “Freedom Fries?” It was quite a strike at the hearts of the French, who were opposed to invading Iraq in 2003. Never mind that they would actually be quite pleased to be disassociated with fried strips of potato forever.

In England, French Fries aren’t called French Fries anyway. They’re called chips. And these fries/chips have one huge difference from their misnomerly American counterparts.

Pulp Fiction fans know the difference, since it exists to a greater extent in the Netherlands. It’s a substance that tastes “butter” than lard on sandwiches. It shouldn’t take a miracle to whip the answer out of your head.

Yes, it’s time to talk about putting mayonnaise on fries/chips. This might happen by accident when munching on fish and chips if the mayonnaise for your fish runs onto your fries. When ordering fries/chips in Amsterdam, it won’t be an accident. After asking if you want mayonnaise, the person behind the counter will douse your fries/chips with the stuff. It would probably be more accurate to ask whether you want fries/chips with your mayonnaise, not the other way around.

It sounds distinctly unappealing if you’re used to eating in the United States and getting ketchup on your fries/chips. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Something about the combination works. Maybe the fat in the mayonnaise binds with the grease in the fries. Perhaps the salt from the fries brings out some normally-buried flavor in the mayo.

Above all, it is oddly reminiscent of the classic combination of baked potato and sour cream. A smooth, cream on a starchy potato product, but with a bit more salt. When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad, does it? And it’s actually wonderfully delicious.

Wonderfully delicious, and wonderfully unhealthy. Remove the only remotely fruit product (or non-starchy vegetable product, depending on your personal beliefs) from fries/chips, ketchup, and replace it with collagen. Eat mayo on your fries/chips too often, and you’ll end up in the clinic named after it, not smacking your lips in enjoyment.

Just be careful. The snack can be pretty messy. Usually it is served with a small two-pronged wooden fork to help keep your fingers clean. Unfortunately, it doesn’t to anything to scrape our your arteries.

But for a delicious treat every once in awhile, mayonnaise on fries/chips is a wonderful combination. Take my advice, and don’t worry about being in Europe while eating it. Try it at home. Four (wooden) sporks out of five.

November 14, 2007

Lambasting the Mint Condition

Pretend you don’t know anything about lamb or how to eat it. For one moment, picture it as a new meat that has been discovered by mankind, and a team of scientist and chefs are fast at work to discover the best way to eat this new “lamb.”

Now, imagine that they declare lamb and mint to be one of the best ways to eat this new and mysterious meat. Chances are, you’re a little put off by this declaration. Meat and mint? Isn’t that like having beef flavored Altoids?

Of course, lamb and mint isn’t a new discovery. It’s actually a quite old and traditional pair. Put it in a pasty, and chances are you’re in England.

And if you happen to be in England, you really should try a lamb and mint pasty. Whether you get it from some old-fashioned bakery in the country or a commercial “Cornish Bakehouse” in London (like I did) it is an excellent piece of grub. Pasties, for starters, are nice flaky pastries typically containing potatoes, onions, and some form of meat, though you can find vegetarian versions. They’re kind of like the stepbrother of steak and kidney pie.

Inside a lamb and mint pasty lies a plethora of potatoes, some onions and lamb meat. If you’re lucky, the cubed potatoes and diced onions will be so soft from cooking that you can’t tell the difference between the two. You’ll also get a little more meat than I did. The only real bite of lamb I got was in the very center of the pasty.

There wasn’t much mint to speak of, either. Whether it just blended in to the pasty experience so seamlessly that it wasn’t noticeable or whether the folks at the Cornish Bakehouse are too cheap to include a man’s portion of mint sauce is debatable, but the fact that you can’t taste much in the way of mint isn’t.

Which is a shame, because as someone who has never tried lamb and mint before, I was really wondering what kind of mint is best with your slice of sheep. Is it peppermint? Spearmint? Some form of mystery mint?

That will have to be a question for a rainy day. In the meantime, the Cornish Bakehouse is serving up some pretty good food that overcomes its flaws. For £2.95, you can’t get much more artery-clogging, brick-in-the-bottom-of-your-stomach food than the brick-sized pasties they are serving up. The potatoes and onions are so good, you probably won’t mind that there’s barely enough meat to constitute a carnivorous meal.

Hey, the cheese and onion pasties are even cheaper. Why not save your lamb experience for another venue and just try a cheap and tasty pasty? The lack of meat and mint forces me to rate my Cornish Bakehouse pasty at just 3 out of five sporks, but a cheese and onion pasty would probably get higher marks for its more accurate nomenclature and lower price.
Now, “wool”dn’t you like that?