CARROT-FLAVOURED BREAD STICKS

breadcarrot

And never the twain shall…oh.

Bread sticks. Carrots. Average foods, both. I have often thought that the two should be combined.

Wait, did I write ‘often’? I meant ‘never’.

Greece has, though, long decided to bring the two together in mastication matrimony. And fair play to it, because as things have transpired, it’s proved a worthwhile endeavour.

Bread sticks are of reliable quality and frequency in Greece, so if anyone was going to pull this stunt off, it would be here. And it’s a stunt worthy of a beige, bready Evel Knievel.

The eating sensation goes something like this: bread stick, bread stick, no this is just a bread stick, wait a minute, here it comes, yes!

It’s a little sweet, mildly aromatic. Overall it’s not as bland as a bread stick, not as healthy as a carrot stick. The bread stick is the winner here, and the carrot can rightly feel a little exploited.

7/10

GREEK SOUR CHERRY BEVERAGES

cherry-cordial

Not remotely representative of my drinking experience

To be absolutely clear from the start: Greece loves a sour cherry beverage.

From the down and dirty fizzy numbers manufactured by Vikos and Loux and served up in stunted plastic bottles, to the heady heights of cartoned work from Life and Amita, this nation is a Mecca for enthusiasts of this fruity, fruity drink genre.

And they are absolutely all good. Tangy and sweet, they pack a wholly satisfying punch.

Greeks have suggested that by making do with Kiosk and supermarket brands, I am accepting the scree of an altogether richer seam of juice drinking. While I’m sure this has more than a grain of truth, I’m content where I am.

Who am I to hunt down the home-made sour cherry-based delights of a Greek grandmother, when anything that comes after would surely lead to a life of slightly reduced joy?

I am confident there are sour cherry beverages operating in the above-10/10 echelons in numerous locations in Greece. If they come my way I will engage with them, but they will not be actively sought.

Let it be known that Average Food Blog does not seek perfection.

GREEK SOUR CHERRY BEVERAGES: 8-10/10

THANKSGIVING SPECIAL: TURKEY

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mmm, cardboard

I love meat. I don’t eat it anymore, because it comes from dead animals, but that is not to say it doesn’t taste nice. It is one of the mournful actualities of human existence that all the most enjoyable things are laden with immorality. Except masturbation. I fail to see how such an act can be considered immoral; it’s not like the baby-juice runs out or anything. And it’s not like, in the normal course of things, anybody is harmed by it. It is the quintessential ‘free lunch’. (Not literally, of course.)

Now, it’s been five years since carcass has passed my lips, with the exception of a much anticipated but ultimately somewhat underwhelming salt beef sandwich ‘cheat’ meal in New York at the tail end of 2015. Nonetheless, my memories are such that I am imbued with a degree of authority regarding what follows. And even if I had no such authority, so what? We live in a post-truth age, capeesh?

The subject of today’s lecture concerns turkey, and we’ll get to it in due course my pretty ones. But first I want to talk about football. Football fans can be a very witty bunch. One of my favourite chants occurs using the schema, “[referring to x] you’re just a shit y”, where x is deemed to be similar to but ultimately less good than y. An example: Carlos Tevez and Diego Maradona are both Argentinian, but the latter was much better than the former, leading fans of whichever team Tevez was playing against to chant “you’re just a shit Maradona.” Oh, the hilarity! My favourite example was when Spurs fans chanted at Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, “you’re just a sh*t Peter Schmeichel’, Peter being Kasper’s dad and a superior goalkeeper.

Back to the turkey, my friends, back to the turkey. (A phrase no immigrant wants to hear. Too far?) Turkey is just sh*t chicken. There, I’ve said it. It tastes like chicken, but is just drier and less tasty. If it wasn’t for its hallowed position at the centre of tradition, no one would ever voluntarily choose it. It requires slathering* in sauce before attaining a palatable level of moisture, and comes with so many trimmings and accoutrements that one is naturally led, with suspicion, to ask: just what is it trying to hide? A complete lack of tastiness, that’s what. It’s like when a munter cakes herself in make-up or swaddles himself in designer clothes.

I think the world would be a happier place if we did away with this turkey bollocks and just ate chicken instead. Good, old-fashioned chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken. Seriously, man, that’s the answer: chicken. Chick chick chick chickchicken, lay a little egg for me. Think about it: would there still be wars if we ate chicken instead of turkey? Wait! Where are you taking me? Let me go! I’m NAPOLEON goddammit.

Anyway, to sum up this lecture: chicken > turkey.

Sod it all, I’ll have the nut roast.

*one of my favourite words

QUORN ‘CHICKEN’ NUGGETS

quorn

serves 5-6?! Serves 1 more like! (If that 1 is me)

The quest for genuinely meaty meat-substitutes is, you might think, a largely futile endeavour. Quorn steak? About as steak-like as a bathroom sponge. And veggie bacon rashers bare about as much resemblance to the real thing as Tony Blair bares to socialism. (Have I used this simile before? I’m pretty sure I have but I can’t be bothered to look through the hallowed annals of AFB.)

This is a shame as, once liberated from an inevitably unfavourable comparison with their tasty yet immoral cousins, meat-substitutes are often pretty decent on their own terms. How much more tasty, for example, would Linda McCartney sausages be if they were marketed not as sausages (with all the images of unattainably yummy pig eyeballs and anus thus connoted) but simply as, I dunno, ‘mashed vegetable cylinders’ or something. It would lower our culinary expectations, and thus enable us to appreciate the fairly pleasant taste on its own merits.

With this in mind, my expectations upon purchasing a bag of frozen Quorn ‘chicken nuggets’ was reasonably, but not unrealistically, high. I anticipated a perfectly serviceable evening meal, but was very far from expecting McDonald’s-esque levels of gustatory ecstasy. I was ready to give the whole shebang a solid 6, maybe 6.5, out of 10; a 2:1 in Media Studies; a 3-star review from Broadway Baby.

What transpired far exceeded my humble expectations. The nuggets emerged from the oven crisp, oily and golden. Penetration with a fork* revealed said nuggets to be pleasingly crispy, with a coating that slipped off like lingerie on a wedding night. And here is the fulcrum of the whole discussion: the insides were qualitatively indistinguishable from actual chicken. They were positively fowl. So all in all, what I had was basically a plate of delicious, crispy, unctuous chicken nuggets, but without any dead animal offal. Win win.

Granted, the similarity between Quorn ‘chicken’ nuggets and chicken chicken nuggets might have something to do with the fact that actual chicken nuggets themselves taste somewhat indeterminate. But it doesn’t matter; the discovery of a vegetarian item that tastes actually tastes like what it purports to represent is enough to land Quorn chicken nuggets with a 9.5/10. A First from Oxford. The fucking Perrier Award of food. Booooooom!

*sounds like a death metal band. Penetration With a Fork.

GREEK MAC

greek-mac

Readers, you get the Average Food Blog you deserve.

When it was suggested, via social media, that perhaps my first bit of Greece-based reportage covered a food that might be considered a little ‘high-end’ in its market, I was forced to make it abundantly clear that our philosophy to muse upon and review the average was still intact.

People of the internet, here is your average.

I lie to you not; there exists beneath the golden arches of the Hellenic state the ‘Greek Mac’. It is decidedly mediocre. It is served inside a cardboard wallet. 

Conversely, while abandoning the ‘Big’ of Macs found around the world in favour of an unimaginative nationalistic branding, it may in fact be bigger than a Big Mac. But this does not lead to an elongation of any tangible sort of pleasure. It tastes loads of yoghurt and little of anything else.

The pitta, standing in half-heartedly for a bun, was soft and a bit floury. Its shape was highly uniform. The lettuce, tomato and onion was haphazard and bland.

While unsurprisingly going in for those big 100% beef claims that McDonald’s is so fond of touting, the meat probably tastes marginally worse than that which can be found at Athens’ range of two Euro souvlaki joints.

That’s right – I am hereby claiming that 50% pig trotter 50% unknown ‘meat’ is superior in flavour to McDonald’s’ 100% beef. I cannot really compute what has gone wrong here, in part because I’m terribly hungover, following the kind of binge drinking which leads to the eating of a Greek Mac. In this context, it sort of did a job as a vaguely flavoured soaking device.

I ate this corporate national symbol in the early hours of the Greek 28th October public holiday. My show of sympathetic nationalism was met with slight bemusement, but mostly apathy. All the Greeks around me ordered Big Macs.

5/10

TSAKIRIS TRIPATO CRISPS

trypato

There has been a bubbling revolutionary fervour in Greece* for the last few years.

This leads to the obvious question: how has this affected the nation’s domestic crisp market?

Significantly.

The world has seen the flat crisp. The world has seen crinkle cut crisp. Tsakiris Tripato brings….get this…the lattice.

Much in the way that fourth generation astroturf proved to be a qualitative game-changer, this ‘third-gen’ crisp has done the same in its own market.

I can’t stress this enough: THERE ARE HOLES IN THIS CRISP. UNIFORM, DELIBERATE HOLES.

With enough structural joints to entertain a 9/11 conspiracist for hours, this is the crunch to end all crunches – perhaps appropriate for a country so acutely feeling the effects of global financial folly. The flavour of my pack, ‘Smokey BBQ’, was brought to the peak of its powers in this innovative crisp format.

Ironically, though, it is this crunch that I fully believe, in the right hands, could bring Greece out of its current dip. This product is what the world wants. It’s just a shame that it won’t do that – Tsakiris being wholly owned by the Coca Cola Company.

Best stick to the traditional revolution idea then, I suppose.

9/10

*perhaps influenced by cuisine innovations seen in a 2015 trip, I am currently residing in Greece. Expect more Hellenic nonsense where this came from.

WATERMELON RIND

watermelon-rind

Father, I have a confession.

I have lived thirty years on this earth and up until last week I did not know that watermelon rind was edible. I can’t remember how I happened upon this piece of information, but after discovering it I have been eating the stuff non-stop. Hell, I’ve even been buying watermelon just so I can eat the rind. I munch my way disconsolately through the pink flesh just so I can get to the tough, chewy, vegetal exterior. (I suppose I could chuck the flesh away, but that would make me pretty monstrous.)

It’s not even as though I particularly like it. It doesn’t even really taste like it should be edible – it is slightly rubbery and bitter, with the faint whiff of something you’d pick up and eat in the garden. But hey – I thought it was inedible, and then discovered that you can, in fact, eat it. That, my friends, is reason enough for me to chow down like a mo fo. I even packed some pieces of watermelon rind into a tupperwear container today, and ate it on the District Line. Real men never use tupperwear! Hark at the power of new knowledge!

An analogy, I suppose, is this: no matter how little you have or how shitty your life is, imagine everything you own gets taken away from you, and then given back. You appreciate it all anew. It’s like that with watermelon rind: you spend your whole life effectively being told by your internal monologue that you can’t eat it, and then suddenly you can; those voices in your head were wrong. You are energised, refreshed by the vigour of new information and stimulation for your taste buds.

This general idea can be extended beyond the environs of Cucurbitaceae (the word lovingly cut and pasted from Wikipedia) to encompass life more generally. Your kids won’t eat their vegetables? Tell them that they are inedible, and cannot be consumed. Tell them they are naughty, dangerous, taboo. Then, a few months later, tell them that they are edible after all. Now watch them stuff their faces with broccoli like little hamsters. (Or cry after having enjoyed a month of Twixes and chicken kievs. I dunno. What do you think this is, science?)

A subtle, highly philosophical distinction needs to be made. I am not saying that banning or discouraging something makes someone automatically want it. Firstly, it doesn’t: making love to goats is banned, and I don’t want to do it. Secondly, my affinity for watermelon rind was awakened not upon being told that the stuff was inedible (indeed, I am not sure I was ever explicitly told this) but upon being told that it was, having previously assumed that it wasn’t. Suppose goatular lovemaking were legalised tomorrow: get me to the nearest goat farm!*

*I am not sexually attracted to goats. But sheep on the other hand…**

**I am not sexually attracted to sheep. But llamas? NOW you’re talking…***

***I am not sexually attracted to llamas. Toyota Priuses however? Phew!****

**** I am not sexually attracted to cars.