six oddities + one apple glory

I’m not a huge fan of memes, but Marce is simply too adorable to resist responding to. That said, limiting my food weirdness to six bulleted points was no small feat. I have innumerable food opinions and culinary soap-boxes, as anyone who has ever been stuck in a conversation with me that I have, yet again, segued to food can attest as their eyes glaze over and feet shifting toward the door. I believe that my husband has legitimate concern that I will one day shoot the television the next time one of the Food Network’s “healthy eating” episodes that suggest you make cheesecake with fat-free ricotta but still eat a wedge the size of your head as portion comes on, or when Michael Chiarello seasons his pasta water with a fistful of grey salt.

Come, step into my great tangle of food hang-ups and see if you still like me when you’ve made it to the end:

1. After being a vegetarian for more than 15 years, the thing I took most quickly to was bacon, followed by any sort of pork, mussels and then beefy stews in butter-enriched sauces. Perhaps I wasn’t so much a “vegetarian” all those years but “rebelling against Jewish food.” Meanwhile, I have no love for typically easy-to-love non-vegetarian items such as chicken, turkey and shrimp. I’d pretty much rather eat a beet than a grilled chicken cutlet, which I will insist to my dying day tastes closer to cardboard than something edible.

2. As the above should suggest I’m really quite the curmudgeon about food; cooking allows me to hide this: I hate beets, green peppers on anything but pizza and even then not really, find cilantro (the green, not the powdered spice or seed) distasteful, as well as most teas, broccoli rabe and kale, cardamom, caviar, cheese-stuffed or coated items, dolma, minestrone, coconut curries, mustard that looks like yellow paint, the vast majority of fruit juices, nectars and smoothies and the vast majority of California cabernets and chardonnays I have tried. Another wildly popular thing that bores me: molecular gastronomy. Please, don’t make me eat foam.

3. Discussing dieting makes me want to stick pins under my fingernails.

4. I will make bread, pasta, sauces, candy, you name it, from scratch but I find soaking my own beans too tedious to be worthwhile. That said, I used to feel this way about homemade pasta, and considering how currently enamored I am with it, I am eager to be bean-soaking converted, like if someone could convince me the flavor really is vastly superior.

5. I will defend Rachael Ray until the bitter end.

6. I am really, really not in the mood to cook tonight and hope this doesn’t mean I am broken.

But wait, there’s more: It took me a whole 24-hours to break down and make the Sow’s Ear Baked Apple Pancake Luisa posted about this weekend and truly, I shouldn’t have even waited that long. Oh puffy, buttery, apple-y gloriousness, I have such plans for more formats for you: Strawberries! Blueberries! Bananas! Pears! This is not hugely different from the German Pancake/Dutch Baby I made a couple months ago, albeit with fewer eggs, more milk, slightly less flour, a little more butter and of course those sauteed apples, and, sigh, I just don’t know how I ever liked it without them. Go. Make this and convert yourself, too.

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57 comments on six oddities + one apple glory

  1. I’m not a chicken fan either, but have found I can tolerate organic, free-range chicken much better than any supermarket brand. My husband loves it, so we eat chicken about once a week, usually coated in some sort of sauce and mixed with tons of vegetables so I can choke it down. That being said, there’s a restaurant near where I work that makes a South American chicken dish that is so good I crave it on a regular basis. Of course, they use organic, free range chickens, so that could help.

  2. If I’m very careful, I can pick through your mine field and find that I am in complet agreement with you on the bacon (& other meats), the yellow paint mustard, fresh pasta, and RR. So I hope you trust me when I tell you you are not broken when you don’t want to cook dinner every night.
    Yes, I really do see the converting possibilities of Luisa’s Apple Pancake.

  3. GC

    Your list in item 2 breaks my heart a little bit, Deb. But hey, everyone’s got their food oddities. By “dolmas,” do you refer strictly to the grape leaf-wrapped items? I never thought I liked them until I was served warm ones in Turkey (they also did not taste like must and turpentine, which had been the common thread in my previous experiences with them). I know, I know, kind of irrelevant and pie-in-the-sky, but I’m just saying…there’s hope. And alternate preparations.
    I will now busy myself with pinpointing all of the things I don’t like; it’ll be a good afternoon activity. Papaya. Shrimp. Salmon…

    Thank you so much for Smitten Kitchen – it’s a bright spot in this often dark old world.

  4. Melissa

    I have to agree with you (and everyone else, apparently) on number 1. I could easily be a vegetarian if pork fat were allowed.

    I’m really passionate about my beans, so let me be the one to try to convince you that fresh beans are so much better than canned. If you buy very fresh beans, you don’t need to soak them or cook them for very long at all, and they cook up so creamy and flavorful. Pinto beans cooked nice and slow with some bacon and olive oil with a little cheese and salt added at the end and served with some salsa on the top is my perfect comfort food. If you want something a little more substantial, replace the cheese with some zucchini and carrots and add a bottle of beer.

    Well, that’s one of my favorite foods, but I do think it’s worth a try if you like beans at all.

  5. I had a vegetarian friend that ate bacon. She said that bacon was not meat. It wasn’t really food. She said that bacon was a seasoning. Something you put into food to make it taste better. And I can’t say that I disagree.

  6. Sushi broke my vegetarianism (I do not believe that if you eat fish you are a vegetarian). For a long time after I stopped being a vegetarian, I ate mostly raw flesh in the form of sushi/sashimi. Bacon was the next step. Oh how I love bacon! A friend who knows well my love of bacon got me some bacon shaped bandages for Christmas. Funny stuff! I’ll eat pretty much any vegetable and bean, and most meats (cows, pigs, lambs, fish and and fowl), not to mention almost any dessert (except marizpan, yuck).

    Love the blog! It’s really wonderful.

  7. Amber

    I’m with you on cilantro. I think it tastes like soap. Don’t like chicken much either, unless it’s smothered in sauce (in which case, it may as well be something more delicious anyway) or unless it’s the juicier dark meat. I’m a big fan of a moroccan pie called bastilla, which a crispy, layered phyllo shell, filled with shredded dark meat chicken that has actual flavor(!) and spices, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It has the sweet/savory thing going on, which I love. Might be worth investigating. I think green peppers are bitter in an unpleasant way. I also can’t stand oatmeal other than in cookie form. The breakfast version seems to me like something that has already been digested. No thanks. And I can’t deal with the texture of raw celery, because the strings gross me out. Most of my food dislikes have more to do with texture than taste, I think. I also don’t like most ice cream, which I know makes me a freak, but it has to be stellar (like, Berthillon salted caramel glace stellar) for me to be interested.

    Bacon was my downfall as a vegetarian as well (8 years). My first meat-based meal was a bacon cheeseburger from a greasy spoon diner. I had the worst hangover of my life and it was the only possible cure I could imagine. It was delicious and I never looked back.

    Taste is a funny thing.

  8. Wait, bacon, pork and mussels are Jewish food?

    I have your creamy mac and cheese in the oven right now…alas, to bring to a family who needs it and not to eat for myself. Stupid South Beach Diet. That recipe is one of my favorites.

    Keep up the good work, Deb. Your site makes me drool every time. And for the record, I don’t like beets or cilantro either.

  9. LyB

    I hate when the Food Network goes “healthy” on me! Don’t they know why people watch the “Food” Network? And dieting? Bring on the stick pins! As for chicken, I absolutely love Chicken Cacciatore, with the tomato sauce and the red wine, it’s really very good. Oh, and that apple pancake looks incredible, thanks for the link!

  10. Christine

    Meetballs soaking up BBQ sauce goodness broke my vegan habit.

    I cant wait to dive into this recipe. I agree, Flicka, Dumb South Beach will make me wait a few months (I have quite a file in my “To Cook” pile).

  11. “…molecular gastronomy. Please, don’t make me eat foam…”

    Hate Marcel!? (Or do you watch?)

    Even the smell of cilantro curls my toes backwards.

    And I can handle Rachel Ray – mostly on mute – I swear she puts No Doz in her Pez dispenser. She’s a bit fast-paced for me, but I respect her ambition.

  12. bridget

    there is a school of thought that says that something like 10-15% of the population thinks that cilantro tastes like soap. and that its something in your genetic code that makes it that way to you… i dont know that its been proven, but figured i’d throw it out there…

  13. ditto on the aversion towards cheap mustard, cilantro leaves and minestrone, but you hate all chais? that one is a bit surprising, chai tea is my favorite tea ever.
    By the way, have you tried beet leaves? I swear they are really good, I don´t like beets either, but I love beet leaves for some reason.
    I´m also advocating for fresh beans, especially with things like garbanzo beans (chickpeas). Try making a batch of humus with soaked chickpeas and you´ll see the difference.

  14. Donna

    I can grant your taste is your taste until….California Cabernets!!
    Unless, you are a white wine only person, certainly the best red wine
    around is California Cabernet…Duckhorn, Caymus, Whitehall Lane
    and the better quality Beaulieu, Mondavi. What have you tasted?

  15. Some beans are absolutely worth the effort – like chickpeas. They are so tasty I can’t keep from eating them warm out of the pot, and Marce’s right, they absolutely make the best hummus. Cilantro, I could eat by the fist-full, but I know so many people who hate it, so maybe it is genetic. And Bacon, oh Bacon…how do you make everything you touch taste so good? And my final thought – I was a vegetarian at one point too, and all it took to break me was one wicked hangover and a double cheese burger!

    Great post Deb!…you’re hilarious. I look forward to reading your blog every day!

  16. With the caveat that I, a) actually LOVE French’s yellow mustard (no hot dog is complete without it) and b) know NOTHING about wine, I suggest you give California another chance and try Cakebread Cellars for their Chardonnay and Cab. I don’t generally like white wines, but their Chardonnay has a nice, crisp green apple flavor (very light). And the Cab (and the Merlot, actually) are fantastic with steak.

    According to Wine Guy (aka my boyfriend), who works there, Cakebread primarily sell their wines to restaurants, so, you may just have to take advantage of not feeling like cooking and go out for dinner on the town!

  17. The cilantro-soap thing is totally true! It’s an intolerance! We who think cilantro tastes like soap have no idea what it tastes like to the rest of you. We just know it’s extra-super gross.

    Corned beef very nearly did in my vegetarianism, with bacon a close second. But in the end, I gave it up for some barbacoa beef at Chipotle. Mmmm.

  18. Shelly

    They actually eat beets on hamburgers here in Australia! I’ve tried it, but I just can’t go there again. So here’s a secret, the next time you’re in an Outback Steakhouse and you order a hamburger and it doesn’t come with beets on it… its not authentic! lol

  19. I do love the convenience of canned beans: just open and there you are. On Ham on the Street, they conducted a taste test between canned beans and soaked beans — and they were exactly the same.

  20. I didn’t even know that they had a Rachel Ray-bashing club! I thought I was just some weirdo who thought the EVOO thing was intolerable and cringes whenever she laughs at her own horrible jokes. Her food is fine, but the 40$ a day show? Who has 40$ a day to spend on food ever? Try 15$ a day…THAT would impress me. Also, I don’t think I have ever seen her experience a bad meal on that show…she has to be lying right?

    Ack, I’m terrible. I shouldn’t be talking…I’ve probably told my own set of crappy jokes too. I’m just more a of David Rosengarten person than a Rachel Ray gal. I do like her food though!

    Anyways, I love your site. Your pictures always make me so hungry though.

  21. Gladys Kabanek

    Look forward to catching your site every day. I’m 75, don’t get much chance to cook (live with my daughter), but enjoy reading your recipes and letters from you many fans. Keep up the good work

  22. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 15 years now–an ugly incident involving bad chicken–so that wouldn’t tempt me again. But every once in a while I dream of sticky barbequed pork ribs….
    I am shocked with the whole soapy cilantro thing! I love cilantro, but I can’t use it when my mom eats over; she says it tastes like–you guessed it– soap. She’ll be relieved to hear she’s not alone! Maybe Alton Brown needs to explain this one.

  23. Mary

    Yes! I am increasing in my dislike of green peppers!!! Red and yellow, feed me nonstop, but no green, please no green.

    Also, you should definitley try starting a soup from raw beans. You really don’t need to pre-soak them, even if they are very dry. The cooking process just takes a long time, but you don’t really need to stand around. 3 bean dishes that I love: Lentil soup (which I just made the other day and took around 1-1.5 hours) with carrots, celery, bay leaves, pepper, salt, water (you can use chicken broth but I prefer water), onion, garlic and cut-up pieces of Polska Kielbasa mmm mmm Oh and parsley at the end make it magical. You can also make green/yellow split pea soup, same exact thing, different beans and different texture(I think this one takes around 2 hours). Then my all time fave, although that lentil soup was pretty damned good – white beans (I love cannellini, but maybe, i’m starting to believe, northern beans cook up softer) in water or broth, with salt, pepper, bay leaves, olive oil; once they’re almost done, some tomato sauce – I’m lazy and use Ragu/Prego. Perfetto!
    As my favorite TV show cook says “Tutti a tavola, a mangiare” (Oh, Lydia, how I love you).

  24. GC: I’m the same way about grape leaves! I hated them, just really disliked them, until I had some warm in a sandwhich. There’s a great falafel place near where I live and I love to get a tabouleh sandwhich with warm grape leaves. Oh Yum.

    Totally on target with the whole green pepper thing (can’t stand em), not soaking beans (I should, I know), and mustard without seeds (mustard should have texture!)

    What I do like, however, is cilantro in the right context (lots of lime…)… and curry! Oh wonderful creamy, coconut milk based curry. I do love, love love love curry. Maybe that’s because my town has a particular thing for Thai food (really good Thai food, and tons of it), but I love curry…

  25. I don’t get the Rachael Ray bashers. She’s not a gourmet chef and doesn’t claim to be. In fact, most people aren’t gourmet chefs, so what’s wrong with bringing healthy and easy cooking to the masses? Kudos for defending her.

  26. Yvo

    Mmmmm, I love it and want to eat it. Now.

    I have too many food quirks. We tried to make a list once and got bored halfway through- well, they got bored, I got scared that I was truly a freak. Ah well :) Great list!

  27. Ani

    Strange I tried to post yesterday from the work computer and it didn’t work this time. Anyway I love puffed apple pancakes. Minimal stove work and the rest bakes nicely in the oven. Sort of like your German Apple Pancakes. I posted about them a while ago and took a photo of it is on my flickr account.

  28. Lisa

    You and no one else is weird…heavens forbid we all liekd the same things…where woudl the fun be in that!!
    RR-she herself on Iron Chef claimed I am not a chef like these guys I just cook…I think she is a little kooky at times…aren’t we all??? if you don’t like her don’t watch…get over it and on to something else…time is short….I am with Tyler Florence and you…I hate green peppers…yuck! the other colors are okay…Bacon!!! OH MY GOD…life without bacon…kill me now…especially since I tried Tylers way with fresh cracked black pepper and Crushed rosemary…yummies!!! I am far from a chef…I like to cook…I even started taking pictures of my food! LOL!! you started me on that…I enjoy your site very much….all roads lead back to food…its a basic necessity of life…I don’t like seafood..I don’t know if its a texture thing or whatnot…shrimp…ack run away..ever since I watched my brother de-vain them when I was little…I love chicken!! let me correct that…good chicken….I make an awesome roast chicken…but I only like my oven stuffer roasters from Perdue..haven’t tried it with a free range chicken or the like, but then again I am just a beginner foodie :) I don’t know how people can’t make a good chicken…stuff it with lemon, garlic, butter, and tons of herbs…yummy!!! well I am rambling here..just wanted to add my two cents….oh yea, and everyone else please tell my mom that she can cook…she thinks cooking is like Emerill…this lady can throw anything together and have a rockin meal!! Moms cooking…or let alone anyone to cook me a meal served before 7:30pm is my hero by the time I am done getting the little one into bed..who feels like cooking at that hour…so you aren’t crazy or whatnot for not wanting to cook tonight…even you need and deserve a night off :)

  29. Betsy

    Deb, I have a quick question. I’m having guests over for brunch on Saturday that I absolutely, absolutely must impress. Your blog is my bible when it comes to cooking, so I was trying to decide whether I should make your mom’s coffee cake or this apple-y goodness. Which would you recommend? Or do you have anything else you would recommend? Please help! Thanks!

  30. Oh, Deb, I always *knew* I liked you and your blog! And somehow you just made me like you even more. I hate hate hate hate cilantro, too, and get so frustrated when every single restaurant in the world seems to overuse the stuff… totally tastes like soap. I also agree with you on the broccoli rabe, kale, green peppers (though I hate the red ones even more… and I love the yellow and orange ones, go figure), dolmas (though if I’m ever in the Mediterranean I’ll happily try the “real thing” because I’ll be happy to be proven wrong), curry (though I can’t stand curries of any sort), and Rachael Ray. Although I do agree that her $40 a Day show gets on my nerves, mostly because she’s not a very good tipper. Also, I grew up eating Jewish Food, too (though no red meat because my parents don’t eat it), and bacon was the thing that broke me completely. Now it’s bacon, steak, meat + cheese, everything: bring it on!

    Oh, and I’m dying to try making hummus with soaked chickpeas. Are there instructions on the package when you buy them, or is there a certain way to soak them (certain amount of time, etc)?

  31. Patty


    I just have to lol, I love your site so much you ROCK… I love cilantro as long as its used right, BEETS, I can eat a quart jar all by myself , Bacon, I can inhale but don’t, and Rachel Ray is great , thats my opinion and Im sticking to it lol. Green peppers , again when used right they are wonderful…WAKE up people, to much stuff going on in this world to complain, eat, drink, laugh, love and be merry


  32. Rose Marie Heard

    I just love your blog. In reading the afore mentioned 6 bullit points, there is only one question to be asked. Why did you wait 15 years to give up the veggie ways? I love bacon myself. I do like my veggies but in their rightful place, off to the side. I have soaked beans over night and have done the quick way and I can not tell the difference in taste. I was told that soaking the beans over night would take the “gas” out of them. That could be an old wives tale though. LOL
    Keep up the good work and keep the recipes coming.
    Oh yeah, I like RR also.

  33. SO funny that you rebelled by going vegetarian and then went straight for the pork and mussels! I can understand why Jews and Muslims won’t eat pork, but I never got the shellfish ban. But then again, I adore mussels and clams and smoked oysters and lobster and crawfish and….

  34. I am definitely in agreement about the eating foam thing. It is so OVER!
    The first thing I ate after giving up vegetarianism was my Grandma’s meatballs. I still can’t believe I lived without them for five years!

  35. Elizabeth

    This may sound crazy, but vegetarian bacon (and sausage), when prepared in butter with a little bit of salt tastes surprisingly like the real thing – or at least fills the craving. In fact, my younger brother ate it at my house for a week without knowing it was fake. There are some things I still crave (sushi and sashimi for sure), but at least breakfast time no longer comes with temptation.

  36. Kristin

    There is a school of thought that not only is it not necessary to soak beans, but that you lose flavor if you do. I do not, and just made the most delicious pot of pinto beans with ham and a head of garlic, which then became a lovely bean and vegetable soup. Kind of like with greens, the heady ham-and-bean-and-garlic liquor is really the best part, and you just can’t get that from a can.

  37. Jean

    With you on the fresh cilantro thing- I grow lots of herbs; cilantro is the only one I ripped up by the roots. I think the fresh stuff smells like dirty feet. Eeccchh. Not too many foodies agree. BTW, love your humor, your photos and your whole approach to food. Thanks!

  38. I guess it’s a good thing that I never liked bacon! The only thing that would ever throw me off my vegetarianism is chicken Kiev or these meat-stuffed potato pies my grandmother made back in Russia (combined with her rather overbearing presence). But even then, it would probably be temporary, since I never liked handling raw meat and since I’ve become vegetarian, I’ve begun to be a bit put off by it in general.
    The only way I like beets is in borsh’ (I love borsh’) and vinegret (a salad of pickles, beets, and who knows what else). I can’t stomach them on their own — god knows I’ve tried.
    Your disliking tea, cardamom, and coconut curries just makes the mind boggle, though.
    But I fully agree with you on fat free things. I have accidentally converted my boyfriend onto whole milk, but everyone else in his family drinks skim or two percent and refuse to try whole milk and say it’s gross. Once again, the mind boggles.

  39. Bobanda

    I know this is forever old but I will post anyway – not liking cilantro is a genetic thing, I have discovered. I don’t like it either. I also don’t like green pepper or beets (they both just taste like potting soil to me… and I wonder if they are linked to not liking the cilantro! Fascinating…. and really quite random.

  40. Lindsay

    My husband not only think cilantro tastes like soap, he cannot stand the smell of it either. I made a delicious avocado salad today that calls for cilantro and he had to leave the kitchen while I cut it.

    My food dislike is raisisn.I haven’t ever liked them and have never, ever eaten on of the little boxes of raisins they used to serve in elementary school. But I do like prunes. And if you ask me what prunes taste like I will tell you they taste like raisins. I know, I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

  41. Mollie

    I hate (cooked) green peppers too! I’ll eat them raw but cooked, (unless they’re deeply masked by other flavors) is the one food I cannot like… I”m also almost totally cilantro averse (love your name for it by the way) except on these amazing tacos at the place down the street. Just one more reason for me to celebrate your blog–cilantro appears infrequently!

    The fact that guy hates falafel though, just means that island will have more for me. I’d say it’s my favorite food!

  42. Lindsay

    I’m with you on the molecular gastronomy…as a science experiment, it’s interesting, but then I look at the plate and ask myself things like, “I’m going to be hungry five minutes after eating this, right?” or “Does eating what resembles sperm made out of green pea soup make me more of a gourmand than thou?” If I wanted experimental fare, I’d have my boyfriend cook one night.

  43. erin

    as a born-and-raised new mexico girl, i take my beans very seriously, so put me firmly in the anti-canned-beans camp. first, there’s a pricing issue—those cans are a rip off, compared to bulk prices for dried beans. $2.00 for those tiny cans filled with salty, goopy, mushy beans! yuck. second, i find that if you want any flavor in the beans besides salt (and yes, this includes tasting the actual flavor of the beans) there is just no substitute for dried ones, particularly if you can get them fresh. hard beans like chickpeas and black beans do take an extra investment in time / planning, but softer beans (pintos or cannellini) don’t take too much longer. i’ve found the best method to be bringing them to a boil for 10 minutes, then letting them sit covered and off heat for the rest of the hour. then, drain them and pour in fresh water plus whatever spices (smashed whole garlic cloves, oregano, red chili, and just a little bit of bacon is great with pinto beans) and simmer for 30min or so. only salt at the end; otherwise they get tough.

  44. Suzanne

    DANG IT. I found this post because I bought beets today, don’t know what to do with them, don’t know if I like them except shredded finely on a salad or juiced and hidden in fruit juice. I think I bought them because I want to like them. So I searched “beets” on your little search engine and found that my culinary hero hates beets. DANG IT. Side note: cilantro is absolutely vile.

  45. Shoshannah Pollack

    Re 4)….The real reason to soak beans for recipes is to use interesting beans. Look at the varieties available from Rancho Gordo or Zursun or wonderful local varieties like Mortgage Lifters from Dove Creek Bean Company. These beans are beautiful, flavorful, free of metallic notes and the texture is sublime. It takes forethought but no extra active time in the kitchen. You will never go back.

  46. Dafna

    I just read this and know you soak / cook beans now. What else do you think has changed. Maybe that would be a great post – things that have changed since I started my blog

    1. deb

      Lol, I don’t always soak and cook my own beans and I still insist it’s not mandatory. I think for a dish where the bean is the star, i.e. a bean dish, basically, it can be worth it, but not if there are 12 other flavors. I definitely like broccoli rabe and kale now, I’m warming to cilantro (because it tops most of my favorite foods), cheese-covered foods aren’t my favorite but I think they can have their moments, and I now like coconut curries.