Why is it Bland if it Doesn’t Burn?

I enjoy cooking when I’m not under some deadline, have insufficient ingredients for the meal I want to make (and so must use brain cells to be creative), or when it’s just for myself.  I think it’s one of my love languages, to cook something tasty for someone I love.  It’s a huge blessing when they like it, and compliment it.

So, as I have been reading the hashtag about how white cooks serve only bland food, I admit I giggled first (thinking of all the bland cooks I know), and then I got a bit riled.

It was funny at first, because I have met some wives who married men who won’t eat anything but the blandest of foods.  So that’s what they’ve been forced to prepare and serve.  I also remember when there weren’t so many options for frozen meals that were tasty or affordable.  You usually went to a restaurant or cafe to eat when you didn’t eat at home.  Or you could order take out (pizza, asian food, etc).  So there were a lot of lazy cooks or inexperienced cooks who didn’t use more than vinegar, sugar, butter, salt and pepper for their flavorings.  When things got tight, the butter and sugar might not be so freely used.  So, sometimes it was economy that made the difference.

What riled me is when so many of the comments under that hashtag talked about how only Caucasian cooks would have such flavorless food, and I saw a lot of references to “adding some heat” to improve the food that was served.  How does making your mouth burn turn into adding flavor?

I am very plainly a “foodie” and my size shows it.  I have a spice cabinet that made my sister’s eyes pop when she saw it, and my friend laugh as they unpacked it for me during a move a few years ago.  I believe in seasoning food to add flavor and am not shy about using paprika, lavender, garlic or even cumin to different foods to see what it does to make the natural flavors pop.  At no time does anyone need to gasp and grab a glass of water to make me smile and think I’ve delivered a good dish to serve.  I want them to really taste their food, and the seasonings or spices that I add.  If I used too much, I like to hear that, too.  I’ll go easier next time, and nudge the recipe back a bit.

But my ire changed to giggles as I remembered what my foster father taught us so many years ago.  He was a life long history student, and had a passion for the arcane facts of each social group he could find information about.  When we kids happened to ask, “why do hot climates serve hot spicy food?”  He was forced to wait (by Mom) until after dinner to tell us.

While she removed the debris of dinner, he explained with a grin, “It’s because in the hot climates, meat spoils faster.  So they use spice to both hide the flavor of spoiled meat, and to make it more possible to eat without getting severely ill.  The English began using a lot of curry when they were in India for just that reason.  There’s a letter between English officers in a book upstairs where they were telling each other to have the cooks learn from the natives how to use it for the meat that would spoil when it was shipped from England if it wasn’t salted or in a brine.”

So- I had to laugh at the thought that those who complain about people who allow the flavor of meat to be lightly seasoned so only the meat flavors are savored, are generally touting the cooking habits of those who had to serve spoiled meats.

Well – I’m glad that they can enjoy it.  I’m also going to take a pass on that food – with a private grin.

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