By Dennis Minich
One of my favorite topics in the whole wide world is food. Looking at me it is not hard to guess I love to eat. Put that up there with sleeping and I would be hard pressed to determine which I like more.
But, not only do I love to eat, but I also enjoy cooking, so I was very happy to have the challenge of preparing the Easter meal for my family this year. It was nothing elegant, just some ham and potato salad, beans, asparagus, rolls, dessert and a few odds and ends. But still it was fun to be the one everyone was counting on for the meal and I think I passed.
But now I face the dilemma which occurs after each and every holiday: what to do with the leftovers. My dad always hated meals after Thanksgiving and Christmas because you knew it would be some variation of turkey.
For me, the Easter leftover ham is even more difficult. With turkey you have options such as sandwiches, pot pie, soup, casserole. With ham you can have sandwiches and that’s about it. I have been scratching my head what else to do with the plethora of pig meat, but up to this point I haven’t had much success. Some foods lend themselves to various meals, others do not.
The classic food is eggs. In last week’s Tribune there was a trivia question about what the 100 points on a chef’s hat represents. I personally didn’t know a chef’s hat had 100 points, but the answer was of course, there are 100 ways to prepare eggs. Knowing that answer was not enough for me, now the challenge was figuring out what the 100 ways to cook an egg might be, so here goes: scrambled, poached, hardboiled, soft-boiled, baked, fried hard, fried soft, custard and I guess 93 other ways.
While thinking about eggs, there is one part of the egg that to the best of my knowledge, no cuisine of any kind uses, the shell. Of course, egg shells are repulsive and the very crunch of one is nauseating, but why has no one ever figured out a way to eat the things. There are equally disgusting foods like bone marrow and beef tongue, but somewhere down the road someone figured out how you could eat them so we do.
Which opens a whole other chain of thought: how did people figure you could eat some things if you did it right? My classic example is gooseberries. There are few things finer than a good gooseberry pie, but the key to a good pie is sugar. Without it, gooseberries are about as tasty as shoe polish. But you put sugar on them and they are a dream. Somewhere in the evolution of food, someone tasted a gooseberry and despite scoffing from friends decided, “You know, if you just put some sugar on these things, they would be pretty good.”
Such would also be the case with some other foods like eggplant, okra and turnips. Nobody ever just picked up one of these things, stuck it in their mouth and said, “Yeah, this could be really good stuff if only we could bread it or fry it.”
It is also true of meats. If you look at pictures of Kansas City barbecue restaurants in the early 20th century, nearly every sign featured: pork, beef, chicken and possum or its Irish cousin, opossum. Somewhere in the ensuing century, smoked opossum fell out of favor with the dining public. I can’t imagine why, unless it was simply too hard to figure out ways to serve leftover opossum.
So, while I have no green eggs, I do have ham. I will eat it for breakfast, I will eat it for lunch. I will eat it for dinner, I will eat a whole bunch. I have no green eggs, but I do have ham. I do have ham, Sam I am.
On a final note, while it seems to be increasingly unpopular, it is still important to wear a mask.