Z’s Unfood

Ten days or so ago,  Tim wrote a post about unfoods – that is, foods that he doesn’t hate but which seem pointless to him.  My unfoods wouldn’t be the same as his at all – for example, when Russell kindly made me a chicken sandwich the other day and put in ordinary salt, it was disappointing because the day before, when I’d made one (the Aga is off, can’t be bothered with a lot of cooking, though I must say it was for a snack lunch, not a proper meal), I put in Maldon salt.  The texture makes a lot of difference, though I can’t say that I’d know the difference in flavour if different salts were used in a hot dish.  Anyway, it’s been a point to ponder for a while (it’s been the silly season, time to let my mind drift) and I’ve realised what my main unfood is.

Boiled potatoes.  What on earth is the attraction?  Potatoes are fine in most ways, but only as a receptor for other flavours and textures.  New potatoes have flavour, albeit delicate and that’s the only time I ever boil (or steam in the Aga) them.  But maincrop spuds, especially once you reach the time of year when they need to be peeled, have nothing to recommend them.

Roast or fried, mashed, baked, either in their skins or sliced with other ingredients – almost any way they’re cooked you can’t go far wrong, as long as you don’t put them in the food processor in the mistaken impression you’re mashing them because it doesn’t work.  Oh, and I’m not too keen on the over-smooth potato purée that some restaurants make because – well, I don’t really like over-smooth.

There is another downside to the potato and that is that it’s one of the few vegetables that is not delicious raw.  I love raw vegetables and one of the main pleasures of having been the cook of the family for the last forty years is that I can always prepare a bit too much because I’ll always eat bits while they’re waiting to be cooked.  I know the pundits have a bit of a down on completely raw veg nowadays because you get more of the goodness if they’re cooked (it’s a matter of breaking down the cellulose, which also makes them digestible), but I like the texture as well as the fresh taste, as long as I’m not faced with a dully worthy plateful.  I’m trying to think of other vegetables that can’t be eaten raw and nothing comes to mind at the moment, though I’ve never tried aubergine and I daresay there are things I wouldn’t bother to.

But boiled potatoes.  What for?  I’d as soon eat plain boiled vegetable marrow.

16 comments on “Z’s Unfood

  1. Z Post author

    Not in a salad, but when I’m preparing them for cooking, yes I have. And I agree with you about carrots, far more delicious raw.

    I’m trying to be controversial, you note, and give people something to disagree with – but not be upset by!

  2. kipper

    Aga is, as I understand it, a very sturdy cast iron and enameled stove/oven used in the UK. You can buy them here in the States too. They have superb heat and have a warming oven. Is that a correct definition Z etc?
    Eggplant/aubergine. Any vegetable that still tastes awful even after roasting is an unfood. Oh and beef liver. Mom tried to cook it many ways including bbq and cooking it with bacon and onions. She didn’t succed. We’d eat the bacon and onions and leave the liver.

  3. Mike and Ann

    Ah – controversy ? I see. Well, in that case ….. I LOVE potatoes, however they’re cooked; boiled, roast, baked, dauphinoise (not sure of the spelling of that one. But my favourite way is fried, or (even better) in a well balanced bubble and squeak.

  4. tim

    Hmm. I’m definitely with Mike re the dauphinois, even to the extent of checking the spelling (according to St Delia). In fact, the technique could interestingly be applied to sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, and even, dare I say, marrows. But not courgettes: I backed off on that one.

  5. Z Post author

    The cook Prue Leith has a complete down on garnishes that aren’t relevant to the food and I think she’s right. Pointless bits of salad that you’re not supposed to eat come in the same category. Kipper has it right with an Aga. Normally, it’s on all the time but it’s been too hot and I have to cook on a little table-top cooker with a small oven and two electric rings.

    You love raw spuds? Oh. Maybe I’d better try again, I’ve always thought they were horrid!

    I can’t think anyone’s favourite way of eating potatoes is plain boiled, Mike.

  6. Z Post author

    It’s a corruption of girasole because the flowers turn to the sun, isn’t it? Or is that an old wives’ tale. I’d better look it up!

  7. LZM

    Summer squashes would be one of my few unfoods; watery and tasteless. And I can remember enjoying someone’s eggplant preparation only once in my life.
    I can enjoy plain boiled potatoes with just a bit of butter, salt and pepper. I also remember loving to eat them raw as a treat when I was a child.
    I always welcome parsley, not only as a garnish but also as a breath freshener at the end of a garlicy or oniony meal.

  8. janerowena

    I love the odd sprig of fresh parsley. The only way I can eat maincrop boiled potatoes is with mayonnaise. Stringy elderly runner beans would be my unfood. There are several elderly people in my village who grow tons of them and eat them almost every day. I can only cope with them if cooked with a little onion and bacon.

  9. Z Post author

    I like parsley too, but I like the stalks best, not the leaves, so a garnish isn’t really my thing. I like eggplants but they absorb all the oil you pour on them which I can’t take, so I’m best cooking them myself.

    An unfood should be meh rather than ugh, and surely stringy runner beans are never ok? I love runner beans, if young, and eat them by the plateful. I could make a meal of runner beans, though I’m a bit fussy how they’re sliced.

  10. Mike and Ann

    I don’t think I’d like raw potatoes. I do say I like potatoes however they’re COOKED. I think new potatoes (perhaps depending on the breed) are delicious boiled with a little salt, pepper, and a sprig of garden mint. Perhaps not year old, plain mashed potatoes though – can be rather boring.


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