Looking Through A Glas Onion

The Existential Baker

The misunderstood onion is the multiple personality disorder victim of the culinary universe. Is it yellow, red, or white? Spanish, pearl, or cocktail? One minute a flavor enhancer and then quickly a breath altering son of a bitch. Sometimes a taste bud joy bringer and oft times a tear jerker this mood changing bulbous veggie staple is a well known in kitchens throughout the world. People are often compared to these versatile ever popular  alliums. “He is a complicated Person, with as many layers as an onion.” Indeed concentric in nature the royal onion is as complicated as a vegetable can be. “An onion a day keeps everyone away” That man was so ugly he could make an onion cry.” “ A cat has nine lives but an onion has seven skins.“ “An onion by any other name will never be a rose.” Okay, I made that last one up…

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Looking Through A Glass Onion

The misunderstood onion is the multiple personality disorder victim of the culinary universe. Is it yellow, red, or white? Spanish, pearl, or cocktail? One minute a flavor enhancer and then quickly a breath altering son of a bitch. Sometimes a taste bud joy bringer and oft times a tear jerker this mood changing bulbous veggie staple is a well known in kitchens throughout the world. People are often compared to these versatile ever popular  alliums. “He is a complicated Person, with as many layers as an onion.” Indeed concentric in nature the royal onion is as complicated as a vegetable can be. “An onion a day keeps everyone away” That man was so ugly he could make an onion cry.” “ A cat has nine lives but an onion has seven skins.“ “An onion by any other name will never be a rose.” Okay, I made that last one up but you dig what I‘m saying.

         Ranging in size from tiny pearls to giant softballs the onion can in fact be peeled one layer after another. A staple in nearly every culture despite having an essence so peculiarly strong and venomous it rivals the skunks ability to cause one to pinch their nose shut tight. It can turn ones breath into a date breaking whiff of “please don’t call me ever again.”  Alfalfa was turned away by Darla on occasions when he had recently indulged in scallion chewing. It has a unique ability to coax salty droplets of liquid from our tear ducts which are normally saved for more emotional occurrences.  Only the slightest provocation of cutlery piercing its flesh brings teardrops scampering down our cheeks in a sometimes uncontrollable frenzy. This audacious vegetable permeates our olfactory senses in an all out assault that challenges the garlic’s long standing reign as king of tasty but offensive vegetables.

       The reason these bulbous alliums make tears come to our eyes is because of a chemical reaction that is much too scientific for me to memorize.  Suffice to say the onion contains amino acids in the sulfur family that gets released into the air. These guilty gasses travel up into the air and rub their irritants into our eyeballs prompting the tear ducts to come to our aid and flush out the acrid acid with a tear or two. I have heard many methods that “really work”. Keeping your mouth open will indeed work for a while because you will inhale the noxious fumes into your lungs via your oral cavity, but eventually so much gas will enter the atmosphere you will still tear up and have onion breath on top of it. Other methods such as running water, cutting near a flame or on the back burner of a stove produce even less successful results. Keeping something in your mouth is the same principle of an open mouth but for the less disciplined of us. The only real advice I have on this is to keep the onion as cold as possible or keep a small fan blowing away the fumes as you slice, dice, mince, or chop.

       Once past the tear inducing cut up stage the onion performs its intended task, the enhancement of flavor to almost any dish. In Cajun cuisine they call the onion and its often present partners peppers and celery the Holy Trinity of cooking.  It is the basis of nearly every soup an stew in the world, it adds umpf to pilaf, zing to zucchini and pop to popcorn shrimp. Its in sauces and sides, dressings and dinner entrees, salads. In appetizers and entrees, starches and sides, veggies and meat combos. Fried in rings or just  bloomin it makes solo appearances and it even has a starring role in cocktails. Yes the onion has a many faceted personality and it brings tremendous flavor enhancement to just about any dish. With a presence so pronounced in the culinary world you may think it deserves a birthday celebration all its own. Only problem is, we have no idea exactly when that would be.

       Some botanists say it was born in Iran and Pakistan, others argue it is originally from Central America, but the omnipotent onion seems to have been around forever.  Many anthropologists believe it was used by our cave dwelling ancestors, so a birthday would be next to impossible. They have seen evidence of onions in ancient Egypt where they believed it potent aroma could bring the dead back to life. Perhaps until the first unfortunates soul tried shredding the much more aggressive horseradish which may very well have the ability to awaken the non living. The onion made its way into Bible passages as well. The book of Numbers has the Israelite children lamenting of a diet filled with leeks and onions as they traveled the desert. The Romans, Greeks, and Indians all recognized the healing power of the vitamin rich veggie. The Olympians of ancient Greece fortified themselves with onions before their grueling events. Even the Middle Ages showered glory on these globes of culinary prominence. The three main foodstuffs of that era were cabbage, beans, and onions. Sounds more like weapons of mass stinkation. The magnificent onion was believed to have incredible medicinal properties curing everything from mouth sores to insomnia. I can only assume the happy sleeper was in bed alone! These special kitchen necessities were even taken on board the Mayflower, adding a special flavor enjoyment to the first Thanksgiving. It was one of the very first botanical treasures planted by the pilgrims on American soil.

       Yet with all of this, still no mention of a birthday celebration for the used and abused reigning king of culinary staple foods. This then has become my New Years resolution for 2013. I will do everything in my power to raise awareness of the injustice we have bestowed upon this essential aid in recipes around the world So I am asking you to join me in wishing the fabulous culinary workhorse, this noxious bulb, this fortune bringing, tear coaxing stench maker of the vegetable kingdom a very happy birthday the very second after the ball drops in NYC. Don’t cry for me Argentina, just slice me a few of those birthday onions to have with my champagne. Happy Birthday you many layered edible gem you……PEACE

Zen and the Art of Cupcake Making

Image       I’m just a man who makes cupcakes. That’s my job, it’s what I do. Everyday I set out on a quest to achieve cupcake Nirvana. I begin my quest by assembling an assortment of biodegradable food products in an attempt to get them to form an allegiance with a single goal in mind. To reach out and grab your taste buds  by the hand, take them out to the dance floor and have them spinning and tapping into a deliciously satisfying frenzy of a Tango that leaves you with a blissful smile and lasting memory. No small undertaking is this.  I enter into this task every day with enthusiasm and optimistic energy .It’s  a responsibility we take very serious at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes. Each and every day we combine a variety of foods that if left on their own would be relatively insignificant and transform them into  1,000+  taste bud pleasing treats. Thats over 1,000 blissful smiles produced daily. We make vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, lemon, coconut, and peanut butter cupcakes. We take flours and flavors and mix them with other organic foods like eggs and milk, and lay them carefully in a bed of paper inside a special cupcake pan. We subject these mixtures to extreme heat for the perfect amount of clicks of the clock and they rise to the occasion.  Exposing them for the proper time is like getting the perfect tan at the beach but avoiding a painful sunburn. Once the cupcake has achieved its full and even body tan we cool them down and give them a rest. Fully cooled the time has arrived for them to be injected with another flavor concoction designed to unite with the chosen cake and create an even more complex structure of flavors.  It might be a mousse or custard, a jam or jelly, or any number of creative and innovative treats. One cupcake actually gets a hand chopped portion of apple pie, crust and all. But we’re not finished yet, as if that weren’t enough we then top it off with something sweet that compliments the final product. “Your hair looks great today cupcake, and you haven’t changed a bit since the good old mixing bowl days.” “Thanks for the compliment icing, now lets go take some taste buds on the dance floor and cut the rug!” At this point the cupcake has become a tower of deliciously harmonized flavors clamoring to complete the task of brining your taste buds into perfect balance with the universe.  That’s what this unassuming cupcake maker does. I create astral symmetry using every ounce of culinary training I’ve experienced. I’m The Cupcake Dude and The Cupcake Dude balances the universe by making pleasurable sweet treats. I make cupcakes.

      But The Cupcake Dude is just a name and making cupcakes is job, it describes what I do. It doesn’t define me. It does give me a few titles though. I’m a chef, a baker, a business owner. I’m also a hippie, a rock and roller, a writer, a culinary poet and an existentialist. We go to great lengths to try and identify categories to stick each other in. The butcher the baker the candlestick maker. It’s what we’ve been taught since we were young and it just gets more complicated as we age. In school we were nerds, jocks, hippies, greasers, stoners, or just plain losers. In the workplace we were grunts, stockers, sweepers, laborers, supervisors, managers or bosses. That wasn’t enough so we created sub-categories and we get downright obnoxious at times. She’s a slut and he’s a ladies man. He’s an aggressive go getter and she’s a bitch.  Pretty one sided for a double standard.  We try to compartmentalize each other based on opinions or beliefs. Are you a liberal or a conservative? God fearing or Atheist? Winner or loser? Rich or poor? Gay or Straight? Male or Female? Every one of those categories have one common denominator. They can all fit into the category of human being. All too often we work so hard to find our differences we forget how similar we are.  We focus so much energy on what sets us apart  that we  forget how alike we are. For some people its an attempt to somehow make themselves feel superior. That seems rather insecure to me. In reality we are living breathing snowflakes. Not any one of us is an exact duplicate of any other living snowflake. We all have special points that make us unique and beautiful. When snowflakes co-operate and band together they create beautiful landscapes, blankets of slick snow banks that thrill many a skier, or even a powerful storm, but when they fight each other they melt and become droplets of water destined to become lost in a river or sea. Snowflakes are innately beautiful in part because a snowflake by nature is an existentialist. Without question or complaint they are constantly working together and helping each other out with total disregard of compensation. We could learn so much if we paid more attention to all the other snowflakes. I believe  if I could learn how to make cupcakes as incredible as snowflakes I could be a cupcake deity. But then I would be put into another category and we sure do have enough of those.

       The Cupcake Dude is just a name, it’s what I do. But now, as soon as the first person reads this, I will be transformed into an existentialist philosophical cupcake making hippie hipster business owning blogger. How many of us are out there?…Never underestimate the power of a cupcake. Peace

The Rise and Fall of the Tomato

The Rise and Fall of the Carrot

It seems like mere weeks ago we were admiring the fragrant aromas of Spring and all its soft fruity wafts of freshness. Spring was in the air but spring has sprung. Spring has left the building and autumn is in the elevator heading up to the top floor. So now its time to channel the bounty of harvests that autumn yields so regal and powerful. The great pumpkin ready for its Autumn makeover on front stoops, pumpkin pies, and various bread and cake delicacies. In America the starring role of fall treats go to the apples, big or small, crisp or mealy, green or red. Supported by a cast of pears, apricots, and pomegranates, as well as soft and luscious figs, cranberries, and clementines, fall fruits and some veggie faves like carrot and sweet potato many will be making their appearance in loads of recipes. All these marvelous tasty denizens of nature will take center stage on menus everywhere. Of course this ensemble cast of organic delights will be appearing here at Jarets over the next few months in many forms as well.
There is one fruit however that will not make its debut here anytime soon. Left out of both the spring and fall categories of sumptuous fruit is the tomato. That’s right, the confused red headed step son of the fruit family will not be found in a cupcake. Now I admit I am not well versed in botanical history but it seems to me that the tomato is somewhat of an outcast. What dastardly evil deed must the tomato have committed against the vegetable brethren to have it excommunicated and forced to live out its existence living within the fruit family. What heinous crime has the ever popular tomato committed to be sentenced to a life of exile from its rightful place in the vegetable kingdom? Could it be the culprit that made mini cabbages sprout in Brussels? Did the tomato cause the beet to see red, or turn the chards so bitter? What could this star of pizza and pasta possibly have done?
Whatever its infraction it does have a lesser known partner in the crime family of fruits, the green bean. Also techniquely a fruit the green bean seems to get way less notoriety as a mislabeled food. Perhaps its after being force fed this fruit disguised as a vegetable in its most rudimentary pabulum stage when we were Gerber babies leaves us unenthusiastic to its state of being. Perhaps it just flies under the radar or maybe its skinny self has left us a bad taste in our mouths. No matter, neither fruit will ever be found in its rightful place in supermarket produce sections, they will be left to sit amongst veggies and live out their lives ostracized by their fellow fruits who, rightly so, feel betrayed.
But back to the popular hamburger and sandwich accompaniment, our tomato. Let face it, we all treat it as if it is a vegetable. Yet despite being used exclusively in vegetable preparations by culinaryians the scientific community refuses to acknowledge its status as anything other than a savory fruit. Try as it may our androgynous treat looks, tastes, even feels like a vegetable. But alas poor beefsteak, though Horatio knew you well you remain a fruit. Never part of any ensemble cast of fruit flavored candy treats of chewing gums. Never a mention in the jelly bean world. No tomato flavored cough syrup. But that’s like comparing apples to green beans, and that information ain’t worth a hill of oranges.
While I am not usually one to jump on any kind of bandwagons I am ashamed to admit that I too have disregarded its natural born status and used the tomato as nothing other than a lost soul of a vegetable trapped in a fruits body and it will never appear in a cupcake. Did I say never? Here at Jarets Stuffed Cupcakes we never say never!
All things considered the tomato has risen above the pomp and circumstance and taken its place as an edible chameleon and keeps its true identity discrete. Besides, there is one thing the misunderstood vegetablesque fruit can boast amongst those who are aware of its authentic beginnings. It is the center piece of a very wise proverb. Knowledge is understanding that a tomato is actually a fruit and not a vegetable, but wisdom is knowing that the tomato does not belong in your fruit salad. PEACE