Like most parents of our generation my sister is mindful of her daughters’ sugar intake. And like most parents of their generation, our mother and father don’t understand why. This came up recently during a vacation spent at my parents’ place when Niece Number Two was denied cookie number three right before bedtime and my father shook his head with disapproval. “What’s the big deal? You kids never had ‘sugar highs.’” he stated, hating to see his (skinny) granddaughter frowning with disappointment. (Note to grandparents out there: zip it. This kind of conversation will never end well.) Sensing an incoming storm o’ tension I jumped in, reminding our parents that in fact when we were kids we were denied sugar cereals and our cabinets were not filled with junkie sweets. To that my mother retorted that in fact during the summer we had our fill of Count Chocula and there was often a cold box of Yodels in the fridge. Touche. Her point was that because she never demonized certain foods we never obsessed over them. I had to admit she was right and noted the proof was in the fact that none of us have food issues. But perhaps I spoke too soon.
At that moment my father looked down at the bowls of pasta I had prepared for my sister and me and said, “That is the smallest bowl of spaghetti I have ever seen. Where’s the rest of your dinner?” To which I responded, “A serving of pasta is two ounces.” “Two ounces?!” he bellowed. “When I cooked family dinners I used a whole box!” (Now I know why my derriere was twice as big in high school as it is now.) My helpful sister chimed in with, “She uses a scale and weighs it.” You know, just in case my father didn’t think I was already crazy.
But it’s true. I do use a scale and weigh my pasta. Actually, I measure a lot of things. For example, a glass of wine is considered to be six ounces. After years of practice, I knew how much to pour when I sat down to enjoy one glass of wine with my dinner. But recently I bought new wine glasses and I had no idea what six ounces looked like in them. So first I poured the wine into a measuring cup, then I poured it into the glass and then I took out a ruler to see how far up the glass six ounces came. It was 1 ¼ inches. So until I get used to my new pour, I whip out my ruler every night just to confirm I’m drinking the proper amount.
Clearly, I have a bit of a portion control control issue. And really, why? I have plenty of problems but blessedly one of them is not my weight. Then again, maybe all of this diligence is the reason why one of them is not my weight. Then again again, I need to control my savory food and alcohol intake so I have caloric room for dessert, something I will never sacrifice.
All of this got me thinking about food issues in general. What is considered an issue? Does it prevent you from enjoying what you want or does it protect you from what you don’t want? I have the reputation of being a fussy eater which I vehemently deny. And I blame it all on garlic. That is the one and only thing I refuse to eat and ask people to take into consideration. For some reason it makes my friends nuts. Okay, if one clove is cooked down in a huge vat of sauce am I going to throw down my napkin and storm out? No, but if you knowingly serve me Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic then I think you’re just being hostile, even if it is an old-school French classic.
As for my other gastronomical aversions, okay, call them Food Issues if you want, I do realize they can seem a bit much and I really don’t expect anyone else but me to care about them. But I have wondered where they came from. I have tons of friends who hang their body image struggles from their mother’s apron strings. I want to thank my mom right now for never making me think twice about my physical self. She never talked about dieting or her weight or her children’s weight. Meal time wasn’t fraught for anyone and although I was a bored and petulant teenager at the table, it had nothing to do with the food. However, when she was cooking there were certain things in her repertoire that had a lasting impact on my palate, not all of it good. There was the broiled chicken with the creepy little fatty tag adhering to various pieces I’d cut from the bone that turned me off of bone-in chicken. There was the steady diet of steak and potatoes that led me to a life without red meat (except if it’s ground and in a Bolognese sauce). And there was the complete lack of fish which took me years of experimenting with tuna and salmon to fully recover from. Remember, my mom is the one who ordered chicken teriyaki at Nobu. But the good news is that the rest of her brood got over growing up fish-free so much as to eat it raw.
But there is one aversion that I can’t blame on anyone and I have no sense of its genesis. I hate anything made with gelatin. Now you might be thinking, “How often is she presented with a festive Jello mold? Does this aversion really get in her way?” Well yes, there are many times gelatin is used in the pastry kitchen to stabilize fillings and mousses and for that reason I have cut myself off from experiencing a lot of reportedly yummy things for fear that they will be jiggly and creepy. So I set out to see if I could break this odd spell and you know what? It worked! I made a lemon mousse that called for just a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin. The result was a wonderfully light, incredibly lemony and fluffy mousse that didn’t weep, wilt, or pool at the bottom of the bowl. Sweet blueberries and juicy raspberries complemented the tart creaminess of the mousse perfectly and it went over so well when I brought it to a recent al-fresco dinner. One food issue down! Next up, a trip to Peter Luger? Only if I can order fish.
No Food Issues Lemon Mousse
From The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, by John Barricelli 2010
Printer friendly version
2 Tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
6 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 4 lemons (about 4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon sugar (optional)
In a small bowl sprinkle the cold water over the gelatin. Set aside.In a medium saucepan, combine egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and salt and whisk to combine. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Do not boil. Whisk in gelatin.
Strain through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until slightly cooled, 2-3 minutes.
Beat in the butter a little at a time, and continue beating until smooth and completely cooled.
Transfer to a large bowl and let stand until the gelatin just begins to set, about 10 minutes.
Wash and dry the mixer bowl. (Taste the lemon mixture. If it tastes too sour for you, beat the cream with 1 Tablespoon of sugar. If not, proceed.) Add the cream and beat with the whisk attachment until medium peaks form. Fold into the cooled lemon mixture
and refrigerate until very cold and the mousse is set, 2-3 hours.
Yield: 4 servings. Serve with berries, spoon over pound cake, etc.