Saturday, August 25, 2001

What is it about stacking food? Maybe I just eat out too often, but I'm really getting tired of this.

Time was, when you went out to dinner, each portion of your meal had its own dedicated spot on the plate. About 40-45% of the plate was given over to your main course, be it a steak or a piece of chicken or fish, or whatever. The wait-person would place the dish in front of you with this section closest to you. The remainder, on the far side of the dish, was fairly evenly divided between the starchy side dish (your choice of potatoes, rice, or pasta) and the veggie side dish. The items may come close, possibly even touch, but they would not overlap.

Now, some "food designer" in some gourmet magazine someplace has decided that we must be served a mountain of food. The main glue to hold this mountain together is the wildly popular garlic mashed potatoes. Enough garlic mash for a family of six is stacked in the center of the plate. The main dish is jammed into that, good and tight, so it doesn't slide down the mountain during transport from kitchen to table. It doesn't matter if that main dish is red meat, poultry, or seafood; it all gets the same treatment.

The vegetables are arranged neatly around the perimeter of this creation, also jammed into the garlic mash, covering any potato that may have been left visible after the main dish was installed. They then put a single sauce over the whole thing. We don't know if this is gravy for the meat, or the potatoes, or juice from the veggies. It's just the sauce, and it goes with everything. Finally, they sprinkle a few capers over the top. Capers make everything look fancy.

Now, here's my problem; I don't like mashed potatoes, garlic or not. I'm sorry, but I just never have, and probably never will. There are plenty of potatoes I do like, but please, just don't smash them. I'm sure I'm not alone in this. I'm also sure that there are plenty of people who have a thing about not liking their food to touch. Even back in the old days, there'd be folks upset about that border area where the meat and veggies might come into the briefest contact with each other. How are those people coping with the garlic mash mountains?

I'll get over it; don't worry about me. I can take care of myself. I'm always sure to ask for rice instead of potatoes, and if no rice is available I impress upon the wait-person that they can keep their damned garlic mash (but I put it nicer than that). Someday this trend will be over. Someday.

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