I remember once being interviewed by a chef for a job as a waiter in his restaurant. He wanted to impress on me that his establishment was a serious place for people serious about food.
Oh, please. I write a blog about food, so I think my love of food and cooking is fairly obvious. But I have a hard time taking food seriously. I think we need to laugh at it more. About that, I am serious. (Ironic, no?)
For instance, I laughed at a recent article in the New York Times that described the careful process by which many Tokyo coffee houses make their brew. This includes a careful technique for pouring the water over the grounds.
I use a Melitta filter coffee maker to brew coffee at home. I boil the water and then dump it over the grounds. When I no longer hear the “tinkling” sound I know the coffee is ready. I consider this to be the very height of manual work for my coffee because the Melitta replaced one of those machines that ground the beans and then brewed them at the behest of an electric timer. Do I seem like the type of guy who could ever use a special kettle to boil the water and then stand there pouring said water from said kettle over the grounds just so? No sir! (Or Ma’am.)
Obviously my standards for coffee are lowbrow: I like Dunkin’ Donuts Hazelnut coffee. Apologies. As far as the brewing process is concerned all I ask is that my coffee tastes like coffee and that it not have any grounds at the bottom of the cup. Other than that I’m good, thanks.
Another thing about food that always makes me laugh is when I think back to some of the juvenile delinquents, a/k/a Sous Chefs with whom I worked. Some of these folks spoke like “Dog the Bounty Hunter” while describing that night’s special delicately French-inspired meals. And I was expected to not laugh? Really?
Perhaps the silliest aspect of “foodie-land” is the preciousness of food trends. Back in the nineties it seemed like every chef was stacking things in little ring molds. Nowadays sauce is swiped or painted on the plate, usually a fair distance from the item it is supposed to be accompanying.
I appreciate the commitment, skill, and technique these folks bring to their work. But sometimes I think they are cooking for them and not for me.
Even plain ol’ desserts are not immune. Cupcakes have been huge for a while now. Indeed, little stand-alone joints like Magnolia Bakery or Crumbs have become big chains – I think Crumbs even had an IPO a while back. I’m told you can’t swing a dead cat in Los Angeles without hitting a cupcake store. Saturation, anyone?
Just in time for the growth of the cupcake business comes news that cupcakes are on their way out, and are being pushed aside in favor of pie.
PIE?? Okay, now I know someone is playing me for a laugh. The cupcake thing I totally understand. But pie? Here’s the problem: pie needs a plate and a fork. And ice cream. Even if you make a little pie-for-one, the situation is fraught with danger. You want a laugh? Follow me down the street as I eat a pie. PS: Bring a shovel.
It is interesting to note that while the press says “pie”, the food trucks here in New York are saying, “Whoopie.” As in “Whoopie Pie.”
I love Whoopie Pies, but really, aren’t they are just cupcakes turned inside out? (Or are they cupcakes turned outside in? Ah, no matter.) No complaints from me—they’re yummy—but if we’re really moving on from cupcakes, shouldn’t the departure be a bit more drastic?
So, for the next big street dessert, I hereby nominate an item my Mom used to pack in my lunch box. (For the record, no, I don’t remember what was on the outside of my lunch box. Even if I did I wouldn’t reveal it here for fear of pinpointing my age. Let’s just say it was…um…Justin Bieber.)
The item my Mom used to pack in my lunch box was called a “Scooter Pie.” Scooter Pies were called Moon Pies in other parts of the US, Wagon Wheels in Canada and the UK. A close relative of the Mallowmar, Scooter Pies were a chocolate-covered sandwich of two crunchy cookies with marshmallow in the middle.
Granted, I’m sure you can still find the old fashioned crinkly cellophane-wrapped kind if you look hard enough. But my proposal for making these the next big street food is that they should be taken out of the realm of “Hostess” and into the realm of the artisanal or house made.
This is a task made fairly easy by the fact that the packaged Scooter Pies of my childhood lacked three things: freshness, good chocolate, and a certain delicacy.
I’ll admit this was a bit of a project. After all, I needed to make the marshmallow, the cookies, and then assemble the pies and dip them in the chocolate. But be warned: if you invite me to a Barbecue or picnic this coming summer I will show up with these. A bit of work and time, but the result is so worth it.
For the cookies I borrowed a page from an old “alfajores” recipe, the South American sandwich cookie. It is a very plain, almost dusty, vanilla cookie—actually closer to a sweet cracker. (This cookie recipe would also be great for animal crackers.)
Marshmallow? Make your own once and you’ll never look at a “Campfire” bag the same way again. Homemade has a much more delicate flavor, along with the potential for adding flavors beyond just vanilla.
As for delicacy, you can see from the picture that I only dipped my Scooter Pies in the chocolate half way. I had three reasons for this: the pies would be less cloyingly sweet, I wanted to show off my beautiful, flabby marshmallow, and I had less chance of making a holy mess when I ate my Scooter Pie.
So, what do you think? Have we found the next cupcake?
Please say yes. Or get the shovels ready.
Click here for the recipe for Scooter Pies.
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