Searching for Tony Bourdain

Foie gras taste on a Big Mac budget

halfway there

I love to eat out, but I love cooking more. And since I don’t spend as much time cooking as I should due to lack of space (more on that in a second), I either eat frozen or eat fast food. Which isn’t the best way to eat well, but it’s easy.

My apartment is a dinky little efficiency (roughly the size of a phone booth with a kitchen about the size of a shoebox) a half-block from where I work.  I’m on my feet for at least eight hours a day, sometimes more, and while what I do isn’t inherently stressful, it creates a lot of stress for me, on physical and emotional levels. Retail has the ability to do that, even to an even-tempered, well-educated person. When I have the rare opportunity to have time, energy, and desire to actually cook or at least assemble something, I want it to be good.

Mexican food ranks at the top of the list for cuisines I enjoy, both cooking and eating out. With spring arriving (except for here in Fargo, which has three fresh inches of snow on the ground), lighter fare sounds excellent these days. So, while scanning the shelves and cases at my local grocery store this morning (not Walmart–never buy produce there), I saw something I suddenly craved. It reminded me of my time in California.

Fish. To be specific, tilapia fillets that would fit inside a taco-sized flour tortilla.  Tilapia was once a bait fish for deep-water tuna, but because of overfishing and skyrocketing costs of basically everything, Tilapia’s become huge. It’s everywhere. This mild, almost sweet, whitefish works with just about anything.

Now, full disclosure, this fish was not in the fishmonger’s case.  It was in a vacuum-sealed bag, pre-breaded and fully cooked, with Sea-Pak’s label on it.  But what the hell, I wanted fish tacos, so I picked up a container of cole slaw and a lime. I had sour cream at home.

I baked the fish, put the slaw on it, spread some of the cream on the tortilla, drizzled the lime juice, folded, and took a bite.  It was perfect. Subtle, sweet, a little spicy, and tasted like home-made.

Now, I’m not gonna go into a Sandra Lee-inspired rant about how home-cooked meals don’t have to be labor-intensive, blah blah blah. If I had the time, the space, and the resources, I would’ve fried the fish myself, made the slaw, used creme fraiche instead of sour cream (and maybe even laced it with the lime juice), and even pressed the tortillas by hand. But that would’ve taken hours.

Only one thing would have made this meal complete.  And it was in the bottom of my fridge: Beer. To be specific, Bell Brewery’s summer wheat beer (and my personal favorite), Oberon. This beer has its own holiday in Michigan.

What’s the point of all my ranting here? Eat out less, stay in and cook (or assemble) more. Yeah, you may not have anybody to eat with. Invite people over. Or you want an experience. Find a creative recipe, find everything you need to make it, and follow the instructions. Esquire Magazine and Men’s Health Magazine regularly publish articles on where you can get awesome food, to eat out and cook at home.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on cooking or eating in restaurants. My palate is very juvenile in ways (I still hate broccoli), I lack the tools and the know-how to stir a sauce to keep it from breaking (I’ve ruined several hollandaises), and I’ll never understand some food fads (sliders belong at White Castle, not on bar menus). But I know what tastes good to me, damn it. Figure out what tastes good to you, and don’t ever stop enjoying it.

-Adam (@findyourownroad)

Fargo

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