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DROP DEAD CULINARY, A COLUMN BY LAURA WILSON

Food trends can fascinate or simply just irritate

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 12:01 am

Every year brings food trends. Some of them I love and am really intrigued by; for example, molecular gastronomy. I dig it. It includes cooking with liquid nitrogen and other scientific ways of processing food. Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen or instantly freezing something to make it shatter, for example, chocolate, is really cool. Look on YouTube for some of the stuff that can be done.

The problem is, it is not for the everyday cook. Where do you train to do it correctly? Where do you get this liquid nitrogen? And it is very, very dangerous. This is the stuff they burn warts off with! You must use special precautions because you don't want it to splash in your eye or burn your hands or face. When I see the chefs use it on “Top Chef” and pour that stuff over their food without goggles I shudder. It's like riding a motorcycle without a helmet.

In Paris, we made chocolate caviar, very neat by the way, by dropping liquid chocolate into algin, gelatinous substance used for thickening, very slowly with an eyedropper, then rinsing it with a liquid called calcic. The result was tiny beads of chocolate that looked like caviar, which were nestled into an eggshell (Yuck, I would change that, although we baked it and so any bacteria was gone) that was put onto a bed of sugar shaken with gold dust. It was quite beautiful and would be a showstopper for a party. So, yes, I am a little obsessed with this molecular gastronomy thing, although I think it could be a fad.

Food trends I would like to disappear – forever

Cupcakes with frosting as high or higher than the cupcake itself

A cupcake was invented as a mini cake that is portable. That is why it is in a little paper liner, so your hands do not get dirty. A cupcake has many wonderful attributes. You can send them in for your kids' parties and everyone gets his own and no one has to have a fork. You can take it to work. You can decorate them all differently and release your inner Cake Boss. But when a cupcake has frosting higher that Marie Antoinette's wigs, you cannot eat that without getting it up your nose and all over your face. You need a fork or your fingers and now a napkin, and maybe wet wipes, to tear it apart and eat it. Can't we just stop making everything supersized and so fattening, messy and gross?

Ramen buns

I was never a Ramen eater. I think I did not like the smell and the packaging concept. But whole legions of college, graduate school students and young newlyweds owe their lives to Ramen noodles, so I feel they hold a good place in Americans' hearts. But a bun for a cheeseburger made out of them? No.

Pretzel buns

Not into pretzel buns, either. Too salty and too tough – they make eating a burger a dentist's nightmare. Leave the pretzel alone.

The Cronut

Who would have thought a small bakery in New York would come up with a patent-pending caloric, artery clogging, horrible tasting, mega-money machine? By only allowing you to purchase two and only making so many – when they are out, they are out – Dominique Asel has created a supply-and-demand equation that any college economics professor would be a fool not to use in lectures.

There are actually scalpers selling them! The foodies I know who have tried them – yes they waited in line forever – thought they were sickening. Just sayin'.

Deep-fried grilled cheese

I am going to barf just thinking about this abomination.

Smoked everything

I like smoked meats. I love smoked turkey, bacon, beef, and pork. Smokehouses have been a wonderful, aromatic and necessary part of curing meat for centuries. But smoked ice cream? Smoked water? You want me to pay for smoked water? Please …

Bottled water

I am so glad that many great chefs are eschewing bottled water – except for carbonated water, which I love – for filtered tap water. The United States has the cleanest water in the world for its residents, so take advantage of it. I used to have a nice pitcher of water and little Dixie cups for my kid's parties instead of bottles. I understand bottled water on the go, although I usually buy it in cans that are 100 percent recyclable, but please, don't fill the landfills with all those bottles. Buy a water purifier or a filtered jug and think of the future. Amen.

Bacon in everything

I love bacon. I mean looooooove it. But keep it out of my ice cream, my cupcakes, my husband's cocktails and chocolate. Well, maybe a little in chocolate is interesting …

Celebrity chefs who are loud and mean

I worship some chefs. I read their autobiographies the way some people read about presidents and other historical figures. Chefs such as Jacques Pepin, James Beard, Julia Childs, Grant Achatz, Marcus Samuelsson — they are real chefs with class and who have worked diligently for their craft. These loudmouth guys on the Food Network with wild hair, or who scream at their contestants, and sickening recipes, are not real. I can't even watch them because I have seen and worked side by side with the geniuses or the chefs who have a special touch that turns mere mortal food into divinity.

Food piled on the plate

It is one thing to artfully construct a plate so it presents well. That makes it pleasing to the eye and therefore part of the experience and heightens the pleasure of the dish. But stop putting my meat on top of my potatoes. I know you think the juices will flow into the potatoes, but what really happens is the blood from the meat flows into the potatoes, and that is just disgusting. If I want to eat the meat with a bite of potatoes, I can do it myself with my fork. I like leaning food on other food, but to pile it on in one huge, fattening mess … I won't eat it and you shouldn't either. We are not pigs, and I don't want my food to look like pig slop.

Gluten-free

Gluten is not an enemy. It is a protein and supplies a good food source to countless people around the world. Carbs are the enemy. Preservatives in store-bought, packaged food is the enemy. For anyone with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease in which gluten causes the body to attack the small intestine, I am your humble servant and I feel bad for you. It is a terrible disease. But this gluten-free thing in the U.S. has gotten crazy. It is now a huge, multimillion-dollar business. Books are sold; packaged food sans gluten is sold but loaded with preservatives; functional medicine doctors, who are not MDs, by the way, are selling millions of dollars' worth of supplements, giving their clients very expensive urine. Remember, your body cannot bank a lot of nutrients, and so out it comes if it cannot be used that day. Gastroenterologists are getting loads of new patients because of the new gluten witch hunt. Yes, I am very, very adamant about this, and not because I am a baker. Do you think people in poor countries or in Europe are worried about gluten? I think it is the new darling of the worried well. Why not just stop eating processed foods and limiting your carb intake? Yes, bread makes your tummy puff up, so cut down on it. When I was in France, the bread basket would arrive, and the skinny women maybe had one piece, not the whole basket like I wanted to! The no white-food diet makes sense if you want to lose weight. Want supplements? Take a Centrum and save yourself hundreds of dollars a month.

Laura Wilson, owner of La Dolce Vita in Roanoke, is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Her column appears every other Tuesday in The News-Sentinel. Have a question for Laura? Submit it to clarson @news-sentinel.com or call 461-8284. We’ll pass on questions to Laura. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.