Kitchen Confusion

The kitchen and the world of food is one crazy maze that is often difficult to navigate. Whether you are ordering something at your favorite restaurant or cooking up something tasty at home, one little error on your part can lead to disastrous results. Unfortunately there are way too many complex culinary devices and confusing terms, so disaster is often times difficult to avoid. Here are some of the biggest causes for kitchen confusion:

* Same Name, Different Food: Why do so many foods have names that are so freaking similar or even the same??? Look at chocolate truffles, and those mushroom-like truffles often added to expensive pasta dishes.  If I order a box of “truffles” to give to my wife for Valentines, I bet she would be a little weirded-out if she received a bunch of overpriced fungus. And then there is tuna. While canned tuna, can sill make a simple and delicious meal; it is COMPLETELY different from the tuna you expect to be served in some quality sushi. Yet we often just use the term “tuna” with no further descriptions and hope for  the appropriate fish to be used.

Backing powder and backing soda...right next to each other on the shelf. Choose wisely, the wrong one can lead to complete disaster (or at least some crappy cake).

* Similar Product, Completely Different Use: Then there are items which are SO SIMILAR, yet can lead to a giant mess if not used correctly. I STILL have no idea what the difference is between “baking powder” and “baking soda”, and why there has been a box of one of these in the back of our fridge for several years. Parsley seems like such a simple herb. BUT NO… adding curly-leaf parsley to some garlic bread is not a good idea. Curly-leaf should be used for presentation alone, and not for eating. Why do grocery stores even sell the damn stuff? And then why do they put it RIGHT next to the tasty flat-leaf variety that is intended for consumption? The Fed Up household in particular battles with “snap peas” and “snow peas.” I know Mrs. Fed Up loves one of these and hates the other. I can never remember which one, so I just end up buying both and then seeing if our dog will ever become a vegetarian by giving him whatever is left.

Is this a "yam" or a "sweet potato?" Do you know? Does ANYONE really know?...probably not.
Either way it one ugly vegetable.

*One Food, Multiple Names: Of course there are also items that get multiple names or are simply mislabeled. In the grocery store the term “yam” and “sweet potato” are constantly used to refer to the same brown root. These are actually two vastly different vegetables, but the carelessness of the US grocery industry has simply decided to ignore this fact. So the ugly looking root we see in our local stores is commonly called by both terms, and I don’t think ANYONE knows which term is the correct one. All items that have multiple names that all refer to the same thing piss me off. Eggplant and aubergine, prawn and shrimp, cukes and cucumber. The list goes on. Why can’t we just decide upon one term and stick with it. I am just too damn lazy and so I really don’t want to expand my vocabulary any further.

*Confusing Man-Made Creations: Then there is just random stuff made up by humans. Ok I know what a turduckhen is (a beautiful dish comprised of a turkey that is stuffed with a duck, which is stuffed with a chicken) because I live in the America’s Deep South where the delicacy was born. But WHAT THE HELL IS BALONEY? And is “Velveeta” actually a cheese? And how can “Cookie Crisp” be a legitimate breakfast cereal?

The wall of olive oil at your local grocery store is unnecessarily complicated. You better have taken a college-level course on olive oils in order to understand all the crazy variables involved in this purchase decision.

*Too Many Options, Result In Too Many Wrong Choices: TOO MANY TIMES, there are complex decisions needed to be made when buying relatively simple ingredients. The other day I wanted to cook some salmon for dinner. I thought I could quickly run in the store and grab some fish and be home in no-time…NOPE. First the guy at the seafood counter wanted to know if I wanted King Salmon or Sockeye. After just taking a chance and saying “King,” I was then bombarded with  bunch of other questions that I had no answer to: Do you want Atlantic? Pacific? Farm-rasied? What about a fillet cut or a steak cut? Would you like the skin on or off? ALL I WANTED WAS SOME FISH. Instead I got a confusing exam which overwhelmed me. I ended up just buying some chicken. Multiple, confusing options are not limited to seafood…purchasing basic olive oil involves far more thinking than I prefer. Do you want to buy some cheap stuff in a plastic bottle, or some stuff in an elaborate glass bottle that has been harvested from Mediterranean olives that were fertilized by organic goat poop? Do you want an moralistically-proper batch of “extra virgin” oil, or will you accept some regular old virgin oil, or are you cool with everything and will happily settle for some slutty stuff? Do you want your olive oil “cold-pressed (What the does that mean?). ” And all this is just assuming you want olive oil…don’t even consider looking at all the other oil possibilities like sesame, pumpkin, grapeseed…those involve their own set of  college degrees in order to decipher what you should buy.

*Termanology That Just Does Not Make Sense: Random  termaeliogy confuses the Hell out of me. For example, When does a shrimp get to be called “jumbo?” But I can look at a shrimp and decide if it is large enough for me. Confusion is  especially likely to occur when purchasing cuts of meat. Do “baby-back-ribs” come from baby animals? And no, a rib-eye is not the same as a rack of ribs. Pork tenderloins come from the back of a pig, but turkey tenderloins come from the bird’s breast…right? And “Canadian bacon” still disappoints me, IT IS NOT BACON, and tastes nowhere as good as REAL bacon.

This is the kind of crap that lures us away from the safety found from a simple apple. Just because it looks like it is from Mars, does not mean it is going to be tasty and worth $40.00/lb.

*The Fresh Produce Section Is A Battlefield: Walking through the produce section of any grocery store is like walking through a minefield sometimes. Nowadays rare fruits from around the world can be found sitting next to humble apples. You sometimes get side tracked by the exotic looking melons, which lead you to maxing out your credit card so that you can bring one of them home… only to realize they taste like crap. It is so easy to get distracted by all the random tropical stuff when all you really need is a damn apple. Assuming you get past all the crazy fruits and make it to the apple section in one piece, then there are THOUSANDS of varieties to choose from. If you make the wrong decision you get a tart apple when you were craving something sweet. Plus, how do you tell if it is a good apple? Do you sniff it? Do you tap it with your hand and listen for a particular sound? Do you drop on the floor and see if it bounces? And then of course you are racing the people next to you, to make sure you get the best apples out of the bin before they do. This same delmia is consistent with pretty much every piece of fruit or vegetable out there. Maybe that is why so many Americans avoid fresh produce altogether and instead opt for french fries and strawberry milkshakes as their source of nutrients.

*Cooking Complexity: Assuming you get home with a full load of groceries, just determining HOW to make the food is a complicated process. Do you bake? Broil? Bar-be-que? I gave up thinking about it, and now just rely on throwing food in my trusty toaster-oven and hope for the best. Then there is the craziness involved with all the various forms of measurement. You can’t just use any-old tablespoon or cup to measure out the appropriate amount called for in a recipe. YOU have to use SPECIFIC tablespoons and cups. And then there are ounces and pounds and quarts and liters. What unit of measurement is supposed to be used with each food is sure to leave you dumbfounded at one point. And don’t even try to figure out how to convert a tablespoon to an ounce or a liter to a pound (is that even possible?)

Food is tasty, but sometimes it is too damn complicated. I think I will let Mrs. Fed Up do all the groceries and cooking for a little while.

If you see Rice Kirspies "Treats" next to doggie "treats" on a grocery store shelf, then it is clear that the food industry is just trying to confuse us now.

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Categories: Rants

Author:Mr. Fed Up

A guy looking for good grub. and YES....I have a website...and I am not going to bore you with one of those personal journal type of blogs. I promise. Check it out; www.FedUpFood.com

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37 Comments on “Kitchen Confusion”

  1. May 1, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I have different terms for Tuna. One is ‘Real Tuna’. The other is, ‘That Grey Stuff in a Can They Call Tuna’.

    • May 1, 2012 at 11:40 am #

      Ha. I hope one day that society as a whole can evolve and accept your new name for canned tuna…..although it may not be an appropriate sub for fresh tuna, canned tuna is pretty tasty in a sandwich with some melted cheese.

      • May 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

        I admit I like the canned stuff in appropriate venues. But I have trouble thinking of it as ‘tuna’.

      • May 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

        Your are right. It is VERY difficult to think of it as ‘tuna,’ especially after having some beautiful rare cuts of tuna served the night before on some sushi.

  2. May 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Canned cheese has me baffled. Why would you NOT eat the real thing??? Some of the fruits and veggies in the produce area are a complete mystery to me too. Loving your post – Happy May Day!

    • May 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      CANNED CHEESE! I completely forgot about that stuff. Now that is some screwed up food. haha.

  3. May 1, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Glad you did your rant on all these food items. It really is frustrating to feel like you need to research your oils, etc. before you buy. I’ve also been sucked into the trap of purchasing a crappy-tasting melon. Papaya doesn’t even smell good 😦

    • May 1, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      I really do try to branch out and buy unique ingredients, but so often I am left with an empty wallet and empty stomach. I was so excited to try starfruit…then I tasted it and was shocked at how such a cool looking tropical fruit could taste to bland.

      I have had good papaya (but only while in other countries-ex; Indonesia). One way to make it better is throw some lime juice on it.

      • May 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

        We lived in Miami for a while where the locals swore how sabroso y delicioso it was. It was not. Maybe they had it with lime 😉

  4. May 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I just almost literally laughed out loud several times reading your rant (while I’m supposed to be working). Wild caught Sockeye salmon is the best salmon I’ve ever had (I usually get it in filets with the skin on). The tuna you get on Sushi is the same substance that goes into cans, but the canned stuff is just cooked to death and the pink tuna is grey when cooked. Your tip on the Velveeta should be the fact the package says “cheese food” on the front which really means “yeah this LOOKS like cheese but we just want to mess with your head”. I get sidetracked in the produce area often too. I bought some kumquats a while back (heard of them before but never tried them) and they were pretty disgusting. I even had to google how to eat them. They are an almost grape sized citrus fruit, and apparently you are supposed to eat it rind and all since the sweetness is actually in the rind and not the inner part.

    This type of stuff is why some people are completely baffled with us Americans the first time they ever see one of our grocery stores. A number of years ago we had a foreign exchange scout at the boy scout summer camp I was working at. He was from Tanzania and fairly well off (so he wasn’t living out in the bush or anything where he had to forage for food). I was with him the first time he went to an American grocery store (Super Walmart I think). His mind was completely blown away by all the choices of everything that we take for granted in our stores. I can still remember his amazement in the condiment aisle. He didn’t even like mustard at all, but was amazed that there were at least 30 different distinct kinds of mustard on the shelf.

    • May 1, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      Hey,
      I am glad you liked my rant and thanks for sharing the story about the kid for Tanzania. Having a huge selection of things like olive oils, mustard, etc is really a luxury that has become a true burden for me. It is a gift and curse.

      Oh, and thanks for the fish tips. I will try your suggestion next time I am looking at salmon…and with canned tuna, it is AMAZING how one food can be transformed to much!

      • May 1, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

        The guy from Tanzania was actually like 30 years old, which made it even funnier really since he was acting like a 10 year old in the store. Oh and he had a sweater on most of the summer too until the temp got over 90. At that point he was relieved since he said it was “finally starting to warm up a bit”.

      • May 1, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

        haha. Sounds kind of like me…I am really just a big kid who loves his cartoons. And I am always cold. Here in Louisiana anything below 90 is consider “cool.”

  5. May 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    The baking powder vs baking soda thing. Baking soda is most likely what you Yanks call Sodium bicarbonate. It’s a slightly caustic ingredient. When in contact with acids (yogurt, vinegar etc) it will react and release carbon dioxide which acts as a leavening agent in dough. If you add it to a dish to which you’ve been too fanatical on the lemon juice, it neutralizes a bit of the acidity and it might yet be edible. Finally, baking soda and vinegar/citric acid make sodium acetate and sodium citrate, respectively; both “chemical buffers” (=acidity regulators) as well as food conservant. To confuse things further, when heated, sodium bicarbonate will break down and release carbon dioxide as well- which is why it works to use sodium bicarbonate to make honeycomb. Sodium bicarbonate, when not used carefully, can give a “soapy” flavour to your food.

    Baking powder is a different beast – in its simplest form, it’s basically an acid and a caustic ingredient in one. In contact with liquid, the components will dissolve, mix and release carbon dioxide. The caustic and noncaustic bit will neutralize each other, hopefully with as little impact on flavour as possible. The exact composition of baking powder might vary from powder to powder, so you’ll have to read the label.

    • May 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

      WOW, clearly you know your ingredients! I guess you must suffer from less “kitchen confusion” than me. Kleinebre, from now on, to me you are known as the “The Professor.”
      Seriously though, I just wish they could have two VASTLY different labels to avoid picking up the wrong thing at the store.

    • May 2, 2012 at 8:42 am #

      I was going to go with a baking powder explanation in my reply, but it was already getting long anyway. The way I have always understood it baking powder actually contains baking soda (alkaline) and one or more acids (like cream of tarter) so the resulting substance is of a neutral PH. The reason why many recipes often call for baking soda and baking powder is because there was some ingredient that was at least somewhat acidic. You can actually make single-acting baking powder easily at home by mixing 2 parts cream of tarter and 1 part baking soda, but the home mixed baking powder wouldn’t work as well as the store bought version. The store bought baking powder is usually “double acting” which means there is a second acid present that actually gives another dose of carbon dioxide once in the oven and it starts heating up.

      I usually see two different baking powder varieties in stores. One labeled just “baking powder” and the other labeled as “aluminum free baking powder” (this is the type you took a picture of above). Some people buy the aluminum free version since (I believe) aluminum in the body has been linked in some studies to Alzheimer’s Disease. I feel like the aluminum free version doesn’t work as well as the regular baking powder though so I usually go for the regular.

      • May 2, 2012 at 11:11 am #

        Seriously, you are a textbook of kitchen knowledge! Thanks for sharing and explaining… I think I am just going to have to continue leaving the baking to my wife.

  6. May 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    wolframalpha.com is your friend 😀
    There, you can find out the nutritional difference of foods and other fun stuff. For the record, sweet potatoes are more nutritious than yams AND if I remember correctly, they’re yellow. Yams are orange. I keep wondering about all the places that serve ‘sweet potato fries’ when they’re all orange…

    Oh, you got me thinking about Calvin’s dad’s rant about peanut butter. Here: http://thesocietypages.org/economicsociology/files/2010/06/peanut-butter.jpg

    • May 1, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      Thanks! and that comic is GREAT! That seriously is me each time I stumble in to the grocery store and have to choose almost anything.

  7. May 2, 2012 at 4:06 am #

    Hey, there. What a hilarious post! 😀

    FYI, I bought and tasted that rare and weird-looking fruit before. I found it when I was in New Zealand and it tasted somewhat like cucumber with slimy green seed-like structure inside. Anyway, apple is better 😉

    • May 2, 2012 at 11:03 am #

      Well I never have tried this one but I keep on getting tempted to buy it. Thanks for the heads up….I will probably just stick to the apples then. Ha

  8. May 2, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    It can be overwhelming when even I eat at a cafe or restaurant in the USA, because of all the choices! I ask for a sandwich then I have a slew of side choices for the meal I need to choose… Type of bread, cheese, etc. as for grocery stores, I think the choices of olive oil in european grocery stores can be complicated (but Spanish olive oil is the best) 😉

    • May 2, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      I once heard in a marketing class, that you will get far more sales if you only offer 4 choices instead of 40. And look at the success of SAMs and Costco where only one (huge) bottle of olive oil is sold.

      Variety is good, but too much of a good thing can be bad. I love how you can find ANYTHING on a menu at the Cheesecake Factory, but I always leave the place with buyers remorse and question if I should have gotten something else.

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