Picture this. I’m on a slow-moving checkout line at the market… daydreaming. This is not my favorite space to shop, a big-box warehouse with ugly lighting and uninformed help, but it’s the only place here on St Thomas where I can buy organic Italian olive oil, in real glass, at a reasonable price… so I deal with it.
My mind wanders back to Philadelphia, where I could walk to Reading Terminal Market or the distinctly upscale Whole Foods Market… where the bustling markets in Chinatown are open 365-days a year… where Essene and the Italian Market are just a short car ride away. Where I could buy anything and everything. But here, I get what I can…where I can… often running between Marina Market, Gourmet Gallery, the Fruit Bowl and Magens Bay (where I meet my fishmonger) just to get everything for one dinner! It’s not easy, this island life, but someone has to tough it out.
The line begins to move and my attention shifts back to the here and now. I notice the sundress and sandal clad woman in front of me. I make eye contact. She smiles back and we connect… in the non-committal way you do in a small town. I stare as she unloads the contents of her cart onto the belt. It feels like a train wreak… a case of neon bright cereal, four loaves of packaged bread, six cans of peas, two jars of peanut butter and jelly (together in one jar, no less), bunches of microwavable stuff… and on and on… until she finally tops off this massive pile, ever so gingerly, with a four-pack of ‘Cool Ranch-Flavored Doritos’.
And I thought to myself, “What… exactly… does a cool ranch taste like, anyway?”
I flash back to Brooklyn. It was another era... a ‘When-your-a-Jet-you’re-a-Jet-all-the-way…’ kind of era. You had to be tough to survive. You had to be cool. Or at least, look the part. Sadly, having a cigarette dangling from your lips was a prerequisite for coolness. In fourth grade I was smoking a half pack of Camels a day. Coating your mouth with this kind of thing will corrupt your taste buds and by high school, we were all smoking Kools, the most intense nicotine and menthol experience ever created. Looking back, I can see how I sought out more and more extreme flavors to satisfy my increasingly unnatural tastes.
Back in line, it occurs to me that Kool cigarettes and cool ranch-flavor corn chips aren’t all that different. We just ingest them in different ways. Both were created by lab workers using flavors that are so hyped-up that they leave your taste buds exhausted. Continued use will completely corrupt your palate… rendering it useless for perceiving the subtleties of real food. This results in the endless consumption of salt, fat, sugar and Cool Ranch-Flavored Doritos. It is the gateway to all the associated lifestyle diseases plaguing America.
I mentioned this story to Leslie Ann, my sweet wife, and she reminded that some people just couldn’t have a party without serving chips. So with that in mind, I present some simple party snack recipes for the enlightened palate. And for anyone wondering, I smoked my last cigarette 40 years ago. But I’m still cool. And tough. Enjoy!
Baked Kale Chips
Even kids love this one.
1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon organic olive oil
Preheat oven to 350. Rinse the kale and pat dry. Trim center stalks and cut kale into bite-sized pieces. Toss gently in a mixing bowl with the oil and just a pinch or two of salt. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes, or until the kale is crisp.
SPICY PUMKIN SEEDS
Great for prostrate health. Highly addictive.
1 pound organic pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon organic olive oil
2-4 fresh Thai peppers (to taste)
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
1 teaspoon tamari or Braggs
Heat large skillet on stovetop. Add oil wait for the ‘heat waves’ to appear. Cook peppers and whole garlic over a high flame for about 45 seconds Add seeds and stir to coat and lower flame. Continue stirring to prevent burning. In a few minutes, when all the seeds are nearly browned, sprinkle the tamari and stir like crazy. Now sprinkle the lemon juice and move from heat. Cool in bowl and serve. Also great as a topper for salads, soups and bean dishes.
Fried Kelp Chips
These will disappear faster than potato chips. Full of trace minerals, too.
10 pieces kelp
Canola oil for frying
Wipe kelp with a barely damp cloth to remove some salt. With kitchen scissors, cut into 1x3-inch strips. Heat oil in wok or deep fryer over medium flame. Fry a few pieces at a time, using long chopsticks to handle the kelp. The color will turn dark green and the kale will crisp-up quickly. Remove from oil, drain on rack and cool before serving.