Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Welcome to the Tin Foil Toque

Someone on the internet is wrong... about food. Here on the Tin Foil Toque, everything you learned about food (and we know that most of what you learned, you learned on the internet) is wrong. But it's okay: we're here to help.

First rule of Tin Foil Toque Club: Do not don the Tin Foil Toque. It is not for wearing. It is also wrong.

The "Tin Foil" part is wrong. We call them "tin foil hats," but they're actually made out of aluminum. And far be it from me (not) to start an internet religious war, but the "pastafarians" (or at least this one) are also wrong. You should never wear a metal colander on your head, or a metal hat of any kind. They conduct heat: no good in a kitchen. They also conduct electricity and other electromagnetic waves, allowing the government to control your thoughts. It's like the black helicopter thing: a fringe culture united in paranoia is represented by the symbol of the feared entity. So put the foil down. We're not afraid of food, here, or of being wrong.

The "Toque" part is also wrong. Chefs wear toques, like nurses wear those nurse's caps. It's like a uniform, or a coat of arms: it is a garment that means something, and a toque means you are a chef. I am not a chef. I am a home cook. Chefs and home cooks have different concerns. A chef wants to lure a well-heeled crowd to his dining room. A home cook has a captive audience and a (usually) more limited budget. A chef is not concerned with your nutrition or health. A chef just wants you to enjoy your dining experience. A home cook does not offer limitless choice, but a home cook will also cater to your special needs without spitting in your food. A home cook just wants you to clean your plate: the ultimate expression of approval.

What I serve company is the closest I get to what I chef does, and the skill set I cultivate in the kitchen is the one I use daily, to feed myself and the people who are at my dining room table most nights. I'm concerned with my pleasure, and with what my husband likes. I'm also concerned about gout, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, depression, and every other disease that does or could affect us, and over which I exercise what power I have. And being a comfortable American with a laptop and a college education, I read a lot of articles and recipes, and cook the foods I want to eat, with few practical limits on what I can afford to eat. Most Americans spend a very small percentage of their income on food, compared to other countries and to all people, historically. This is not an unalloyed 'good thing.' For starters, even with all of that information, so many people are still anxious about what they eat, are doing it wrong, or both.

I don't have a degree in a health science, or in any science at all: my undergraduate degree is in technical writing, so when I have a burning question, I use the tools in my toolbox, and I research the answer. I've been researching food for years, and my inquiries have led me to walk a line that acknowledges many truths without embracing one gospel with full faith. I started this blog to share some of the ways that people have been told to eat, and the many bizarre, earnest, fraudulent, insane, and amusing ways there are to be wrong about food. The number of wrong things people believe about red meat and potatoes could keep me blogging for weeks. This is going to be the special place I have for poking stupid ideas with sharp sticks.

I'm not really a mean person; it's just that I'm scathing when I know I'm right. I come from a place of love, not just for food but for people, and I want to make you laugh and also, over time, make you consider eating better. I've always wanted a little cult of my own, and I imagine being a sort of cross between Jon Stewart and Jamie Oliver, reporting on the so-called news and spreading some empowerment tools around, since I have lots, and a desire to share and be listened to. If you just want to read about tasty things that I put in my mouth, and occasional good news about local food in the Pioneer Valley, read my food blog: Justin Wants to Feed You. If you like tart humor and black cynicism, put the Tin Foil Toque in your blogroll. But please, note the second rule:

Second rule of Tin Foil Toque Club: We recommend that you do not chew the tin foil toque, as it is an unpleasant sensation.