Yesterday I only had about an hour to cook between work meetings, a failed video date, meeting with my Guests to plot the overthrow of the Laotian government, and my meditation to contemplate the exact, precise differences between English Stilton and French Roquefort.
So I went with a simple salmon dish with a side of roasted squash and zucchini from my very first, original cookbook I bought two decades ago, the Good Housekeeping cookbook. This old classic doesn’t melt your brain with recipes. These are simple takes on good old food. Could I have made this meal off the top of my head, sure, but with everything I had going on yesterday I didn’t want to think.
Everything tasted great. The problem was because I was in a hurry, and not quite paying attention since I was on my work computer for part of the time, the salmon was dramatically under cooked. I mean it had a great crispy skin and a solid crusty spice rub, but the interior flesh was mild if not approaching raw. This was not sushi grade salmon and so the possibility of disease was present. I ate it anyways and I feel fine.
I wonder how I would have handled it when I’m say 70? Food poisoning kills several thousand Americans a year. When I’m 70, I’m probably going to under cook some chicken in the same fashion. Then I’ll be vomiting and running through the streets in a bathrobe, delirious, and ultimately get plastered by a bus.
My parents didn’t grow up destitute, but rich they were not. Food was simple and wholesome, and cheap. One grandmother was a fantastic cook, the other was not. But food poisoning was a concern under these circumstances. The very first medium rare steak I had was well after I was 18. This was because the family wouldn’t serve steak to the family anything less than well done. This probably sounds insane, but it was the mindset of a family eating a lot of cheap meat, and concerns that all little microbes were cooked out.
Were these concerns valid? Maybe, but probably not. Nobody in my family has checked out due to food poisoning, but maybe that’s because the family was cautious. Is this a Simpsons tiger-rock question?
Plus, I guess you could say my family was trained, experienced with the classic English / American tradition of cooking. What do I mean by this? Well, I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’m rewatching Poirot. The contrast for comical purposes is Poirot is a very refined Belgian who loves his food fancy. Japp is the gruff English bobby who probably beats half his suspects in shackles off screen when Poirot’s not on the case.
Poirot serves Japp pigs feet, Miss Lemon serves Japp lemon sole, and he’s horrified at both. Then later Japp turns around and serves Poirot meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and stewed peas, and Poirot claims he’s allergic to meatloaf. These scenes are handled perfectly, and this classic, good natured humor always get me a rare open laugh. But, essentially my family ate Japp’s style of food. Now what happens is I’ll cook my fancy shit, but when I go home my Ma cooks in the old style. Oh man, how I love both these styles of food so very much.
What I do know is my body today will not be my body at 70. Would I eat the under cooked salmon several decades from now? Don’t know, god willing at that point it wouldn’t be my decision alone. Or, maybe I’ll just say fuck it, swing some beer, and dig in and roll the dice. And if I go out the door at 70 eating tasty under cooked salmon? Oh well, worse ways to go, for sure.