Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fear of Party Food

It's party season, and I am afraid. Everyone brings dishes to share, and no one wants to provide anything that might be seen as boring, comforting, or safe.

I am afraid of dishes embellished with pomegranate and cranberry. Yes indeed, those are lovely reds, but I don't want to see them touching my green beans, asparagus, artichoke, or romaine lettuce.

I'm afraid of glazed hams adorned with slices of pineapple and maraschino cherry. I'm horrified by miniature meatballs resting in a light brown sweet sauce accented by currants and raisins. I'm appalled by fried tofu, which bears a startling resemblance to hockey pucks and may actually taste like hockey pucks. I haven't been tempted to try them.

I think breaded fish fingers and chicken nuggets might possibly be safe to eat if one person  prepared them from beginning to end, but most likely these items have come from the test kitchens of major corporations and contain a smorgasbord of ingredients that, if properly combined, could   make plastic, or a highly toxic poison.

I'm afraid of Spam and Cheez Whiz on crackers, a fad which has mercifully died or is on its last legs. Cheez Whiz is now a homemade stain remover for greasy stains. If that doesn't make you think twice before using it as a condiment, nothing will. 

Raw veggies come in a variety of colors and can be dipped into a variety of things (if you spoon those things onto your plate, that is, because sharing dips at a party is a good way to spread germs) but artistic arrangements --nay, sculptures-- are off putting. Who wants to be the first to remove Abe Lincoln's broccoli eyebrow, or George Washington's cauliflower hair?

Salami, Cheese and Pickle Kabobs
Salami, pickle and cheese kebabs are suggested party food at Betty Crocker holiday

Spinach and artichoke dip from the freezer section, with a salt content  marginally lower than that for the Dead Sea, was the fad a few years ago. May it never reach true food status, as salsa , hummus, and pesto have.

People get very coy about the ingredients of their showpiece dishes. Perhaps an ingredients checklist could go with each dish: This contains No Nuts, shellfish, HCFC, GMA,  polysorbate 60, red dye. Then again, perhaps someone will devise a dish that will contain all those things , and those who eat it will be issued cards that say "Proceed immediately to the emergency room."

Trendy, iconic, and amazing are words I don't really want to see again, but iconic foods can't be all that bad. Chocolate chip cookies, fudge, brownies, are iconic foods. Sorta like Mom's apple pie. My own mother abandoned pie-making when I was 12, claiming that I could make better piecrust than she could.(Blatant excuse!) But pie is messy to serve. Tarts would be nice.

I'm not precisely sure what makes up today's marshmallows, but extracts from mallow plants are not among the ingredients. Still, I do not want to see marshmallows adorning  raw salads, baked vegetables, cakes or pies. The proper way to use a marshmallow is to partially char it, and eat it nude and unadorned, preferably at a camp fire.