Post # 355 The Color Red Tastes Best

March 27, 2015 at 8:18 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

On the Food Network, Anne Burrell has a favorite mantra.  Well, she has many favorite mantras, but the one I’m thinking about right now is “Brown food tastes good.”  She teaches all her students that on every cooking instruction show I’ve seen her in.  And everyone knows that presentation is key to a successful dish.  We eat with our eyes first, our noses second, and our mouths last.

One Christmas, before I moved away from home, I spent a few hours making a ton of sugar cookies.  I wanted enough to last the whole holiday season.  To speed the process, they were all round.  No fancy cookie cutting or shapes for me.  I wanted to make a nice, creamy, buttery, sweet frosting for the cookies and I wanted to make sure the frosting didn’t get mushy and messy.

I don’t remember how I made it, but I created a great tasting, great looking, and great acting frosting for those cookies.  But I didn’t want them to be all white, so I split it up into four batches and left one white.  I added food coloring to the others and made blue, red, and green.  The result was a festive, multi-colored plate of confectionary goodness, pleasing to the eye as well as the tongue.  I was quite proud of them.  Some of them had sprinkles, some had those little silver balls, some were plain.  This was in the days before mini chocolate chips or I would have added those, too.

When it came time, I put out a plate of various cookies and these took center.  The holidays commenced with the usual hilarity and feasting and sugar high.  One evening, just before they were to go home, my sister asked if there were anymore red cookies.

“I don’t know, I’ll look,” I replied.  I found one last batch of the sugar cookies in the freezer and set them in the microwave for a few seconds.  This was first generation microwave, and nothing ever had to be in that diesel engine for long.  The cookies came out thawed and only slightly warm and the frosting was not runny at all.  I handed them to her and she very carefully picked out all the red frosted cookies, and just as carefully ate them all.

“Why just those?”

She gave me a very serious look and said, “The red ones taste the best.”

“What are you talking about?  They’re all from the same batch of cookie dough and frosting.  The only thing different is food coloring.”

She shook her head slightly and repeated, “The red ones taste the best.”

I laughed and let her believe whatever she wanted to.  A couple of years ago, I reminded her of the red cookies.  She nodded, “Yup, the red ones taste the best.  Can you make more of those?”

Fast forwarding several years, and it’s Christmastime again.  My wife and I are going to spend Christmas Eve and the entire Christmas Day at her parents’ house, along with her brother and sister, their spouses, and one kidlet.  I had a big bag of chocolate chip cookies ready, and two cakes.  I wasn’t going to be cooking any of the feasts, so I wanted to take something extra special.  I decided to make peppermint candy.

This stuff is so easy to make.  It’s just three ingredients, four if you count food coloring.  Soften an 8oz brick of cream cheese and using a strong blender, cream the cheese with 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract.  The longer they sit, the stronger the flavor will become so don’t be tempted to add more unless they’re all going to eaten within a day or two.  I added more, a whole teaspoon.  Once it’s completely incorporated add three cups of powdered sugar in half cup measures.  You want to make a very stiff dough, so if you need to add more sugar, do so.  The stiffer the dough, the easier it will be form the candy.

Once you have the stiff dough, separate it into however many colors you want, add food dye, and knead it until the color is uniform.  Or you can add a rainbow effect by adding different colors and kneading until it’s streaky.  Then all you have to do is shape the candy in any way you choose.  Once it’s shaped, let it air dry for about 12 hours then put it in a bowl.  The outside will be firm and the inside will melt in your mouth.  These can also be dipped in chocolate.

So I took a bowlful of multicolored candy.  There was white, purple, blue, red, green, yellow, and streaky.  Everyone was very impressed and enjoyed them immensely.  At one point during the evening, I went to get myself another glass of wine (cuz you can’t have just the one, right?) and my sister in law was looking through the bowl.

“I can’t find any blue ones,” she said.  “They taste the best.”

I was instantly transported back to my old homestead and the sugar cookies.  I couldn’t believe it was happening again.

“They’re all from the same batch of candy,” I said.  “Except for food dye, there’s no difference at all.  They should all taste the same.”

“No the blue ones taste best.  Oh, here’s a couple.”  She grabbed them up with a smile.  “Thanks for making these.  They’re delicious.”

I watched her walk back to the living room shaking my head.  Someone else came in and asked what was wrong.

“She said the blue ones taste best, but they’re all the same.”  I was befuddled.

“She’s wrong.  The white ones taste best.”

I realized it was a losing battle.

Besides, as Anne Burrell says, “Brown food tastes good.”

Enjoy

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2 Comments

  1. I have a friend in California who used to work for Alice Waters in Berkeley, and his mantra was “always put something red on a plate because it makes the dish look better.”
    Sometimes it was just a criss-cross of roasted red pepper strips, but it works every time.

    • That’s really interesting. As I said, we eat with our eyes first, and I know the impact color has on us. Wonder if there’s ever been a study done about red on food?


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