SHEWCHUK ON SIMMER: FROM TRENDY TO THE TRASH
by Allan Shewchuk
Time flies when you’re having fun, and it must have been fun writing for the City Palate, given that 25 years has gone by in a flash. I’ll admit that due to my wine consumption, I’m not all that crisp on the details of the whole journey, but I’ve been proud to be a part of the Palate team, because for a quarter of a century, this has been where Calgary foodies have come for advice about how to live the culinary life. The Palate has seen a lot of trends come and go and has been on the cutting edge of covering them all.
I thought about the trends that City Palate has reported on as I watched a group of millennials on a patio this summer swilling their Moscow Mules out of those little copper mugs that those trendiest of cocktails must be served in. I wondered how long it would be until bar owners would be selling those mugs at garage sales and dumping out their supplies of the ginger beer needed to concoct a perfect mule. It reminded me of all of the trendy gear I’ve bought over the years, which my darling wife, a self-proclaimed “purger,” has thrown into the recycle bin. She always waits until I’m away from home and then pounces into action by chucking my stuff out so I can’t plead with her to let me keep my treasures. When I was in the hospital for three days, having my hip replaced, all my dusty, trendy stuff got gleefully purged. A warning to all you married guys out there: if you go under general anaesthetic, be prepared to wake up and find your beer mug and hockey card collections gone.
Not that getting rid of some of my old collections was all bad. Probably the most deserving purge was the Alsatian wine glasses that I bought more than 20 years ago, when people were going gaga over rieslings and gewürztraminers to pair with the new “fusion” foods that were all the rage. The glasses were super-ugly with their green long stems and the tiny little cups on top that could hold only about as much as a thimble. Given the size of my nose, I had to cock my neck back to sip even a drop of wine, which caused me to develop a painful case of Alsatian whiplash. The glasses made their way to the garage swiftly.
I also have to admit that I don’t miss the ridiculously huge Long Island Iced Tea glasses that came along with that cocktail trend. These weren’t really glasses, but gigantic fishbowls passing as stemware. Trying to drink a full Long Island Iced Tea was like lifting a washtub full of water that was swishing back and forth. The more people drank, the unsteadier they became, so I suppose the advantage was that Long Island Iced Tea glasses kind-of had their own built-in sobriety test. Sober or drunk, though, everybody looked ridiculous using those glasses – but given that they were utilized at embarrassingly bad chain restaurants like Chi-Chi’s, no one seemed to care. Let’s be clear – if you were going to a place that specialized in deep-fried ice-cream, then you had no pride to start with anyway.
Along with glasses, the purging also included cooking equipment that was a walk through the trends in the food business over the years. Squirt bottles used to decorate plates so they resembled Jackson Pollock paintings. Foamers and smearers that made meals look like they were sitting on a kid’s finger painting. Hot plates for serving fajitas that I used once and nearly burnt the back deck down. Little metal holders for mini hamburger sliders, and micro hotdogs, also used only once because it was so much fussy work to bake my own mini buns that I swore to never do it again. And, sadly, my sous-vide machine, which I also stopped using when I realized that just grilling meat tasted better than what I got after struggling to stuff it in a vacuum bag.
I don’t know what the next 25 years will bring in food trends. All I know for certain is that I will continue to buy whatever the hip thing is and then probably, in short order, stop using it. If you should be interested in picking up any of these trendy items, just dig around my recycle bin the next time I go under the knife.
Allan Shewchuk is a lawyer, food writer and sought-after Italian food and wine guru. He currently has kitchens in both Calgary and Florence, Italy, but will drink wine pretty much anywhere.