Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why does anyone still use parsley to garnish food? And then there’s the larger question of why anyone would garnish food – put something (barely) edible on a plate just to make it look better by some outdated standard or custom. The food itself should be attractive, and should need decorating. What a waste, unless my suspicions are true and seedier diners and other restaurants wash off and re-use their sprigs of parsley from plate to plate, customer to customer.

Traveling on business, I got up early to run out for breakfast at the local “Bob Evans,” Down on the farmmm.” I was the first customer and was waited upon immediately by a pleasant woman who took my usual order: Fake eggs (Egg Beaters or some other brand of yellow colored egg whites), hash browns, wheat toast, lightly buttered and a small orange juice. And I opened my copy of the USA Today that I picked up in the hotel’s lobby.

Seconds later – I’m not kidding, it was the fasted food ever, like getting gas at a NASCAR pit stop. – my breakfast was in front of me. As you can see, there were the eggs, the hash browns and a strangely hard and flavorless slice of tomato. I knew this about the tomato because I had had the same breakfast the day before. I didn’t want the tomato, but that at least it was a vegetable people regularly eat. And then there’s the ubiquitous sprig of parsley artfully laid on top of the tomato. In light of the recent news about an outbreak of potentially deadly food-born disease in Germany, I thought for a moment I heard the little sprig singing to me to the tune of those annoying Swiss lozenge commercials… “E-co-liiiii.”

I was in hurry. With no one to talk to over breakfast, I wolfed down my food and was done barely 10 minutes later. “Yum.” (I’m kidding. Eating on the road isn’t nearly as glamorous as many people think. You’ve got tons to do, and way too little time to do it. Eating when you’re traveling on business, particularly in small towns and on a reasonably limited budget, is more about survival than gastronomical delight.)

You saw my plate before I ate. Now take a look at the after-shot. Notice anything? (The parsley! I’m talking about the parsley.) It’s still there. No surprise. Let’s take a survey. Would everybody who’s ever actually eaten his or her sprig of parsley raise his or her hand?

“Yes? …You there in the blue bowling shirt and Buddy Holly glasses. Where is that, Kansas? …You’re the only person with your hand up and waving it like you have a question?”

“I do,” he said, pushing his glasses up to bridge of this nose. “What does parsley taste like?”

“Excellent question. Most people don’t know. Suffice it to say that it’s bitter and otherwise unpleasant. No one but Food TV cooking show hosts actually uses in their food except, in an emergency, to “complement” (or kill) the taste of some other flavor.”

And yet, there it is. Parsley. Personally, I rather they use dandelions. They’re free and conveniently located in places such as my neighbor’s lawn. They have all those nice yellow petals that would match my eggs, brighten my day and I could smear them on things like I used to do when I was a kid. …I’m not sure, but aren’t they edible too? Is dandelion wine a real thing, or just a figment of some folk singer’s imagination?



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