WISDOM NUGGET: SOMETIMES CHANGE TAKES TIME - KEEP AT IT!
RECIPE: SLOW ROASTED FENNEL WITH PARMESAN
I detest goat cheese with a fiery, white-hot passion. As a chef and a human, I can’t understand why anyone would want to eat something reminiscent of stinky feet. Vile and loathsome at best.
People make assumptions about me because I’m a chef. Some are spot-on while others are just poetic exaggeration of life in the kitchen. In the grandiose age of food television perfection, it’s important to remind folks that chefs aren’t perfect—we make mistakes and even dislike foods.
Although I ate sardines, liver, mushrooms and other culinary oddities, overall, “picky eater” best described me as a child. Ham sandwiches on Wonder bread were staples in my clunky metal Dukes of Hazard themed lunchbox. A pre-packaged, highly processed Drake’s brand sweet treat rounded out the meal because it was the 1980’s after all.
As the years passed, my palate expanded and I became increasingly swayable.
Onion, my childhood Kryptonite, slowly found its way to the tolerable list but not until my mid-twenties. I appreciated the flavor but still its texture was near gag-worthy. I kept an open mind and kept trying it in various forms and now, at 41 years young, it seems I can scarcely get through the week without consuming caramelized onion.
Open-mindedness aside, there are still some foods I find to be offensive to my senses and downright gloomy.
Beets are unpleasant. I’m happy for them with regards to the latest culinary spotlight in which they’re basking but I don’t enjoy them…yet. Cabbage? I’m getting there but slowly, sliced absurdly thin in slaws that have a lot of additional ingredients.
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Cooked cabbage? Repulsive. Oddly enough, though, I adore Brussels sprouts—a close relative of cabbage, inspiration for me to keep trying.
Bacon is delicious, but people need to relax with the bacon candles, t-shirts, wrapping paper, flavored toothpicks, cologne, beach towels, tattoos and quintuple bacon on everything. Yes, I do have a sense of humor but I still find it insanely nettlesome.
Just because I’m a chef does not mean I love every food but my overall love of food does strengthen my ambition to keep testing out new recipes. Roasting is often a game changer, I’ve found. The slow process of change seems to bring out the best in foods—and people too, I suppose.
Roasted Fennel with Parmesan
If you’re on-the-fence about the flavor of fennel, this might be the simple dish to change your mind. Use good quality parmesan with a strong flavor.
Drizzle liberally with olive oil, add pepper to taste. Cover with parmesan and pop it in the oven, preheated to 350 degrees. Roast until the fennel is very soft and golden brown; the cheese will crisp a bit – 40 minutes or so depending on the thickness.
I adore it with grilled beef drizzled with a bit of chunky blue cheese dressing. It’s also a lovely addition to a hearty green salad.
Cooking questions? Let me be a helpful resource, email me.
* with gratitude to The Winchester Star that published this column on 8/25/16
chef mel has been creating food experiences for over 20 years. she embraces an "aspiring homesteader" lifestyle & grows over 40 types of edibles when she's not teaching classes & hosting farm dinners. she adores simplicity, new food & edible flowers. her writing reminds us there's wisdom & humor among the seeds, stalks & sauce pots. we're not perfect & that's okay - keep it genuine & journey on!