Smells and Momentum

Bare Minimums Part 5: Fruits and Vegetables

Let’s talk produce. Normally I would tell you that vegetables on their own are the recourse of a man who has given up. Anyone who thinks that jicama all by its lonesome is a great snack has either given up all hope, or is trying desperately to parlay with death. Heart disease always wins, it’s very patient, and no amount of juice cleanses will save you. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Fruits and vegetables are totally rad. Today I’m going to talk about some botanical staples that last for weeks without refrigeration and are very important to keep on hand.

ONIONS: Onions are hella rad you guys. Humans have been regularly  eating onions since like 5000 BCE, and they were a staple crop of pharaohs and peasants alike in ancient Egypt as early as 2000 BCE.  In Rome they used to rub down gladiators with onions and in the middle ages it was acceptable to pay rent with them (The onions, not the well rubbed gladiators). What I’m saying is go buy a bag of onions. Yellow onions have a wider range of uses than either red or white and they keep longer. Red onions find more use in uncooked dishes. I have no idea what white onions are for. I guess you can use them for soups and stocks, but the yellow ones have more flavor, just use those. A warning about Vidalia onions, they may be some of the sweetest and most famous onions, but they rot very quickly and from the inside out, making it hard to tell if they’ve gone off. Most Western food is not food without onions, the flavor is a staple, like salt. Onions do not require refrigeration, they will keep about a month at a time.

 

POTATOES: Are you guys getting sick of me telling you things you already know yet? Me too, so I’ll skip straight to the weird history. Potatoes were first cultivated in southern Peru as early as 2500 BCE. It was thought that potato cultivation began independently n a number of different areas across the Americas, what with the continent being just lousy with wild varieties. However more recent genetic testing of traditional cultivars has supported a single origin theory. Potatoes being a new world food would not enter into western cuisine until the were imported by all those poorly mannered explorers Europe kept sending to “India”. So, why is this Peruvian food rock so ubiquitous? Because it’s delicious and full of carbs. Dumb question rhetorical audience. Dumb question. Anyway, you can store potatoes in a paper bag on your counter for like ever (until they start to sprout), just don’t store them with the onions, due to some weird chemistry you don’t have time for, they’ll both go off faster if kept together. Russet Potatoes are great for baked and fried potatoes, but can be a little too gluey for mash, red skinned potatoes are good for soup because they hold together well, and I’d use the yellow ones (Yukon Gold) for roasting and mashing. Potatoes.

 

GARLIC: Garlic is a lot like onions, in fact it’s practically the same plant, similar history too, you know the drill. Central Asian staple cultivated for the last 7000 years blah blah blah. Garlic will see as much if not more use than onions. You can buy garlic dried and ground, but the flavor suffers immensely. Go buy a couple garlic bulbs, keep them with your onions and peel off a clove at a time, they will last at least as long as the onions, and your food will benefit from it. Oh! Also sometimes garlic turns blue when you pickle it! That’s not super relevant, but it is metal as fuck, and I thought you should know about it.

 

CITRUS: So you have two options for citrus: fresh or juiced. You can keep little bottles of citrus juice in your fridge for like months, but fresh citrus has a wider range of applications and will keep on your counter for a couple weeks. Lets talk about the parts of a citrus. First up is juice, which is the most widely used component, it’s great for sweet and savory applications alike. Next we have the pulp, less used for savory but really important for a number of deserts. The nasty bitter  white part is called the pith, and it’s garbage, we don’t use it for anything (I’m lying but it’s not important). Finally we have the peel, or, zest. The zest has a completely different flavor from the juice and there is rarely a substitute for it. Zest is the main reason I lean towards having fresh citrus on hand rather than the stabilized juice. The other reason is that commercial juicing often gets pith in their juice making it bitter. My point is citrus will be all up in a lot of very common recipes from a number of regions, so you should have it around in some form or another. Lemons and limes are not interchangeable, get both, they’re cheap, you can find them anywhere.

 

PEPPERS: Peppers are a new world fruit imported to Europe and Asia during the 15th century, but crap man, they are so fucking good that Southeastern and Western Asian food is unrecognizable without them. For some perspective, imagine if we brought kale to Australia a few hundred years ago, and by present day it was an essential seasoning in like all their traditional food. Can you even process that? An exotic fruit supplanted all traditional foods of more than a dozen cultures. Peppers are that good. So chili peppers are technically berries (I know right?) and they are, to a varying degree, chock full of capsaicin. Capsaicin is a chemical, that among other things, makes us feel pain. Seeing as humans are all kind of weird and kinky we straight up love us some mouth pain. Personally I like to buy a little 1-3 ounce bag of “Thai Chilies” because they won’t burn your face down and they’re not too big so you can easily increase or decrease the heat of a dish. The drier you keep your chilies the longer they last, so store them in a paper bag in your fridge and they should last 1-3 weeks. What if I don’t use all my chilies in the 1-3 weeks that they are fresh? Good question. If your chilies are starting to go soft on you just lay them out in a single layer on a paper towel in a dry place and in a day or two you will have dried chilies, bag them up and transfer to the spice cabinet for later use.

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