Old School food is…
Let’s look at that most heinous non-Old School ingredient, margarine. Like any good comic book villain, it has a nasty origin story.
Margarine originated with the discovery by Michel Eugène Chevreul in 1813 of margaric acid (itself named after the pearly deposits of the fatty acid from Greek μαργαρίς, -ρῖτης or μάργαρον (margarís, -îtēs / márgaron), meaning pearl-oyster or pearl).Scientists at the time regarded margaric acid, like oleic acid and stearic acid, as one of the three fatty acidswhich, in combination, formed most animal fats. In 1853, the German structural chemist, Wilhelm Heinrich Heintz, analyzed margaric acid as simply a combination of stearic acid and of the previously unknown palmitic acid.
Let’s contrast this with the origin of sweet, creamery butter.
The farmer’s beautiful daughters churn it.
Old School food doesn’t need a science class. (Worthy exception: Alton Brown) It’s about real, top quality ingredients combined in synergistic goodness.
… worth the time
A frozen pizza takes 12 minutes to prepare. A pizza made from scratch — dough and all — takes longer. What would you rather eat? If you’re in a hurry, sure, toss in the frozen dough frisbee. But if you’re just doing it because its easier… think it through. Why?
Time is not the enemy. Time passes no matter what you’re doing, so why are you in such a hurry? A favorite breakfast of mine is the tortilla. It takes a little time and most mornings when I go to the effort I’m preparing it with one of my wingmen (my sons). The preparation time isn’t a hassle. It’s one of the best parts. The preparation makes the meal better in two ways. The first way is obvious — good tortillas don’t come from thin air. The second way is the preparation is time spent with my son DOING — chopping, dicing, stirring, frying — this is what men do best — spending time together, getting closer, bonding — by DOING things together. You don’t get that from zapping something in microwave.
… mighty tasty.
Why do you think you’re eating it?
The wrong way and the Old School way
You really can’t make a statement like “Chili is old school” and be certain you’re right. Not all chili (or any other food) is the same. Here are six of my favorite bites of grub with thoughts on how to make sure they are always Old School.
Old School popcorn comes from the stove top or campfire. It does not come from the micowave.
“But microwave popcorn is soooooooo easy.”
Yeah, and putting a cup of popcorn kernels in a pot with some oil is slave labor. Tell me, Nancy Boy, what’s your favorite pair of pumps to wear while the popcorn is in the microwave? Get some Old School in ya! Make it the right way. One bowl and you’ll thank me.
Get some proper Old School self-respect and grow a garden. If you’ve got 4 square feet of yard available you have enough room for a tomato plant. If not, get a big garden pot, a bag of potting soil and grow a tomato plant.
Here’s five minutes of culinary goodness:
Get a garden tomato.
Get a saltshaker.
Sit on your porch steps and nosh.
OLD SCHOOL RULES SMOKIN’ HOT WIFE HEADS UP #1: This tip comes from the smokin’ hot wife. Grow some grape tomatoes. It’s not too late, assuming you’re in the Northern hemisphere. Note, not cherry. GRAPE tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are nearly perfectly round while grape tomatoes are obviously more oblong. The more important difference? Grape tomatoes are sweeter and have more flavor. It is the secret ingredient for her killer bruschetta. You’re welcome.
I loves me some peanut butter. There are only two acceptable ingredients in peanut butter.
No need for palm oil, cottonseed oil or some hydrogenated garbage. I term anything with those ingredients peanut spackle, not peanut butter.
“Oh, you mean the natural peanut butter you have to stir?”
Oh, I’m sorry. Are you afraid the peanut oil will get on your camisole, son? I can help. Get your self Grandpa Witmer’s peanut butter mixer. This wonderful gizmo has a Rube Goldberg look but Amish effectiveness and simplicity. And yes, I own several.
Sure, you can buy a box at the grocery store. If you have the skills, you can make them from scratch. But there’s an easier way.
Nearly twenty years ago I worked in a small retail store on the Southside of Pittsburgh. Like many shops in the Southside we would get occasional visits from hucksters selling “stuff” — perfume knock-offs, cheap electronics and merchandise that had that strong “fell off a truck” vibe. All of these guys were given the bum’s rush before they got three steps past the door. Every guy visiting the shop to sell something instead of buy something was out in seconds… except for one man… the Pierogie Man.
The Pierogie Man was an older gentlemen who went door to door taking pierogie orders for the ladies at his Catholic church. When he entered the shop he was shown a chair and we immediately surrounded him, ignored a few customers and placed our orders. A few days later the pierogies would arrive, having been lovingly prepared by septuagenarian babushka mamas in the nearby Catholic church basement. Best pierogies I’ve ever tasted. Especially the hard to find sauerkraut ones. Thank you, babushka mamas. Thank you.
Got a pierogie Jones? Start checking out the local Catholic or Orthodox churches.
You’re Old School.
You want pie.
You know homemade is Old School so you want homemade pie.
Trouble is, you don’t make pie.
Grandma? Unless Rachel Ray conducts a seance, Grandma is not making pie either.
OLD SCHOOL RULES SMOKIN’ HOT WIFE HEADS UP #2: Another tip from the smokin’ hot wife. Once again, we tap into the sweet old church lady skill set, primarily Lutherans and Presbyterians, though a Methodist will do in a pinch. Every summer there are hundreds of small town community festivals. Most have churches with bake sales. They sell cookies, muffins and… pies. Now here’s the genius of the smokin’ hot wife. While she can make an awesome, Aunt Bea level pie, she doesn’t always have the time when a PCS (Pie Conducive Situation) arises. So we stock up at these church bake sales, buying a dozen or more pies and stashing them in the freezer.
Yes, my brother. I have emergency pie. Jack Spirko would be proud.
Do not dismiss this tip. You’ll pay less than what you’d pay for a good bakery pie and get a much, much better pie. Why? Sweet little church ladies don’t fight in the UFC octagon. They battle with baked goods.
cream for my coffee
Those little coffee cream plastic cup things? Gah-bage. (Garbage is one of those words that’s way better with a Boston accent.) Pure, unadulterated skubalon. First off, most of the time they don’t even contain cream. They contain creme, a misspelled and misrepresented white goo concocted from vegetable oil, dye and bat sweat whose only redeeming feature is a long shelf life.
Cream should come from a proper pitcher — metal, ceramic or plastic — I don’t care. Just make sure it is chilled and its source has udders and not leaves.
As for Coffee-Mate and its ilk, if I were coffee and this stuff were my “mate”, I’d file for divorce.
Keep it Old School, my friends.
The Old Man