Try it. You’ll like it.

Recently, a coworker said to me, “You always have the best break food.” She was noting my recent experiment with various items from the kitchen at work. My latest endeavor to change things up is to try different sauces and toppings on mashed potatoes. My current favorites are tomato basil relish on the regular mashed and the potsticker sauce on wasabi-buttered mashed.

Whenever guests ask me what I like, I always say the same thing. “I have tried everything on the menu, and I have favorites in every category.” When someone tells me to chose between two items I always ask if they’ve tried either and usually tell them to try the other one. If they want me to choose an all-time favorite, I rarely have one, and usually respond, “It depends on my mood.”

Why? Because I’ve got an explorer’s spirit when it comes to eating. I love to try new things. Sure, I have my go-to favorite flavors, like cilantro, chocolate, anything cheese. Yet, more often of late, I’m getting away from my old pattern of getting stuck on a dish and trying it wherever I go. Gone are my caesar salad phase, my obsession with reuben sandwiches, or my penchant for all things alfredo sauce. I’ve learned to appreciate brussel sprouts again, to cook without cheese, to put a fried egg on peanut buttered toast, just because a pinterest pin suggested it. I’m an open-minded eater always on the hunt for my next dining experience.

There are limits of course. I still won’t eat liver, I’ve never eaten bugs (as far as I know), and I prefer my seafood tailless and shell-less. Still, the pairing of cayenne pepper and dark chocolate, or peanut butter and jalapeños, are just some of the many unexpected treats I now seek out. I hope my adventurous spirit is something my son embraces as he learns about foot. I also hope I can continue to inspire others to embrace new food for the rest of my life. After all, there’s so much out there to be explored. You never know where your next great favorite meal is waiting to be consumed until you keep looking to find it. Enjoy!

Artificial Sweetener Saccharin Shows Promise In Cancer Treatment

Artificial Sweetener Saccharin Shows Promise In Cancer Treatment.

An interesting read. I’m not much for artificial sweeteners myself, but I’m guessing this might mean an uptick in usage of the pink packets again. This still won’t quiet the debate about all things artificial and diet, but it’s nice to see researchers are being more thorough about food safety concerns than they used to be.

Gluten… Free, but Not Yet Easy

When I met my wife, she’d been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity for at least a couple years. Back in 2010, she ate a lot of popcorn, because options were few and far between. Some Asian and Latin cuisine was safe (she just had to watch out for soy sauce), but she hadn’t had a good pizza or burger for a while, at least not without cheating and paying for it later.

Fast forward to the present day and there has been an explosion of support for this affliction. Store shelves already starting to fill up with lots of health food company options are starting to get crowded with name brand support, such as Chex, Bisquick and King Arthur. Even Aldi’s offers some of the most reasonably priced products on the market. Most are even quite good. I emphasize reasonably priced because prices are still generally higher for replicators; products that fake the common uses for wheat.

There is still some room for improvement. Udi’s makes the best sandwich breads we’ve had so far, but the loaf size for their version of a white bread is smaller than a standard loaf. The whole grain loaves can be found in a more traditional size at Costco, so that’s what we usually have on hand, even though the cost is nearly 2.5x the comparable wheat price. Many pizza chains now offer gluten free crusts, but these are stocked frozen and made to order, and almost always only available as a thin crust. I even heard the Labriola Bakery moved their baking kitchen out of their cafe to a separate location so they could clean up and cater to the sensitive with new options and offerings.

However, there are still a few things missing from the alternatives. As long as it remains difficult to replicate the binding behavior of wheat gluten, certain classics remain elusive. Since I share so many of my meals with Cathy, I end up missing out as well. For both of us, I crave a good deep dish pizza, a good burrito, or a hearty italian beef. There are plenty of options out there. I just continue to hope for more, and for better.

Or a cure. That would work, too.

Until then, I’ll keep posting great gluten free finds when I discover them. Enjoy!

Safety First

A couple years ago, Cathy and I watched The Answer Man starring Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham. Lauren’s character is a single mom who’s a bit overprotective of her son. There is one exchange in particular that became a running joke between my wife and I. I cannot remember the exact quote, but it was some advice she gave to her son as he went off to school. Something to the effect of “Be safe! Have fun, but be safe! Learn stuff! Be safe! I love you! Be safe!”

It was quite endearing. “Be safe.” It has become my new favorite mantra. “Be safe.” I almost use it as much as “I love you” when departing from my wife. When I’m at work, I use a variation quite often. “Safety First.” I say it to every trainee whenever I’m explaining a need to take a few extra seconds to avoid injuring oneself or others.

Because I see it all the time. Coworkers leaving dishes or kitchen equipment in the most unsafe of places, or precarious of positions. Glasses too close to the edge of a counter, plates left on side stations, blocking access to decanters, or glass rack carts left in the middle of aisles are all scenarios that repeat themselves almost daily. It evokes a truly visceral response when I see that bordeaux glass perched precariously on the edge of the shelf in the dishpit. Because I have seen that glass fall and shatter too many times before. It’s even worse, when I take a moment to try to avert disaster and end up causing it.

Yet I keep at it. I keep moving those glass racks, straightening those stacks of dishes, or picking up that lemon wedge and fork off the floor. So no one else slips, or trips, or hurts themselves in any way, shape. or form. I’m committed to a safe work environment, for others, but also, admittedly, for myself.

In the end, the broader picture is one of safety in all aspects of my life. Being hurt sucks! I don’t like it. No one likes it. Yet, so many ignore safety when they put other priorities ahead of it.

A few examples of less than obvious dangers in the restaurant world include the following:

1. The Power Stance – I see it all the time. Someone standing with one or both hands on their hips. This stance may instill confidence and make one feel more relaxed and in control, but it’s taking up extra space in the narrow, crowded spaces that servers have to navigate with heavy, sharp, or spill-prone objects. Elbows at your sides is the way to go.

2. The Right of Way – On the roads, vehicles take turns. It’s polite and independent of size. The exceptions are ambulances and emergency vehicles. In the workplace, it’s silly. Size of burden matters. No matter how busy you think you are, yield to the guy carrying twenty large platters. Also, treat customers/guests like trains. No matter how big a truck is, or how heavy the load, it still has to yield to a train.

3. The Lemon – It’s easy to become too trusting of one’s slip-resistance shoe soles. I’ve found that while they work great on wet tile, they are easily compromised by ice, ice cubes, butter, lemon wedges, and other substances that can take mere seconds to clean up or secure out of harm’s way.

4. Being a “Doorstop” – The flow of staff is a lot like traffic in any given major city. There are numerous trouble spots throughout a restaurant that are often ignored. Most architects have never taken these into account because they assume people are smarter than this. They don’t expect people to stand in the middle of an aisle, so they only design it to have  two “lanes” rather than three. Corners and intersections aren’t designed to accommodate gatherings in their middles. It’s assumed people will slowdown near blind spots; high column/wall/shelf areas that are hard to see around. Yet people ignore these all the time. I see coworkers stop in the middle of intersections, stand in the middle of aisles, or congregate in clusters far our from the sides of an aisle.

There are many more examples, but you get the idea. These are just some of the challenges to safety that I face every day in my workplace. I’m sure they occur in all restaurants, and beyond that, in retail stores, movie theaters, schools, churches, offices, factories, and any other place where more than two people gather or attempt to move through. The cumulative threats to safety are staggering, and easily addressed if we simply, as a people, had one unified goal in mind. Safety first.

So the next time you’re out and about, or working on your feet, open your eyes and think about the safety of others. In doing so, you’ll be insuring your own as well. Enjoy!