March 14, 2012

HIPSTER KITCHEN: Accessorize Your Food

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I’ve always been a sucker for a good analogy. The other day, as I sprinkled Parmesan cheese over my pasta, I admired how efficiently it transformed my lazy dinner into a gourmet evening meal. Garnishes, I thought, are like accessories — unnecessary, but useful in elevating something ordinary to something remarkable, for better or worse.

Then I thought, “Hey, that’s a pretty good analogy. I should probably write an installment of Hipster Kitchen about that.”

Voila, ladies and gentlemen — here are the best garnish/accessory comparisons I could think up. If you’ve got more, then by all means, let me know.

Lemon Wedges: Ray-Ban SunglassesLike Ray-Bans, the lemon wedge is classic, summery and everywhere. Sometimes it can be hard not to roll your eyes when faced with yet another mediocre seafood dish embellished with a slice of yellow citrus. Nevertheless, a tart note of lemon does add a bright and piquant contrast to the oily and subtle flavor of fried fish, just as a pair of vintage Wayfarers can help even the most atrociously weird hipster getup look cool. You sort of want to be sick of it, but you’re not.

Sour Cream: The Messenger BagSour cream is actually pretty useful, as far as garnishes go. It works as a catch-all, especially on baked potatoes or nachos, which frequently have a lot of fussy little fixings. Putting sour cream on something is kind of like being able to throw all your stuff in a sweet leather satchel and look slick and put-together, despite hauling a whole bunch of unnecessary crap around with you.

Parsley: Those Goddamn Urban Outfitters Keffiyeh ScarvesSeriously, do people even put thought into the use of parsley anymore? It seems like every run-of-the-mill corporatized diner wants to lay a delicate spring of flat-leaf alongside their microwaved entrées to add a little class, but at this point, it’s just a tired cliché. There used to be a point to parsley. When it’s fresh, and it’s added to the proper dish, its clarifying herbal bitterness adds a pleasant dimensionality of flavor. But it’s been overused and exploited, just like the keffiyeh, and as such, both have become kind of annoying.

Radish Flowers: A Pack of Cigarettes and a Zippo LighterAlright, bro, I get what you’re trying to do there. You’re right — it did seem pretty sweet in the 50’s. But this is your life, not an episode of Mad Men, and everyone thinks you’re an asshole. Just take off the fedora and stop trying so hard.

And let’s not ignore dessert garnishes:

Chocolate Curls: the iPodPretty much nobody can argue that these are bad, despite their being mad ubiquitous. Everyone likes chocolate. Everyone likes 120GB of music in the pocket of their skinny jeans. I see no problem here.

Edible Flowers: the iPadI mean, they’re cool, but isn’t that kind of a lot of time and money spent on something that’s basically useless?

Maraschino Cherry: Bright Red LipstickSo obviously they’re the same color. But they’re also both kind of retro in a cute way, and both are strongly associated with beautiful women (Audrey Horne, anyone?). Also, when I was little someone told me that drinking the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries would make me throw up, and I also once read in a magazine that women, on average, eat eight tubes of lipstick over the course of their lives just by licking their lips, so I also associate both these things with unpleasant ways of being poisoned. This is probably just me though.

Original Author: Clare Dougan