The Cave Crave

Whether you are a culinary cheechako or a seasoned sourdough, there will come a point when you will wonder how good you are as a cook.

Starting out, your opinion will be biased and you’ll always search out the good in what you have created. Others will taste your food  and smile as they choke it down, too polite to critique your hard work.

As you refine your skills and begin to develop your own flavor, you’ll eventually become your worst critic, always pointing out what you can do better. Instead of telling others about how good your food is, you’ll be inclined to apologize for what is missing or what could be improved.

So, how do we judge how tasty something is?

Where exactly does your food fall on the flavor spectrum?

On one end of the scale we find food that induces the gag reflex. On the other end, lies what I call crave-able food. The bottom end does not need to be explained, suffice it to say that if someone can choke it down; your food will receive a score.

Then, there is crave-able food. I define this as, “food that subconsciously draws you back for another bite, regardless of your level of hunger.”

Proverbs 27:7 says this, “He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.” This verse represents two extremes that deal with the regardless of your level of hungerportion of my definition.  There are people in this world who are starving and even bitter food would be a treat to them. Then, there have been times in my life when I have gorged myself to the point of discomfort; the point where I would refuse even honey.

For the sake of this article, we are going to ignore starvation and gorging to discomfort. Besides, most gorging takes place on calorie-dense foods i.e. bread, pasta, sugar, etc… And, eating Paleo, or nutrient-dense foods, does not lend itself to this.

We’ve all heard the phrase good to the last bite, right? Well, what does that exactly mean? Are there foods that are actually good to the last bite? I say yes. As a matter of fact, I’ve had foods that are increasingly better with each bite. With each progressive morsel, you discover a new flavor that challenges your taste memory. These foods, however, are pretty rare and they often cost an arm and a leg to obtain. Creating these foods is the goal of the cuisinier. Opposite of this type of food you might find prison food or something less toothsome still. So, we will again rule these out and focus on an achievable goal for an aspiring cook, we’ll call it the Cave Crave.

The Cave Crave is subconscious. To invoke it, you must develop a flavor profile that balances the five tastes: bitter, spicy, sour, salty and sweet. The Cave aspect represents Paleo food, which many are misled to believe is boring. When we focus on Paleo foods, our goal is to minimize the sweet and salty flavors. Bitter is not a word that gets my tastebuds firing on all cylinders. So, that leaves us with Sour and Spicy, which alone, are not all that appetizing.

My goal, as Your Guide to Culinary Fitness, is to teach you to identify these flavors and use them in crave-able combinations.

The first advice that I will give you is to learn to tolerate spicy foods. As I type this, the capsaicin is just wearing off of my lips from my breakfast. Capsaicin is the heat stimulating compound found in chili peppers. And, when you relinquish your traditional, sugar laden condiments, you’ll find this spicy number to be your new best friend.

Today, for example, instead of eating three eggs over-medium, which can be boring. I chose to start a pan with 2 pieces of crumbled, pre-cooked bacon, 1/2 of a jalapeno small diced, and 1/4 red onion, small diced. I brought those up to temp in a little olive oil and then cracked three eggs over the top. A sprinkle of salt and pepper, a few minutes on high, and a flip and, voila, my breakfast was ready. I paired this with 1/2 avocado and a large glass of water and I was set!

It is obvious that bacon helped this endeavor, but the star of the show was definitely the jalapeno. I let it dehydrate at room temperature for a few days, which concentrates the heat even moreso. What did it do? It prevented me from adding ketchup to my eggs, a traditional midwestern practice. And, it brought some spice to my life, literally. After all, I am still talking about it now, aren’t I? How many of you are still talking about your breakfast? Shistowski? How are those unwashed grapes treating you?

Back to the Cave Crave Concept. I could babble on and on about it, but I’m not going to. My goal with this article is to lay the foundation for what I’d like you to learn and then encourage you to follow along as as we explore all of the amazing flavor combinations this world has to offer.

On the first day of culinary school, Chef Kennedy gave us a speech about taste and food. He ensured us that as long as our food did not induce the gag reflex, then we were doing alright. It wasn’t exactly what a class of aspiring Chefs wanted to hear, but it was the starting point of a lifelong journey. And, we are all on that journey together. You do not have to be a Chef to take the challenge, but why not see if you can refine and improve your flavors from now until the day you meet your maker? What else are you going to do? Live a life of flavor flatness and continue to toy with the gag reflex? That’s no fun! That’s the job of tooth brushes and index fingers…

So, be encouraged. I am here to help. We’re going keep it real, we’re going to “Keep It Paleo” and I’m going to do all that I can to teach you to prepare food that will keep you and your friends coming back for more, food that will evoke

The Cave Crave.

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