Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Early Morning Headache

     When I picked up my Miami Herald from the driveway at five in the morning, I put it aside while I waited for enough daylight to come through the skylights to illuminate my living room.  I sort of wish I hadn’t picked it up, but, alas, today is Thursday, and sometimes there are some interesting recipes in the living section.

     The food section, with its recipes and articles may be my primary reason for fearing the demise of the printed newspaper (sorry, trees). For as long as I could hold a pan, I clipped recipes from the New York Times  and still get excited when one of Craig Claiborne’s falls from one of my favorite cookbooks. Isn’t  it amazing how the Times could get a complete recipe in a few column inches and today, if I try to print something that I find on line, I have to waste an entire sheet of paper. Then I never can quite figure out what to do with the recipe. So I have these papers stashed alongside my dishes and I’m lucky to be able to find what I want.

     Today’s Food Section contained a reprint of Bill Daley’s Chicago Tribune article debunking everything I have come to believe about MSG and glutamates in general. Chances are that Mr. Daley has never suffered from a migraine headache, since more women than men are afflicted with the horrendous disease. If he had, perhaps he wouldn’t have dismissed the anecdotal evidence concerning glutamates and their link to migraine disease.

     He is quick to label granulated MSG a villain, perhaps because “real” chefs don’t admit to shortcuts, but lists “glutamate-laden vegetables like tomatoes and mushrooms, plus cheeses, fish, meat — even seaweed.”

“Don't overlook what's in your larder for glutamate-rich flavor boosting. Drape some anchovies on hard-cooked eggs or a salad. Shave some Parmesan cheese atop a fresh tomato sauce, itself an ingredient loaded with glutamate. Toss bacon — a veritable umami bomb — wherever you can, from salads to sauces to side dishes.”

     Just because ingredients add flavor, they don’t necessarily flirt with the problems that glutamates cause. What we who suffer from migraine disease can and cannot eat is purely personal. I for one can eat anchovies and Parmesan cheese. In fact, one of my favorite pasta dishes comes from an old Marcella Hazan Italian cookbook. It combines broccoli, anchovies, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and, my own addition, dry white wine. Someone else who suffers from migraines could possibly get a killer headache just reading the recipe, but it doesn’t affect me.

     I’ve been trying to figure the whole thing out as perhaps being a matter of degree. Perhaps if I space the killer meals, they might not really kill me, but sometimes I’m not so brave. My husband loves fried chicken from the supermarket (Publix or Winn Dixie, because we live in Miami). I’ve known that it gives me headaches but sometimes I get weak and try “just a small piece.” The other day I had my proof: Listed among the ingredients is, in plain letters is monosodium glutamate. Sometimes they try to masquerade the stuff—it can have all kinds of other names—but this was blatant. I didn’t eat the chicken and didn’t get a headache.

     Then there was the biggest dilemma of all. I love to barbecue ribs. I hate the fall off the bone ones that they insist on serving in restaurants, but like mine with a spicy dry rub, barbecued from the raw state. And every time I make them I get a killer headache. But I can eat barbecue in a restaurant. Then it occurred to me, it’s not the ribs or the stuff I put on them but the length of time allotted for the ribs to develop their own glutamates--slow cooking does that.
     So, being the glutton for punishment that I am, this week I’ll pre-cook the ribs and just finish them off on the barbecue…….to be continued.