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Monday, June 21, 2010

10 Food Tips for New Graduates

Tip 1: Throw out the Ramen noodles.  All of them.  In the trash.  Now.  Nothing says "cheap college student who has no idea how to cook" more than a case of Ramen noodles.  So get rid of them.  Case closed.

Spicy Food Guy once lived in a college apartment, adorned with paper plates, 47 pizza delivery boxes stacked in the living room corner, and a fridge full of beer and a gallon jug of ketchup.

Spicy Food Guy has since grown up, and he is here to help.

You have just received your diploma, you are fortunate enough to have landed a real job.  A real apartment.  Real world.  How to navigate the grown-up world of food?  Here are nine more tips:

Tip 2:  Learn how to cook an elegant breakfast.  You spent four years eating Coco Puffs and cold pizza for breakfast.  Excellent while it lasted.  A couple of things:  1) breakfast is the easiest meal to learn how to cook well, and 2) if you have a guest for breakfast, chances are it is a very important guest.  So fry eggs.  Better yet, make an omelette with fresh peppers, onions, mushrooms, and local cheese.  Know how to flip it.  Sizzle up some bacon.  Slice up some toast.    Pour orange juice into a pitcher and put it on the dining room table.  Put some flowers in a vase. Win the morning, win his/her heart.

Tip 3:  Do not skimp on the basics.  Folger's coffee and store brand ice cream may have worked on the quad, but in the real world they send a very distinct signal -- "this kid is broke".  Time to upgrade.  Fresh roasted coffee beans.  Ben and Jerry's ice cream.  Throw out your cheap beer, put a six pack of Carlsberg in the fridge.  Demonstrate you have an income.  

Tip 4:  Learn how to navigate a classy restaurant.  Admittedly, this takes some time and experience, and we have all come from different backgrounds, but Spicy Food Guy is here with the basics:  1) The female guest follows the Maitre D' to the table, 2) the female guests order first, 3) no one eats until everyone is served (please, no matter what circumstances, no matter how much everyone else says to go ahead, do not eat, ever, until everyone is served).  Also, dining utensils are used, in order, from the outside in.  If you are unsure of which fork or spoon or glass to use, wait and watch someone else first.  Better yet, defer to the server.  Ask which entree the chef prefers, ask what the best wine pairing is, treat your server as if they are the resident food and wine expert (which they are), and they will almost always reward you with fabulous service.  Trust Spicy Food Guy on this one.

Tip 5:  Salt and Pepper do not a spice cabinet make.  Fresh basil.  Onion powder.  Garlic salt. Oregano.  Thyme.  Cayenne pepper.  A stocked pantry makes you look worldly, and makes your dishes taste better.  Experiment on burgers, eggs, pasta, and chicken on the evenings you eat alone.  Find your signature.

Tip 6:  Man the Grill.  Any yahoo can cook up burgers and dogs on a sunny summer Sunday afternoon.  You can do better.  Learn the basics of charcoal vs gas grilling vs a smoker.  Figure out when to use direct or indirect heat.  Grill up some salmon on a cedar plank.  Serve up a succulent beer can chicken.  Be in demand at the cul-de-sac party.  

Tip 8:  Have a signature dish.  Spicy Food Guy can whip up some from-scratch Gumbo that breaks hearts.  Really.  It is just that good, but it wasn't always that way.  Took a bunch of years for SFG to get it right.  Put this on your bucket list: take several years and learn to prepare a dish that is fucking unparalleled among its peer set.  When SFG serves up his gumbo, he expects folks to respond "holy shit this is really good".  SFG is rarely disappointed.  Find your gumbo, discover your soul, win his/her heart.

Tip 9:  Take him/her/them to Brunch.  Brunch kicks ass.  It's on a Sunday, the pace is slow, the price is inexpensive, and the food is rarely bad.  You can really get to know someone over a long sit down brunch.  If your parents are in town, take them to the fanciest brunch in the region.  At most you are out $75, and you get a quality conversation with your Mom and Dad.  As a first date, a fancy brunch can't be beat.  There is time to linger, time to chat.  Mrs. SFG found out as much at the Grand Concourse in Pittsburgh in 2001.  Enough said.

Tip 10:  On a cold winter morning, bake cookies.  If they don't come running, the warm gooiness is yours to hog alone.

But they will come running.

So says Spicy Food Guy.  Peace out.

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