I’d never eaten an anchovy until I wrote an article about them.
It’s a running joke with Smarmy Bastard how many “WTF?” items I know about, usually because I’ve written an article about them.
The day after Halloween I got a text from the man who had gone out dressed as a zombie (featuring the incredible work at right that had been created by a makeup artist friend): “Editor question: What can you use to get off stubborn makeup? I scrubbed all last night and there is still some left.”
The answer, of course, is cold cream, which I happened to have on hand because two years before my Halloween costume had been inspired by a look from the Spring 2011 John Galliano men’s presentation — I called it “runway Charlie Chaplin” and threw it together in a single day, which included a trip to the costume store for pro-level makeup products (and the appropriate instructions on removal).
I messed up trimming the mustache, though, so I spent much of the night explaining to people that I was not Zombie Hitler and pulling out the source photo so they could marvel at my mimicry.
(Best costume of that night: Judy SmallHands from Saturday Night Live. [Click the picture at right to see the clip on Hulu, if you haven’t before, and be sure to stick for the final seconds, which to me are the best part.] Three guys dressed up like the regular sisters and carried a bubble machine, and one guy got to be Judy, tiny hands hands and all. Other people had admirable costumes, but that was the only person who I went running up to and said, “Can I please have my picture taken with you?” I still wonder how they picked which person got to be Judy.)
Where was I? Oh, yeah — anchovies. Growing up, fish wasn’t big on my culinary favorites list; I think my parents could get me to eat canned tuna and salmon in their most popular forms (sandwiches and patties, respectively), and that’s about it. It would be years before I tried tilapia, for example, and I still haven’t had trout, sole or flounder. So poor anchovies, with their bad reputation, never really had a chance … until I wrote an article about umami, one of the six basic tastes. (The others are sweet, salty, bitter, sour and, coming in at #6, metallic.) Our tongues have receptors for something called L-glutamate, which is found in foods like Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, even … anchovies, which help give Worcestershire sauce its kick and make Caesar salad dressing so tasty.
And that’s when I learned that if you cook anchovies in oil, they also disappear, leaving only flavor behind. My mistrust of the anchovy hadn’t been its flavor but its texture, so this was a revelation. I’ve since successfully added them to sauces and pasta … but I still have yet to be adventurous enough to try them atop a pizza.
Later on, I revisited them for a piece about spicing up your dinner table and fighting food fatigue. Rereading it makes me want to make that shrimp pasta dish right now — which (cough, cough) I think is a sign of a good writer.
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|WHAT SAM WORE: 11-8-12|
|The shirt: Long-sleeved cotton button-collar dress shirt,
from the J. Crew outlet at Anthem.
|The pants: Dark-wash slim-fit jeans, from Uniqlo, New York.|
|The shoes: Cole Haan “Madison” oxfords, from Nordstrom Rack.|