Is it just me… or do anchovies have a bad rap?

Is it just me, or do anchovies have a really hard time of it? When it comes to food, everyone has likes and dislikes and even a food enthusiast, such as myself, is okay with that (although, I do get a little judgemental if someone is “not really a dessert person”).

It’s a different story when it comes to anchovies. I mean, there’s a real hatred of those salty little fishes and I can’t help but feel it’s a smidge undeserved.

Anchovies aren’t disliked in a normal way. There’s real hate there.

People speak of anchovies like they should be outlawed. Following a swift Googling some in-depth research into the matter, the following appear to be the reasons behind anchovy hate:

  1. strong fish taste
  2. too fishy
  3. salty (and fishy)

I’ve never really understood the blind hatred of various fish on the basis of it being “too fishy” – you rarely hear a person say that chicken is too chickeny, or that steak is too beef-like.

I’ve encountered a surprising number of people who feel a bit funky about fish. They feel okay about fairly neutral-tasting fish or even processed fish like battered fish or the good ol’ fish finger. If it pre-prepared and unlikely to actually smell of fish it’s okay. Then there’s the raw stuff, which can make folk a little twitchy. Finally, there’s the turning point where fish goes from tolerable to being too fishy.

A graph to show the scale (HA!) of anchovy hate

I love all fish and seafood (unsurprisingly), so as such I had originally planned this post to a call to fish haters to cease their fighting and give anchovies a chance.

And then I had a bad anchovy experience.

A Caesar salad. A bad Caesar salad. Limp lettuce, the occasional chicken hunk, a crouton here and there, a sauce of some kind, and a pile of cold anchovies.

Bad anchovy (and salad) experience (an artist’s impression)

It was as if even they knew they were unappetising.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a glimmer of repulsion as the plate was set down on the table. Determined not become a sudden anchovy-hater, I poked the limp leaves, sourced one of the few chicken hunks, and stabbed through one of the (many) anchovies.

My first forkful did nothing to inspire confidence. It tasted as sad as it looked. I’m not a person who really goes for presentation when it comes to food, as anyone who’s been to my house for dinner can attest. But in the case of the sad salad, it was every bit as horrible as it looked.

And I have to say, the anchovies really were the worst part. After reshuffling forkfuls to try and balance out the flavour I admitted defeat and abandoned the shoal of bitter anchovies on their wilted lettuce leaf grave.

I have (reluctantly) arrived at the same conclusion that other more established and reputable food writers have come to in the numerous times this same subject has been written about before.

Have anchovy haters given in to their hate as a result of bad preparation? Or are the fish haters, with their general fish prejudice, concluding that if they don’t like regular fish that they definitely aren’t going to like a fish such as an anchovy that has a reputation for being vile.

In this (not at all scientific) study into the matter, based on little evidence beyond a cursory glance at Google and general culinary here-say, those in favour of anchovies have had well-prepared anchovies that provide a salty little boom to a dish. The latter are still reeling (excuse the pun) from the experience of that bad pizza or revolting Caesar salad.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked from a recipe where the author is almost pleading with the reader to not be put off by the inclusion of anchovies. “You won’t even taste them!” they promise, like a parent trying to get a reluctant child to eat their veggies.

I guess a bad anchovy experience is the make or break moment for most people. But what if an anchovy-hater unknowingly consumed anchovies. Would they find that they’re not as offensive as they’ve been lead to believe?

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How well do you know your oven?

Cleaning the oven has to be my most hated kitchen chore. I recently spent a miserable Sunday afternoon choking on oven cleaner and scouring through layers of baked-on grease.

There comes a point when you admit defeat and accept it’s time to clean the oven. For me, that time is when my kitchen is filled with an inviting, miscellaneous food aroma from preheating an empty oven.

And once it’s all clean, and you remember that the purpose of that little window in the front is to be able to look at what you’re cooking without having to open the door, you realise that you should have cleaned it sooner it was all worth it.

I’ve had various altercations with several ovens over the years – a result of home-hopping throughout my student years and early twenties. The one thing they’ve had in common is my hatred of cleaning them.

Every oven has its own personality, its own issues, its own unique source of frustration: anything from a cold spot to uneven distribution of heat (I’ve had my fair share of charcoal crusted soggy pizzas in my time).

I once lived in a flat where the oven took so long to heat up I’d have to switch it on a good hour before I planned to cook anything.

Despite living in my current abode for a couple of years now, I am still at loggerheads with the oven here.

The crux of the issue is that it runs a little hot. .

What’s more, the temperature dial is so vague it’s almost completely arbitrary.

When I say that it runs a little hot, I mean that anywhere above 190 hits inferno-like temperatures of which there is no discernible variation.

The lack of specificity on the dial means that setting the oven to a particular temperature involves a lot of guess-work.

An oven thermometer seemed like a quick and inexpensive (not to mention obvious) solution to the problem. And after twelve months of unnecessary contemplation, I finally acquired one.

I have to say, it’s a huge help: I can turn the dial and then check the oven thermometer to see if I’m somewhere close. That being said, it may have created another problem.

Because of my serious trust issues with the inaccurate oven dial, I’ve developed a habit of frequently (constantly) checking the temperature on the oven thermometer.

Sometimes the temperature has dropped, other times it’s starting to creep up, sometimes I turn the oven dial to compensate only to later find that it’s gone too far the other way.

All this has resulted in me standing by the oven, poised like a safe-breaker, watching the oven thermometer needle twitch back and forth as I scarcely turn the oven dial.

Perhaps I’m overthinking it. Maybe ignorance really is bliss when it comes to oven-temperatures. It could be that by watching the oven thermometer like I’m binge-watching a Netflix series is what’s causing the problem and perhaps if I just leave well alone, the temperature fluctuation will right itself.

Or maybe my oven is trying to sabotage me.

Some questions will never be answered.

If I can get used to preheating the oven an hour in advance or playing the old rotate/shelf-shuffle at various intervals to eliminate the problem of cold spots, then I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to hit the right temperature and leave things in the oven to cook without strict monitoring.

Not another food blog

Hello. Welcome to Do or Doughnut – a blog all about food.

I love food. I love making it, eating it, and hanging around in my kitchen thinking about the things I can make and eat.

If you’re reading this, then there’s a good chance that you might also spend a lot of time lurking in your kitchen.

I know the internet probably doesn’t need yet another food blog [It really doesn’t – Everyone on the internet], but maybe it could use one or two that are a little less intimidating and/or littered with affiliate links.

What’s more, some food blogs can be a bit prim and perfect, a little overly styled and, for me at least, I find them a bit unrelatable.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to document the things I have created in the kitchen, not least so that I can see how my skills have progressed over time, but I like to be realistic too.

That being said, I am in the process of working to radically improve my food photography. The aim isn’t to create glittering, over-styled images that hide the inordinate kitchen mess behind the camera. I just want to be able to take pictures that are a) in focus and b) not plagued with a mysterious orange tone that makes it look like I got trigger happy with Instagram filters (when I haven’t).

Being a home cook, things inevitably go wrong and I want to talk about what happens when they do. Food writing and food photography make it all too easy to edit out the chaos that is simply a necessary part of the process.

I don’t mean to try and sound deep and philosophical here, but cooking and baking are in themselves a process and that’s one of the main reasons amateurs and professionals do it in the first place… That and to eat the end result.

I’ve felt that soul-crushing disappointment when things don’t turn out as expected more times than I can count. At my worst, I have felt as though my food failings were proof that I too was a failure.

It’s taken a lot of time, soul searching, professional therapy and many more kitchen disasters for me to finally accept that mistakes just come with the territory.

For the most part, I got over it by telling myself to stop taking everything so damn seriously. The rest… well… I’m still working on it.

In the midst of things going awry, every now and again they go right. I don’t know about you but in those moments, when I’ve transformed a miscellany of raw ingredients into something delicious, I feel like some sort of magician.

These magical moments force the realisation that maybe I’ve actually learned something along the way, developed my skills and successfully put them into practice.

This is where I hope to track my progress and share my life in the kitchen. To talk about the things that go wrong as well as the things that go right. A place to share the various tidbits I learn as I go – not as an expert, but as your typical average Joe.