Category Archives: snacks

Sticky candy, melting chocolate or popcorn kernels in your teeth?

I love going to the movies. There is something about sitting in the dark with strangers all being immersed in the same experience. The big screen and surround sound are fun, but they are just part of the ambience. The last part is crucial – movie snacks.

For me, popcorn at a movie is a required component. My hubbie is more of a chocolate and licorice kind of guy, munching only the occasional handful of popcorn. Despite our disparity on choice of snack, we have managed to attend movies happily together on enough Tuesdays to fill a large bucket.

Regardless of the snack you choose, its enjoyment can provide the final step in immersing oneself in the movie. Munching M & M’s or gnawing on a bite of licorice can help manage the stress of a horror movie monster’s massacre; nibbling popcorn can aid in maintaining one’s heartbeat at a reasonable level during fast-paced action scenes. The smell of the treats, the movie soundtrack music that leads us in, the darkness that envelops us and the smoke and mirrors of a story on the screen all blend together to take you away from the regular world.

There are consequences to every action. Just like a good movie will also make you think, the snacks leave a lasting impression as well. Tonight on the way home from the theatre it occurred to me – I was busy fussing with popcorn kernels in my teeth and my hubbie was sucking on bits of licorice stuck in his teeth. (He had already licked his fingers of the melting chocolate as we walked to the car.) Was this a marketing ploy, I wondered? Perhaps the movie production companies are in cahoots with Nestlé or Cadbury’s to ensure we are sucked into a lasting experience. Does the popcorn machine company Cretors & Co. put something in with the kernels? After all they have had five generations of their family sustaining movie goers all over North America. (You can read my article on the history of popcorn if you’re keen to know more on this story.)

I suppose I’m just getting sentimental as I age. Much about movies and the movie-going experience has changed in my lifetime. “Extreme” theatres and reclining seats, movies about video game characters – all things that didn’t exist twenty years ago when hubbie and I started our movie date night.

Part of me likes that the popcorn kernels still stick in my teeth the same way they always have. I smile when I hear the outrageously loud sound of my hubbie opening his bag of licorice. Some things don’t need to change.

 

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And the winner is…

Oscars Governors Ball 2016

Time to get down to business. Sunday is Oscar night and I have appies to plan. This post will be a bit of streaming consciousness, as I figure out what will work this year. You see, in a household where movies are such a lynch pin, Oscar night is a great opportunity to honour that.

Setting aside the politics of the broadcast, we join in the festivities and do our best to honour the movies we enjoyed through the past year, whether they are on the nominations list or not. Our food theme works to coincide somehow with the movies. So let’s begin with a recap of who’s up for Best Picture:

  • ArrivalOscars_Logo
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

We can literally go all over the map this year – movies that take place in the northern and southern United States, west coast, east coast and south coast, in Europe and India, involving African American and Caucasian culture. I suppose I could even interpret what aliens might eat. Ooh, the adventure of it all! tasters-world-map

So, sticking with alphabetical order, here is my brainstorm…

ARRIVAL – something ethereal, perhaps, to go along with the theme of other-worldly creatures… like a meringue!

FENCES – this one is easy, if you saw the film. More than a few sandwiches are consumed in this movie. Middle class sustenance at its best.

HACKSAW RIDGE – since this is a war film, I thought a play on rations would be fun – how about a homemade chocolate “bar”?

HELL OR HIGH WATER – I could go with biscuits to play on the good old south setting, but I’d rather have fun with the title – hot wings it is.

HIDDEN FIGURES – let’s take from the church picnic and riff on those flavours – no fried chicken needed, but sweet potato cubes wrapped in bacon are good comfort food.

LA LA LAND – I can’t help it, I have to do some fish tacos. Sorry, Ryan Gosling.

LION – more bold flavours to represent the characters in this film. I have a wonderful curry yogurt dip that will be nice with some veggies.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA – here’s the chance to add some kind of seafood to the menu.  A lobsgter roll would be good, but we already have fish tacos. Some garlic butter prawns would be lovely, though.

There we have it – a menu. Nine nibbles should keep us satiated. We still need beverages though, and there are some other films I want to recognize from 2016.

THE JUNGLE BOOK – not a new film, but newly done. The animated Disney version was one of my favourites as a kid, so a coconut cocktail is in order.

DOCTOR STRANGE, DEADPOOL, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM – all of these films offered exotic and fantastic effects and storylines. Here are a few colourful drink ideas:

  • Sangria – mix  8 parts fruity red wine, 1 part peach schnapps, 1 part triple sec, the juice of half a lemon, half a lime, and half an orange. For real authentic sangria, add slices of citrus and chunks of apple or other tropical fruit in the mix to soak for a few hours or even overnight. Serve over ice for your basic colourful drink.
  • Blue Monday – mix 2 oz vodka, ¼ oz triple sec, ¼ oz blue curacao in a shaker with ice and strain into a fancy glass. Serve with a lemon twist. (Feel strange only if you want.)
  • the Matador – like a margarita with a twist, this concoction of tequila with 1/2 lime and 1/2 pineapple juice is both refreshing and exotic. (Chase wild animals only if you drink water in between refills.)
  • Mike’s Full Moon – pour in a glass with ice: 1 part Mike’s Hard Lemonade, 1 part Blue Moon beer. Garnish with lemon. (Howl at will.)
  • Death in the Afternoon – (Hemingway’s favourite drink is for Ryan Reynolds, but it is not named lightly so beware drinking anything after this) Pour a jigger of absinthe in a champagne glass and top up with champagne so that it reaches an opalescent colour.

We have the makings of a good party here. I have some work to do to get ready, but I’m looking forward to a fun evening. I may even dust off something fancy to make it official.

You might think I’ve gone off my rocker, doing so much for such a superficial event. Consider it more of a serious effort to have a lot of fun. Everyone will be a winner around our table, no matter what Jimmy Kimmel does.

our outfits one year at an Oscar party with friends, James Bond style

our outfits one year at an Oscar party with friends, James Bond style

 

 

Dinner a block at a time 

One of the things I love about Mexican cuisine is the way it lends itself to casual eating. Simple foods with fresh ingredients shine. So, last night we had a dinner of street food. 

Our first stop was a pizza place recommended by Trip Advisor. Okay, not traditional Mexican food but a testament to the booming tourist industry here. Still, the “hole-in-the-wall”‘style of the place is typical to every street vendor. 

Next we needed a dose of local fare so we set out in search of something suitable. A shining “Tacqueria” sign down a side street from the circus of 5th Avenue shone like a beacon so we ventured towards it. 


Next the smell attracted us even closer…

The sight of the cooking meat was enticing and the ubiquitous plastic chairs and yellow decor screamed authenticity. The sincerity of the waiter on the street clinched the deal: “Quieres un taco?” We had pork tacos (from the cooking tower of slices in the go) with tender gently spiced meat and soft tortilla that melted in our mouths. The tacos were rendered sublime by the homemade condiments and the Corona with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Condiments included pick de gallo, hot sauce, pickled onions and an avocado sauce that resembled thin guacamole. All of them were delicious and unique.

We wandered some more and thought about another savoury nibble but our tastebuds were satiated. We watched the people, and chuckled at the hucksters and their spiels for the tourists. We were amazed that a young vendor thought we were a likely sale for drugs (“señor! Do you want cocaine? Ecstasy?) We were also dismayed by the fact that embracing each other seemed to brand us as “honeymooners”; so many North Americans are uncomfortable with displays of public affection. 

By the time we saw The Chocolate Cafe our minds were made up – dessert was in the offing. I had a Mayan Hot Chocolate and Martin had a piece of chocolate cake. In Mexico chocolate means cocoa, so the flavour is different than his French-styled sponge with ganache filling. The texture is less silky but there remains a richness to the flavour; it’s just not as buttery.  We watched as Friday night energy built up, with some locals leaving work and more tourists hitting party mode. 

Rejuvenated by our latest morsel we headed back to our “pension”. The promenade after eating and our leisurely conversation punctuated by the street’s entertainment was the perfect digestif. 

And so are foodie memories made on vacation. A healthy dose of spontaneity, a pinch of a sense of adventure and a few cups of energy to keep you propelled until you are satiated. Dusted with the magic of a foreign place, it makes the perfect recipe for a memorable experience. 

The Grocery Adventure 

You know you’re a foodie when an adventure in a foreign country is going to the grocery store. 

We went to the Centro Mart here in Playa del Carmen – it’s like Superstore back home. But we don’t have these kind of things:

Not bottled milk, but bottled rice concentrate. It’s like pulverized rice pudding. And it comes in flavours too, like chocolate and coconut. Full of nutrients!

You might have had tortillas but were they this fresh? I watched while the girl poured in the batter and then minutes later the flattened and toasted tortillas rolled out in the conveyor belt. I got them still warm!

Ceviche anyone? – in bulk. Fill your boots. 

Chicurron, or crackling, as my mom called it when I was a kid. It’s fried pork rind. I don’t think it has any nutrients but if you like crispy things, it’s amazing. 


These papayas are not just in honour of Superboel weekend – they are always this big here. I don’t know whether it’s the sun and heat or soil or what but they are big, and tasty. This half worked out to about $1.50 CDN. 

Altogether we spent $40 – for a monster bottle of vodka and enough mix for the week, 3 large water jugs, some bananas, an avocado, chips and salsa for the week, a few pastries and sandwich fixings for tomorrow’s lunch. 

I am doing the happy dance! Flavours galore, freshness abounding (okay, maybe that’s not a word but you know what I mean) – and I’m on holiday. 

Have to go experience more exotic things. Talk to you tomorrow, or as the locals say,  “Hasta luego!”

Sweet or Salty?

sweet-vs-salty-snacks

I had just finished my weekly column for the local news website, writing about popcorn. (It’s Popcorn Day next week, and I was munching on some as I wrote, so it seemed like easy inspiration.) As my mind wandered to think of what to write here today, I remembered my first taste of movie popcorn the year I lived in France… it was confusing. I had the taste expectation of buttery fluffy  kernels half melting in my mouth. Instead I got cauliflower-shaped kernels that were coated in a sugary crunch. It wasn’t bad, but my memories collided with my tastebuds and I was distracted. The association didn’t make sense in my brain.

Taste is mostly about smell, and that is hard-wired into our memory in our brains, so remembering a food experience as a whole has a lot of baggage attached to it. Once I got my head wrapped around a new experience, I was fine to have French popcorn at a French movie. (I just needed to switch it up – I couldn’t enjoy someone else dubbing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice either – I had to see francophone films to keep things on an even keel.)

With all the experiences we log in our brain and our taste buds, we do seem to come out on either side of a preference that divides the world – whether we like sweet or salty. Would you choose chips or cookies? It’s not a random choice – did you know we are genetically predisposed to one or the other? Some people really are born with a sweet tooth.

There are factors that influence us – what our mothers eat during pregnancy, then what we associate as comfort food. Some people actually need more sugar in food to perceive sweetness; they often have as many as one third fewer tastebuds than the average person, and so are referred to as non-tasters. By contrast, people with more tastebuds generally are more sensitive, and they often prefer salty tastes. (Think of cooking – salt improves many flavours, and helps hide bitterness.)

In case you’re wondering, I prefer salt to sweet. My “sweet tooth” is more for fat – I love dark chocolate, whipped cream, custard, pastry… and I’ve grown to like kettle cornkettle-corn-2, which is a lot like the stuff they serve in French movie theatres – salty and sweet.

Whichever way you lean, I hope you get to snuggle up and enjoy your favourite treat this weekend. Happy snacking!

 

 

 

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