Appetizers and Snacks

The Evolution of an Appetizer

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Back in the day, there was Adults Hour. That was at 6pm in Roanoke, after the kids had been fed. Adults, that would be Carol and me, were not to be disturbed while they had their cocktails and appetizer before their dinner.

In Newton, once the kids were of a certain age, Eric and Brian would eat later with us, but the six o’clock hour was still sacred.

Newmans_Own.JPG.jpgNow that the kids are long gone, the tradition persists. Yesterday, when I got home from my Intern gig at the San Francisco Film Society, I spied the end of the excellent Fra’Mani Salametto Salumi left from a week-ago dinner party. I would need something to go with, pretzels would do, the bag of Newman’s Own Salt and Pepper Thins have been around for two or three weeks.

As I hand sliced the Salumi, I noticed the end of the loaf of four-days-old ciabatta on the counter, better than pretzels. I sliced the ciabatta, drizzled the slices with olive oil and popped them in the toaster oven. While the toasting was going on, a four-days-old golden heirloom tomato looked forlornly at me from the counter.

appetizer.JPG.jpgMy mouth watered as I thought about that tomato sliced on the toasts. The golden tomato was very dense, with its few seeds nestled just behind the epidermis. Perfect for the job at hand. What had evolved was a simple, traditional tomato crostini, and the appetizer turned into an Antipasto. The fresh basil in a pot on the counter completed the ensemble.

Why didn’t I think of that in the first place?

Little Meals
I’m a snacker. Snacks are my diet downfall. But maybe that term should be re-defined. A snack before dinner is an appetizer, but in the afternoon or at the time of the eleven o’clock news it’s a snack. Maybe they should just be little meals.

During my brief flirtation with working out at the CRUNCH! Fitness Center (I’m just not a gym-rat, just not), my Personal Trainer, Sebastian, said that it is good to eat five or six meals a day, and breakfast is important. I’ve been eating breakfast for a couple of years now, as noted in a few previous entries to this blog. Meal 2 is lunch. Let’s call Meal 3 that appetizer noted above. So Meal 4 is dinner. That’s where I do my featured cooking. Sebastian said dinner is not a good time for a substantial meal, but that’s when I eat with others, mainly Carol, and that’s where there’s ample time for cooking. Would dessert be Meal 5, or is that part of dinner? Carol and I don’t eat dessert, so that’s moot for us.

Then there’s the night. That’s when snacks rule. But now I can call it Meal 5. Maybe a snack is something that is not so good for you and a little meal is made of primarily good stuff. I used to do the wide variety of chips (the Cape Cod and Kettle brands are soooooooo good), and other salty badness. No more. Now the snack tends toward vegetables or nuts, grapes and cherry tomatoes in season, cheese, Triscuits, and Wheat Thins.

family_sack.JPG.jpgOkay, I haven’t gone totally cold turkey on the bad stuff. I will still buy a bag of Newman’s Own Salt and Pepper Thins, the smallest available (7 ounces), which lasts at least three weeks. And yes, I buy the Frito Lay “Family Sack,” 24 1-ounce bags of assorted Fritos, Doritos, and Cheetos. Lay’s Potato Chips and Ruffles are included, as well, but I find those gawdawful and won’t eat them. The Family Sack lasts well over a month. Who hasn’t had one of those little bags of chips for lunch? How bad can those teeny portions of bad be, especially as it says on the sack “0 trans-fats?”

The weekends offer an opportunity for afternoon snacks, which is what this particular one was meant to be, but then I had to run an errand, so it was delayed to become an appetizer. This was a clean-out-the-vegetable-drawer snack, French Breakfast Radishes, red radishes, cucumber and baby carrots with Briannas’ Home Style Poppy Seed Dressing, accompanied by three thin slices of the aforementioned ciabatta toasts.

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And why couldn’t that be called a salad, which is a little meal, after all?

Finally, what does “the French lady,” Mireille Guiliano have to say about snacks in her wonderful book, French Women Don’t Get Fat? Early on she says, “Never be hungry.” One should eat responsibly throughout the day, not skipping meals nor overindulging. “One vital secret of hunger management, is yogurt—not the sugary supermarket kind, but the real stuff,” She even has a recipe for making your own at home with a yogurt machine.

Later, in the summing up portion of the book she says, “Don’t stock bad foods out of convenience. But always have something to snack on, tangerines, grapes,” “Did you know raw fennel makes a great snack food?”

That’s the direction I’ve taken, in moderation. Now, it’s time for a glass of cool, refreshing water.

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